How to get out of an unreasonable parking ticket

There’s nothing more frustrating than returning to your car after a long day on the grind, and seeing that white bit of paper tucked behind your windscreen wiper.

Stuff reported last week that a Christchurch woman was fined $94.44 for accidentally underpaying for her parking by 50 cents.

In light of her refusal to pay the fine, you too may actually not have to pay for your parking ticket. According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, if the ticket is unjustified or unauthorised, or the fee is unreasonable, you can complain to the land owner, tenant or the parking enforcement firm and refuse to pay it, or offer to only pay a reasonable amount.

So before you reach into your wallet, here a few things to ask yourself.

Were you misled by signage?

On the Consumer Protection website, the ministry says you have the right to seek a part or full refund, if displayed signage was not adequate.

The ministry explains that if you intend to challenge the ticket, take pictures or make a note of any unclear or obscured signs, or boundary lines that have worn away.

Check whether displayed signage was accurate. Photo credit: Getty

Was the ticket justified?

If private companies fine you and you did not break any laws, it could be unjustified.

The ministry says for contract terms to be binding, the terms and what happens if you break them must be set out sufficiently, clearly and visibly on signage.

You may be able to fight a ticket if the fee is unreasonable. Photo credit: Getty

Was the ticket reasonable?

Check the parking ticket was reasonable. Fees set out on signage for breach of parking condition must not be disproportionate to the interests of the land owner or tenant.

Tickets can only be issued by authorised people. Photo credit: Getty

Was the ticket authorised?

The ticket could be unauthorised if the person who arranged for the enforcement was not the owner of the land or business.

It may be possible to negotiate for a reduced fee. Photo credit: Getty

You can question why you were fined

Contact the landowner and follow these steps, as recommended by the ministry on the Consumer Protection website:

  • For private parking tickets, information about how to make a complaint or challenge the fee may be on the back of the ticket
  • you can try to negotiate for a reduced fee or partial refund if you think the fee paid was unreasonable
  • you can request a refund of any infringement fee if you use a parking facility but there are no clear signs about towing or clamping
  • you can contact the Disputes Tribunal if you can’t reach an agreement with the person that ticketed, clamped or towed your vehicle, but you think the enforcement was unjustified or unauthorised, or the fee was unreasonable.
Drivers must be given a “reasonable grace period” after parking has expired. Photo credit: Getty

Were you back at your car within 10 minutes of your payment running out?

Under Section 5.8 of the Code of Practice for Parking Enforcement on Private Land, companies are advised to give drivers “a reasonable grace period, for example 10 minutes” after paid parking has expired.

The Code of Practise explains this gives the driver time to “read terms and conditions signs and decide if they are going to stay or leave without having their vehicle issued with a parking breach notice”.

A 10-minute grace period is an example only and may vary by location. Photo credit: Getty

“That would be grounds to contact them and say you’re a signatory to this code,” Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson says.

The code advises 10 minutes only as an example – so this could be up for interpretation.


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