Clampers towed away up to eight vehicles from a Birmingham cash-and-carry, supposedly for being less than an inch over parking bay lines, it was claimed yesterday.

Shoppers at Latif's store in New Canal Street, Digbeth, were shocked to see their cars being towed within minutes of them being parked on Saturday afternoon.

Julie Patterson, a care assistant, had driven to the discount store to pick up a curtain rail and had paid £3 for an all day parking ticket.

But minutes later, as she entered the store, clampers Inter-Park UK proceeded to load her black BMW on to a tow truck to impound it at premises in Midland Street, Bordesley.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Kingstanding, said: "When I saw my car was gone I dialled 999 because I thought it had been stolen.

"But when I went back to the car park two men were there loading another vehicle on to the back of a tow truck, and when I asked what I'd done they told me I was 2cm over the line.

"I was told I had to pay a £365 fine to get my car back, plus pay £40 a day for 'storage costs', so in total I've had to pay £445 cash to get my car back. I'm looking to take legal action to get that money back.

"They must have taken seven or eight cars because there were quite a few angry people demanding to know why their cars had been towed."

The Solihull-based clamping firm is run by Andrew Baker whose previous ventures Autoclamp Ltd, in Erdington, and Area Car Parks Ltd, in Hockley, were struck off the official register by Companies House in 2005 and 2002 for failing to supply any accounts or information. Last April, Inter-Park UK swooped on football fans' cars parked in Cherrywood Road, near St Andrew's, before Birmingham City's match against Sheffield Wednesday. Up to 20 cars were impounded by the firm.

Mr Baker, who lives in Stechford, said last night: "I've no comment to make."

Birmingham trading standards officials last night confirmed they were investigating Inter-Park UK and urged other motorists clamped by the firm to get in touch.

Coun Neil Eustace (Lib Dem, Stechford and Yardley North) chair of the public protection committee, said: "At the moment the sector is largely unregulated, meaning the outrageous excesses of some operators are allowed to continue unchecked."