Have you received a parking ticket from a private car park company? Frustrating, isn’t it? You’re more likely to receive one of these private parking tickets from a car park that is ‘pay-and-display’, which means that you’re supposed to get a receipt to show you’ve paid for parking, and then show that receipt on your car dashboard.
These private parking tickets have become more widespread around Australia. The Herald Sun recently reported that private car park operators had obtained 165,793 drivers’ records within just 3 years to issue drivers with payment notices in Victoria!
Are Private Parking Fines Legal?
With hundreds of thousands of private parking tickets being issued across the country, it’s questionable whether these tickets are even legal, given that they are being issued by private car park companies and not the government.
Fair Trading NSW has confirmed that private car park operators do not issue parking fines; Parking fines or infringements are issued by a Government body.
What this means is that only government can give you parking fines. Private car park companies already know this, and when they hand out parking tickets to you, they’re not actually issuing you a fine, they are actually trying to claim money from you for breach of contract. In other words, the Government can issue fines, but private car park companies issue payment notices only. There’s a fine line between them.
For example, the private car park company, Care Park, elaborates on this difference on their website: “A Payment Notice is not a fine – but rather, is a demand for payment of liquidated damages for breach of contract”.
So private parking tickets are generally legal, but they are not fines. They are payment notices for breach of contract.
Private Parking Fines that are Excessive
Although private parking tickets are generally legal when considered as a payment notice, they may be illegal if the car park operator is seeking payment that is over the top.
If you receive a private parking ticket for an unfair amount that is more than what the car park operator would lose when you haven’t paid for your parking fee, then this ticket could be illegal.
For example, a Victorian Tribunal confirmed that an $88 parking ticket could not be enforced because it was unfair as the driver’s parking fee that had not been paid was only $15.
Even so, some car park operators continue to charge excessive parking tickets. Not only that, many operators may intentionally blur the lines between a ‘fine’ and a ‘payment notice’ in order to confuse you so you pay out of fear.
What to do if a Private Parking Fine is Excessive?
1. Contact the Car Park Operator to Dispute the Fine
Often, the back of the private parking ticket will give you instructions for how you can dispute the fine, which usually involves contacting the car park company. State Fair Trading departments also advise that you contact the car park company to dispute the ticket.
However, if you do contact the car park operator, this may actually be somewhat of a trap. The reason is because you may in fact be giving your contact details to the company by contacting them, especially if the company didn’t have your contact details in the first place.
2. Do Nothing
The Consumer Action Law Centre has confirmed that if you receive a private parking ticket that you think is excessive, then you do have the option to do nothing at all. The reason is because the car park company will need to apply to the Magistrates Court to obtain your details. Also, the car park company is only allowed to chase after the driver who’s responsible for the debt, not the registered owner of the vehicle. So the company needs to prove you were the driver, and this can be difficult. If you receive a private parking ticket and you do nothing, then it will be hard for the car park operator to get your contact details and to prove that you are the driver who owes them the money.
3. Complain to Fair Trading
Another way to respond to an excessive private parking ticket is to complain to your State’s Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs department. NSW Fair Trading estimated that more than 90 per cent of complaints received by Fair Trading departments are resolved without expensive legal action. If you do need to go to court, you can go to your State’s Consumer Tribunal to make a claim.
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