Vehicle tow Legal blunder could unleash tidal wave of refund claims

An astonishing legal blunder exposed by the Mail will lead to motorists submitting an avalanche of refund claims, an expert predicted last night.

Powers used by police and councils to charge drivers for removing and impounding illegally parked vehicles were ‘inadvertently removed due to a drafting error’ in 1991 – and no one noticed until now.

Consumer law expert Scott Dixon said the error ‘will open the floodgates to a huge number of challenges, complaints and legal actions’.

One Mail reader has already revived a complaint in a bid to get his money back after his car was towed in 2012. Eric Bubb, 67, said he was charged £150 alongside ‘all kinds of other expenses’. 

The astonishing mistake was only admitted by the Government as it published a new Bill to restore legal clauses accidentally erased by two earlier Acts of Parliament.

Powers used by police and councils to charge drivers for removing and impounding illegally parked vehicles were ¿inadvertently removed due to a drafting error¿ in 1991 ¿ and no one noticed until now (stock photo)

Powers used by police and councils to charge drivers for removing and impounding illegally parked vehicles were ¿inadvertently removed due to a drafting error¿ in 1991 ¿ and no one noticed until now (stock photo)

Powers used by police and councils to charge drivers for removing and impounding illegally parked vehicles were ‘inadvertently removed due to a drafting error’ in 1991 – and no one noticed until now (stock photo)

Mr Dixon, author of ‘How To Complain: The Consumer Guide to Resolve Complaints and Motoring Disputes’, said: ‘We haven’t seen anything like this since the scandal over payment protection insurance, better known as PPI.

‘What the Daily Mail has uncovered will leave motorists gobsmacked.

‘It will open the floodgates to a huge number of challenges, complaints and legal actions.

‘We are talking big sums here.’ He added: ‘Motorists have long been seen as a cash cow by councils everywhere to raise easy revenue.

‘It’s now time for motorists to fight back and hold councils and other bodies to account for their gross negligence and dereliction of duty.’

Mr Bubb, a chef from Spetisbury, Dorset, broke down in his Citroen C1 on the Dorchester bypass after working a late shift at the Olympic village in Portland during the London 2012 games.

‘A passing policeman helped me push it onto the verge and told me it would be alright there for 48 hours,’ said grandfather-of-two Mr Bubb, 67.

‘But when I went back with a mechanic the next morning the Highways Agency had towed it away.

‘It cost £150 to get it back and there were all kinds of other expenses for taxi fares and so on.

‘When I read in the Mail that all this had been done unlawfully I was pretty disgusted.’

He emailed the agency, now known as Highways England, demanding a refund.

The laws that were accidentally deleted set out how police and other public bodies could charge up to £150 to tow away a vehicle.

Motorists can also be charged up to £20 a day for storage of a car and up to £75 to dispose of it.

Higher fees apply to larger or damaged vehicles.

It means each driver who can prove their vehicle was unlawfully removed is likely to have been charged hundreds of pounds – and may now be able to claim those fees back.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘It is the Home Office view that it has been right for the police to continue to charge for vehicle recovery.’ 

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