In any popularity contest, few people rate lower than wheel-clampers. On one level, this notoriety is somewhat unjustified. They are simply acting on the instructions of shopkeepers or property owners who want to stop unauthorised parking on private land.
On another level, however, because of the sum they extract from their victims, they warrant disdain. The $200 ceiling on clamping fees, prescribed by a voluntary code of conduct, is extortionate, not least because it is some four times what a council can charge for towing cars.
Labour and the Automobile Association want that code to be made mandatory, with a maximum $50 fee. That seems fair. Fifty dollars would still be a substantial disincentive for most people. The Government, however, seems intent on trying to make more companies sign up to the voluntary code.
This document, introduced just over a year ago, has only five private-sector signatories, including three parking companies.
That speaks volumes. The Government is being wishful if it imagines the code holds the key to a more respectful and responsible industry.
The wheel-clampers justify a $200 fee on the basis that a clamper must stay in the vicinity to take the device off when the vehicle owner returns. This stops other work being done.
There is a simple solution to this. A mandatory code with a maximum $50 fee should also enable clampers to leave a contact number while they go about other work. The wait for them to return would be another disincentive for those thinking of taking a chance on parking.