Disclaimer: the author of this website is not a lawyer and this site does not constitute legal advice.
5. What should I do if I receive a letter from a Private Car Parking Company?
Note: FAQ05 applies only if you have received a letter to your home address. If you have only received a fine on your car windscreen and haven't yet received a letter to your home address, then see FAQ03 instead.
If you have received any one of the above letters in the mail (normally to the home of the registered owner of the vehicle), you have four options that are explained below: write the company a letter denying liability, ignore all correspondence from them, use a mediation company, or pay the fine.
Option 1 - write them a letter denying liability
You can write the parking company a letter denying liability for the fine using the proforma on this page. The proforma on this page has been carefully crafted to deny liability for the fine, but is silent on whether or not you actually parked there (because I don't know whether you did or didn't). It simply denies liability for the fine and directs them to stop pestering you. You can use this proforma whether or not you remember parking there.
In the past, after you sent this letter you generally did not hear from the parking company again. However, I am advised by some car owners that ANCP, Care Park and Parking Patrols are these days continuing to send demands even after liability has been denied. However, if you do hear from them again, you should just ignore all future correspondence from them. It is against state and national laws for the company to send you further payment notices after you have denied liability. What has worked for some people, is when they have denied liability, and then received further notices, they have phoned the company that sent the last letter and asked them if they received your denial of liability. If they say they didn't, then you can email or fax them a copy of it now, call them back and see if they agree to now stop. Some-times they have just lost your letter in all their paperwork, and merely reminding them you have denied liability stops the letters.
Even if they continue to write to you, then this option still has advantages, as it means any fine increases they add to future letters are unlawful, as they are not permitted to write to you. If they ever took you to court, it would have to be for the amount the fine was before you sent the denial of liability.
Sending the letter is a little bit of insurance. It (hopefully) reduces your chance of receiving further letters and (hopefully) reduces your chances of getting taken to court (because the company knows you know what are doing and that you will defend your position in court). The companies only take a few people to court, and hopefully denying liability means they will pick on some else who doesn't know their rights.
It is important when writing to them that you use the proforma suggested, and that you do not admit you parked in their car park. For example, do not write to them saying you only parked there for 2 or 3 minutes to buy a drink or that the signs were unclear. If you do write such a letter admitting to parking in their car park and ask them for forgiveness you are unlikely to receive any. And by writing to them asking for forgiveness, you are admitting that you parked in their car park on that date. So the advice is to only write to them using the suggested proforma.
It is important to understand though, that the company may keep writing to you, even though they are not permissed to do so. If that is going to freak you out when you start receiving lawyer letters, you may be better off taking options 3 or 4 now, before the going gets tough.
Option 3 - use a mediation or dispute resolution company
There are many mediation companies that will act on your behalf to negotiate your debts (or alleged debts in this case) with your creditors. But these are mainly setup for large amounts such as $1,000 or more. If the thought of trying to hold out against the parking company's debt collectors and lawyers worries you so much that you are tempted to pay the fine, or if you are worried the parking company will take you to court, then these companies are with a look at, since it saves you money compared with paying the fine.
The "Parking Fine Fighter" will act for you on small parking fine debts from private parking companies, See Parking Fine Fighter. The idea is only if they are successful in having your fine withdrawn for you, do you pay a small fee. Two other services also worth trying for larger debts (over $1,000) are Debt Mediators and Handle My Complaint. Handle My Complaint charge 20% of the amount of the accumulated fines, and have a minimum $110 charge. Again, you don't pay anything if the fines are not withdrawn. Handle My Complaint is owned and managed by Jo Ucukalo and you have probably seen her on TV. Finally, for Care Park only, you can take a look at http://fightpaymentnotices.com.au/ who, for $17 give you access to their website that contains information of how to avoid Care Park fines.
Option 4 - pay the fine
A lot of people get very stressed by the letters of demand. If the letters of demand are keeping you awake at night and affecting you health, then it is sometimes better to just pay the fine and be done with it. If you decide to pay it, only do so after reading FAQ02 on this page first, which will help you decide whether you are liable and what defenses you may have. If, after reading FAQ02, you don't believe you are liable for the fine, then that will often give you the strength to refuse to pay it.
What if they phone me?
If they phone you, ask them to put their request in writing and hang up. Then when they write to you, follow option 1 or 2 above,.
You will sometimes see on various on-line discussion forums a person saying "I just wrote to them explaining why I didn't get a ticket, and they let me off". The majority of such entries in discussion forums are from "plants" who work for private car park companies who write these forum entries to try to encourage others to write to them explaining why they didn't get a ticket. But you can be sure that if you do write a letter yourself, they won't let you off, and they will keep sending you reminders, and use your letters as evidence against you. You need to understand, this is how these companies earn their income (by fining you), so why would they let you off?
Here is a letter received from Australian National Car Parks customer services manager Paul Jensen. The person had written a letter to ANCP explaining that the photo they had sent him supposedly of his car was not his car, as he had parked his car in the basement. In reply, Paul Jensen wrote the person this letter which I find quite rude and insulting. I would call this "unreasonable communication with a debtor" which is banned under state and national laws. I have included this letter here to show people what you are dealing with and why you shouldn't write to them to discuss the parking situation. You should only write to deny liability using this proforma.