The Victorian Supreme Court has ordered private car park operators who issued unlawful parking ‘fines’ to stop using misleading tactics.
The court’s decision confirms that private parking operators cannot levy fines or prosecute motorists who stay overtime or do not display a ticket.
After investigating consumer complaints between 2008 and 2010, the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria issued proceedings against:
- car park operator, ACE Parking Pty Ltd
- Parking Patrols (Vic) Pty Ltd (formerly Parking Infringements Victoria Pty Ltd)
- Ace Parking officers, Kevin John English and James John English.
In September 2011, the Director alleged that they breached the Fair Trading Act 1999 by:
- issuing `fines’ to consumers with no legal authority
- harassing consumers who failed to pay
- illegally threatening legal action, including illegally threatening legal action or `prosecution.’
On 13 April 2012, the court upheld the Director’s case and ordered:
- declarations that one or more of the parties contravened the Fair Trading Act 1999
- injunctions to restrain further contravening conduct
- publication of an adverse publicity order within the first 30 pages of the Herald Sun and The Age newspapers
- a total of $2500 in compensation for seven complainants ($300-$457.50 per person)
- payment of $12,000 as a contribution to Consumer Affairs Victoria’s costs.
The court found that terminology on ACE Parking’s tickets misled consumers about their rights. The companies and individuals had contravened Part 2 of the Fair Trading Act 1999 by engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct, making false and misleading representations, and engaging in undue harassment and coercion.
The court also found that requests for payments issued by ACE Parking mimicked fines issued by official agencies such as councils and government, using terminology such as ‘offence’, ‘breach’ and ‘fines.’
In his decision, Associate Justice Gardiner said that the defendants’ illegal demands for payment had also caused inconvenience and anxiety to the recipients.
“Otherwise law abiding citizens were accused, without any legal basis, that they had committed ‘offences’ for which they were liable to pay ‘penalties’,” Justice Gardiner said.
ACE Parking operates about 24 car parks in and near Melbourne. It engages Parking Patrols (Vic) Pty Ltd (formerly Parking Infringements Victoria Pty Ltd), to patrol its car parks.
View the full judgment
Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria v Parking Patrols Vic Pty Ltd & Another - Austlii website