New rules to clamp down on overzealous wheel clamping and extortionate fees charged in order to release a vehicle have passed their final stage in Parliament today.
The Land Transport (Wheel Clamping) Amendment Bill has now passed its third reading.
“These changes mean $100 will be the maximum wheel clamping fee that can be charged,” the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Kris Faafoi, said.
“Other changes require a wheel clamping operator to release a person’s vehicle within a reasonable period after a request to do so,” Minister Faafoi said.
Wheel clamping operators who charge more than the $100 maximum fee or who fail to remove a wheel clamp in a reasonable period of time will be committing an offence. The Government will make that an infringement offence allowing Police to issue on the spot fines.
“This Government is committed to protecting New Zealand consumers from unreasonable and predatory behaviour, and some of the worst practices related to wheel clamping have concerned me, as they have many consumers, for some time.
“The changes coming into effect provide a fairer system of private parking enforcement. They strike a balance between protecting motorists from unreasonable and extortionist behaviour at the hands of rogue wheel clamping operators while ensuring businesses have the means to prevent people from parking where they shouldn’t,” Mr Faafoi said.
Question & Answers:
- Is the $100 fee cap set in stone or can it be changed?
The $100 fee cap is set in legislation. However, there is the flexibility to amend it in regulations if needed – if for example, it needs to be updated to take into account inflation or other factors such as a change in GST.
2. How do the wheel clamping rules apply to Police and local council parking enforcement agencies?
The new rules will apply to people who use wheel clamping as a method of parking enforcement on private property. Making wheel clamping an offence means Police can use their powers of enforcement when necessary. The rules won’t apply to parking on public roads where councils and police are responsible for managing parking.
Making wheel clamping an offence will serve as a greater deterrent to prevent motorists being overcharged, rather than leaving this as a civil matter for individual motorists to dispute themselves. Ultimately, parking enforcement needs to be carried out responsibly and reasonably.
- How is a ‘reasonable amount of time’ to unclamp a vehicle defined and enforced?
There are no hard and fast rules around this. However, I would consider situations where the time it takes to unclamp a wheel causes people unnecessary hardship or inconvenience to be unreasonable, and in breach of the rules.
If there are disagreements about this, either of the parties can take a complaint to the Disputes Tribunal to seek a decision.
In addition, the Government can make rules setting criteria for how to assess whether an operator responded in a reasonable timeframe, if this becomes necessary in future.
- What are the penalties if someone commits an offence under these changes to the Land Transport Act?
If someone commits an offence and is convicted in court, they can be liable for penalties of up to $3,000 (for an individual) or $15,000 (for a company). Police officers will also be able to issue infringements on the spot to anyone who overcharges, and require them to pay $1,000 (for an individual) or $5,000 (for a company).