A crackdown on clampers has been demanded by a leading consumer rights charity.
Citizens Advice says that over the past three years it has recorded a 52% increase in the number of enquiries about parking most of which involve disputes about clamping.
Drivers frustrated by clampers' methods
The charity says that drivers are frustrated to find their cars clamped after parking in areas with poorly sited or badly written warning notices.
Motorists also complained about delays in releasing cars after fees had been paid. Excess charges and the lack of any coherent appeals procedure were other areas of complaint.
Clamping is illegal in Scotland, but in England and Wales clampers are free to operate on any area of private land. Clamping firms are limited to a maximum penalty of 125, but operators often try to get around this by demanding payment for both clamping and removal.
'The objective of those who demand payment seems to be to make money, not to ensure fair parking,' said David Harker, Citizen Advice's chief executive.
Local councils earn cash from clamping
A recent report from car insurer LV= found that the number of cars being clamped had risen by 64% in the past year, with local councils earning up to 21 million from clamping and private firms making up to 58 million nationwide.
Citizens Advice says it wants a clamping regulator with the power to punish firms that act unfairly, and to compel the return of money to people who have been overcharged.
Some complaints received by Citizen's Advice
A driver found that her car had been clamped before she had even left the car park, and was immediately charged 250. The driver went to withdraw the money from her bank, but on her return a tow truck was preparing to remove her vehicle. There were no obvious warning signs, the clampers had no ID and her receipt didn't contain contact details for the clamping firm.
A mother took her children to the local leisure centre, where she parked in the centre's car park, where parking had previously been free. When she returned, payment notices had been erected, yellow lines had been painted in the car park, and her car had been clamped. She was charged 235 to be released.