Parking ticket penalty fee sparks row
A Wellington man says he was bullied by a ‘‘money gouging’’ parking company after he contested its penalty fees over an unpaid ticket.
But Valley Parking has rejected the complaints as ‘‘insulting and abstruse’’, and said the family should not have ignored the initial ticket.
Pharmacist Ant Simon accepts his son should have paid a $65 ticket for failing to pay and display in Wellington, last month.
But the family were then billed for an additional $45 ‘‘late fee’’ by Valley Parking Services and, when they queried that, they were told they would face an extra $80 admin fee and the car could be put on a towing register.
They questioned the $45 late fee after reading advice from Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin, urging people to challenge parking fees if they felt they were unfair.
‘‘It’s absolutely bullying,’’ Simon said. ‘‘A young guy gets a ticket ... and all of a sudden he’s harassed by these people and put in a pretty unpleasant situation through these guys’ tactics.
‘‘It’s almost like loan shark territory – where people get themselves into a spot of bother and they just end up digging themselves into a deeper hole.’’
The family admit not paying the first ticket, believing it did not look legitimate. Six weeks later, they were told of the extra $45 late fee.
They paid the $65 but, when they challenged the late fee, they were told debt collectors Baycorp could become involved, and the car could be towed without warning to recover any outstanding debt.
‘‘If you had $110, plus $80, plus Baycorp – whatever they add on – plus if they’re threatening to tow you that’s another $400 ... it adds up,’’ Simon said.
On Friday morning, he paid the $45 late fee, but remained upset at Valley Parking’s attitude, believing a reminder notice, rather than additional fees and threats, would have sufficed.
Valley Parking Services said it believed its charges to be fair and reasonable.
The ticket clearly stated that unpaid accounts would incur late payment fees and collection costs, a spokesperson said.
‘‘You really summed up the attitude of this person when you described ‘he ignored it’ [the ticket].
‘‘I’m sure it wouldn’t have been ignored had his vehicle been towed.
‘‘We are trying to go down the path of issuing parking breach invoices, rather than more conventional methods [such as towing], but it appears we still bear the brunt of those that believe they are above the rules everyone else has to follow.’’
Tracking down a non-paying offender came at a cost, and the Disputes Tribunal considered $45 to be fair and reasonable, the spokesperson said.
Chetwin said that, although she found the accumulating costs excessive, the family should have contacted the company to challenge the ticket, rather than ignoring it.
‘‘The fairness works both ways.’’
‘‘It's almost like loan shark territory – where people get themselves into a spot of bother and they just end up digging themselves into a deeper hole.’’
The ticket for failing to pay and display.