Private car park fines

Have private car parks shifted their focus from collecting fees to handing out dodgy fines?
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

03.Lawyers on board

In 2010, Hong Lim, a member of Victoria’s state parliament representing Melbourne’s Clayton District, called for an investigation into the involvement of law firms in the private car park collection process, describing their tactics as part of “an old-fashioned shakedown for those who are unaware of their rights”. 

He called on the state attorney-general to investigate one firm, Parke Lawyers, to prevent people becoming victims of lawyers who prey on the “weak and ignorant”. He said that the firm, acting on behalf of Care Park, was threatening legal action unless the original $88 plus a $77 legal fee were paid.

 

Sign up to our free
e-Newsletter

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

 

A spokesperson for Lim’s office told us that legal action in such cases is unlikely, although the office continues to hear from concerned and confused citizens. (Parke Lawyers represented Care Park in their case against the RTA.) “One woman recently came in with a fine notice from [the Melbourne suburb of] Preston,” Hong Lim’s spokesperson said. 

“It turned out she’d never been to Preston. We called the car park operator and the fine was dropped, but when we pressed for more information they just hung up. If you challenge these operators they drop off straightaway. We generally tell our constituents to ignore the notices, but we still haven’t been able to shut these businesses down.”

The process of shutting them down, or at least reining them in, may be underway. In April this year, the Victorian Supreme Court ordered Ace Parking and its officers, Kevin John English and James John English, to stop using misleading tactics and fined the company $14,500. The tactics, which were found to violate the Fair Trading Act, included issuing fines and threatening legal action without legal authority, mimicking the look and language of legitimate council and government notices, and harassing people to pay.

What can you do?

The best way to respond is open to question at this point. Hardy believes Victorian motorists should ignore demands for payment. “I’ve never seen them sue a Victorian consumer. I have seen them sue consumers in NSW, but the case usually settles without a hearing because one or both parties realise it is uneconomical to maintain a court case over $88.”

In July this year, ANCP took three people to court in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown. Fair Trading NSW, which told us that 239 of the 265 private car park complaints it received in 2011-12 related to fines, says NSW consumers should contact car park operators to dispute fines and, if not satisfied, contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or lodge a complaint at fairtrading.nsw.gov.au. A spokesperson for NSW Fair Trading said consumer regulators are monitoring a number of car park operators and that Consumer Affairs Victoria “is leading work on a national approach to this matter”.

ANCP will only accept payment disputes in writing or by fax and asks for any evidence you may be able to provide relating to the fine. One consumer who has pursued a thorough investigation of his own says that because many of these car parks are attached to shops, consumers should contact the businesses that the car park appears to serve (if there is one), since the ticketing system is ostensibly designed to prevent motorists who aren’t patronising the business from parking there.

 
Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments