THE legislation covering the clamping and towing of vehicles parked on private property is vague at best, the only legal requirements for operators being a Security Industry Association licence and a receipt being issued.
Paul Coleman, an ad rep for Newsquest, the Harrow Times parent company, went to visit a friend on December 1 and parked in the car park of the Coach and Horses pub in London Road, Hounslow.
He returned to find the car gone, so reported it stolen to police.
However, more than two weeks later he received a call from police telling him they had found his car in a compound - having been towed by a private company called Regional Clamping Services, which operates in the car park.
The car had been at the compound for 23 days, and the release fee was £1,140, made up of a £300 towing fee and £35-a-day storage.
I went with Paul to the compound on a remote industrial complex in wasteland near Iver, Middlesex, and waited for more than an hour for the operators to arrive.
When they did arrive there were six clampers who had two more vehicles in tow. They became agitated and aggressive at the site of a reporter and photographer.
At one point one of them approached me and demanded I delete all footage we had taken or he would not release the car.
When challenged over the legal grounds of this statement he simply walked away.
When I approached him to ask him why again, his colleagues crowded round me and started asking me if I was a shirt-lifter and threatening to clamp the car our photographer was sitting in.
One of them asked of the car was registered at my house, insinutaing he was going to trace my address, even though the company had made no effort to find the owners of the cars they had clamped previously.
Eventually the cash-only payment was made and the car was released from the compound, but as we drove away stones and bolts were hurled at our car by the employees.
The whole visit was intimidating, from the remote, secluded, setting to the attitude of the employees of the company and the long wait we had to endure.
However, as long as legislation remains lax, events like this will occur on a daily basis to people across the capital.