After years of complaints over cowboy wheel clampers and charges running into hundreds of dollars, a new law in effect this month has capped the fee.
The Land Transport (Wheel Clamping) Amendment Act , which took effect on January 2, set a maximum $100 charge for releasing the clamp.
"Before the law change, wheel clampers could charge any fee they liked," Automobile Association (AA) principal advisor regulations Mark Stockdale said.
"Fees of $200 were common and in some cases were much higher than that.
"The new law makes it an offence for wheel clampers to charge more than $100."
Operators also have to be available, within reason, to respond to requests to remove a wheel clamp, and must remove a wheel clamp as soon as reasonably practicable after a fee is paid.
Charging more than $100 or failing to remove one within a reasonable timeframe are offences enforceable by police.
The AA and Consumer NZ, which have pushed for regulation of the private parking sector, including wheel clamping, have received complaints over many years from motorists about excessive clamping fees - often when the driver only stopped for a few minutes, or was unaware parking wasn't permitted due to unclear or ambiguous signage.
Their advice for any motorist being charged more than $100 is to remind the operator of the new law. If they're still asked for a higher fee they should contact police on the non-emergency site or by phoning the non-emergency 105 number.
"If the law change fails to put a stop to the cowboy practices of clampers, a ban on wheel clamping would need to be next step," Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said.
Wheel clamping companies can be fined up to $15,000 for breaching the law, Wilson said.
Owners of off-street parking should also ensure parking signs are clear and illuminated, or put in basic controls like chain-link fences, to reduce the need for wheel clamping in the first place.
"If the parking rules are too complex, or not highly visible, then there will continue to be non-compliance, and it's not fair that motorists should continue to be penalised for that," Stockdale said.