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Private car parks - rights and responsibilities
Private car parks operate in a range of locations including shopping centres, retail outlets, food stores and sporting facilities across Victoria.
A private car park operator must clearly outline and prominently display the terms and conditions of use for their car park.
When parking in a private car park that has appropriate signage, you enter a contract with the operator.
Both you and the operator have rights and responsibilities under this contract. The operator also has responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law.
For example, the operator has the right to charge fees for use of their car park but must not mislead or deceive customers about these fees.
Before you park
Always check signage for the terms and conditions at a private car park before parking your vehicle.
Make sure you understand:
- how you have to pay for using the car park - for example, whether you are required to pre-pay and display a printed ticket, or if there is a boom gate and payment is required on exit
- the payment structure and cost - that is, how much the car park costs to use, whether by the hour or a flat fee
- any time restrictions that is, if the car park has a parking time limit
- any special conditions - for example, if you have to display a ticket in the vehicle, or if you still have to obtain a ticket even if parking is free for a certain time
- any costs that you may incur if you breach the terms and conditions.
If you do not wish to meet the stated terms and conditions of parking, you can choose to take your business elsewhere.
Parking fine or payment notice?
Private car park operators cannot issue parking fines or infringements - these are only issued by an authorised government body.
Operators may issue 'breach of contract' notices requesting payment for an alleged failure to observe the displayed terms and conditions of use. This notice is generally a claim for 'liquidated damages'.
If you receive a payment notice
If you receive a notice claiming liquidated damages from a private car park operator, you need to determine if you have breached the terms and conditions of the parking.
If you believe that you have not breached the terms and conditions, you can ask the operator to revoke the notice. Present any evidence to support your claim, such as photos or a ticket.
If the operator refuses your request to cancel the notice, you can take the dispute to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). There may be costs involved in doing so - for more information, visit the VCAT website.
Debt collection and parking payment notices
Private car park operators may use a debt collector to collect payment notice payments on their behalf.
Certain debt collection practices are banned in Victoria. For example, debt collectors must not:
- unduly harass a consumer
- lie about the consequences of an unpaid debt
- impersonate a government employee or agent.
To find out more, view our Banned debt collection practices page.
For more information about dealing with debt collectors, view our Managing debt page.
If you believe the debt collector's conduct amounts to standover tactics, or involves potentially criminal behaviour such as threats of violence, contact Victoria Police.