Dodgy car park operators will now have to clean up their act in a win for Victorians

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Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the Victorian Government’s move to stop disclosure of drivers’ personal details to private car park companies through the courts. Private car park companies have long exploited a court procedure to obtain drivers’ personal details from VicRoads and then issue notices demanding payment.

Consumer Action CEO Gerard Brody said it was inappropriate for information held by a statutory body such as VicRoads to be disclosed to private car park operators.

‘Most Victorians would be shocked that VicRoads has been made to disclose drivers’ personal information to private car park companies which then use that information to chase consumers for alleged debts. It’s a breach of trust and we congratulate the Andrews Government for stamping this out at long last.

‘This reform will put a stop to an unfair business model that has stung hundreds of thousands of Victorians. Some private car parks profit from threatening demands for payment rather than charging upfront fees fairly and transparently. Many consumers unwittingly pay the demands—which can escalate to hundreds of dollars when debt collection lawyers get involved. We’ve long argued that the demands may be unlawful, but this reform should stop the operators in their tracks’, said Mr Brody.

Mr Brody said the legislative amendment to stop car park companies from using the Magistrates’ Court to get information from VicRoads was the simplest approach to protect Victorians. ‘The New South Wales Government enacted legislation in 2012 to protect motorists’ personal information, and we’re pleased that Victorians will now have the same protections.’

Consumer Action’s factsheet on private car parks is the most accessed item on our website, with over 22,000 hits in the last 12 months alone, and one of the most common questions asked of our legal practice is the legitimacy of private car park payment notices and how to challenge them.

Media contact: Jonathan Brown 0413 299 567 – media@consumeraction.org.au

Notes to editors

A number of car parks are operated by private companies in Victoria, sometimes attached to shopping centres. Generally they allow consumers to park for free for up to a certain time period, for example two hours, if they display a ticket on the car. They then charge the extra time in the car park, at around $3 per hour.

The companies issue payment demands to consumers who fail to display a ticket on their car. The amount of the demand is usually around $88, but the consumer is advised that if they pay within 14 days, they only pay $66. Should the consumer continue to ignore the requests for payment, the companies instruct solicitors and/or debt collectors and further sums are demanded. Eventually court action is threatened for a sum in the region of $300.

Image from Flickr user Oatsy40.

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