Private car park fines

Have private car parks shifted their focus from collecting fees to handing out dodgy fines?
 
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02.Consumer engagement

Most people freak out and pay up when they get a letter from a lawyer, whether it’s legitimate or not... That’s just what the people behind these operations are counting on.
- Johnny Smithson

Johnny Smithson has become something of a consumer champion when it comes to dealing with potentially bogus parking fines. He became involved after a friend received a demand for payment and Smithson’s efforts to clear it up hit a brick wall, not least because the company didn’t even have a phone number. 

Since then he has established a website and says he’s fielded numerous emails from consumers who have received threatening collection letters. 

Smithson’s investigation has led him to believe that some private car park operations are now focusing more on debt collection than parking fees and teaming up with opportunistic lawyers in order to scare consumers into paying fines that may be illegitimate but which they’ll pay to avoid going to court. 

“Most people freak out and pay up when they get a letter from a lawyer, whether it’s legitimate or not,” he says. “That’s just what the people behind these operations are counting on.”

A tangled web

Are car parks, collection agencies and lawyers in on it together? CHOICE has confirmed that the phone number on an October 2011 letter from Michael Roper to a motorist currently leads to Australian Recovery and Collections (ARC). We were told by ARC that we “must be looking at an old notice” and were given Roper’s current phone number. We also obtained ASIC documents showing that ANCP and ARC currently have the same registered business address. 

The documents also show that ANCP’s two company directors, Paul Gyles and Victor Nudler, were directors of ARC from its foundation in February 2011 to July 2011 and that Gyles Holdings and Nudler Holdings still own 70% of ARC’s shares. ANCP and Roper did not return our calls.

Mounting fines

Russell De Leon has felt the full brunt of the private car park ticketing regime. He told CHOICE that the loading dock for his business is next to a Care Park in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. 

“I frequently use my car to load items or deliver items for work, however I still managed to get fined for leaving my car in an area supposedly owned and operated by Care Park,” he says. “I recently received an envelope containing backdated fines since 2010 to the tune of $1584. 

Having contacted Care Park multiple times to organise an arrangement, I’ve been repeatedly told that their operators are busy and they’ll return my call. I’ve had no return calls for weeks now but have been sent statements demanding immediate payment or legal action will be taken.”

 

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