Parking fines: How to fight them

You don’t always have to blindly accept a parking ticket.Source: News Limited

PARKING fines can be painful for your finances and a frustrating way to end a night out or a shopping expedition.

It’s even more upsetting when you’re slugged with a hefty fine unfairly.

From unscrupulous private parking fine operators to overzealous council inspectors, there are ways to fight the fines and keep money in your pocket.

PRIVATE OPERATORS

Traditional carparks have boom gates to keep you in until you pay, but most cities have other private carparks — usually near shopping centres — with no gates, signs that are almost impossible to find, and hefty penalties of $60-$100 for those who miss the signs or perhaps park longer than the time limit.

Consumer and legal experts say these carparks have no legal authority to fine you but will often use legal jargon such as “binding contracts” and “liquidated damages” and may chase consumers through the courts. Some court decisions have found these penalties are overstated or not justified, so it’s a good idea to seek advice.

Consumer group Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey says these companies are not government bodies and should not be fining people.

“You would be excused for thinking they are a front for a debt collection group. It’s often hard to find the pay station and what the rates are,” he says.

“It’s worth contesting any private parking fine you are given and certainly questioning the amount.”

COUNCIL FINES

Between one-fifth and one-quarter of council parking fine appeals are successful, so if you have a strong argument there’s a chance you can win.

“It’s all about evidence — take photographs,” says Godfrey. But understand that most inspectors have probably taken pictures too.

You can seek an internal review by the council but will need the be able to argue a meaningful special circumstance, such as an obscured sign, vehicle breakdown or medical emergency.

You can take the council to court but if you plan to engage a lawyer in your fight, do it before you request the internal review, says consumer service Parking Fine Appeals.

“If the court finds in your favour, the fine will be withdrawn. However, if you lose the case, then you may have to pay court costs and the council’s legal costs as well as the fine itself,” it says.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Legal aid agencies and other websites have plenty of information about what to do if you are fined, how to protest it, even examples of letters you can write to argue your case.

There’s also an app, ParkPatrol, that tells you where people have reported parking inspectors and can send an alert when your parking time expires, although it relies on other app users to spot the inspectors and report them.

Always remember that prevention is best, so be sure to check signs whenever parking and avoid running the gauntlet against a fine-hungry inspector. These days, they’re on the prowl all hours of the day.

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