Brett Cleaver is furious that an evening out with his teenage daughter was ruined by wheel-clampers bent on recovering fines allegedly owed by a previous owner of his car.
The pair were dining at an Asian food plaza in Newmarket last Saturday night when they were told the car, parked under the roof of the same building between Teed and Eden Sts, had been clamped.
Mr Cleaver says they left their food uneaten and rushed out to find a private-sector parking officer claiming the vehicle was a "red hot car" with unpaid fines of $195 owing on it.
"I told him he was completely wrong and there were no fines owed by me on my car for anything," said the Kumeu man who, the Weekend Herald has verified from a $3 search of the Companies Office website, did not buy the vehicle until this March.
But the clamper insisted Mr Cleaver pay $195 to remove the wheel lock.
After what Mr Cleaver says was a three-hour stand-off, during which he called the police three times but was told they were not interested in civil disputes, he paid the money through the parking officer's eftpos machine.
That followed advice from the officer that the fines were incurred last year, and the onus was on him to prove he was not the car's owner then.
Mr Cleaver said as he was making the eftpos transaction, another couple approached, complaining they had been ticketed incorrectly.
"They were really nice people - they were shocked because they had paid money into a machine and put a ticket on the dashboard, but the guy said they had got it from the wrong machine," he said.
He said the parking officer worked for NZ Carparking Monitoring Services, a subsidiary of Tournament Parking.
When he phoned a receptionist at Tournament on Monday, she told him she would look into his case and then called back promising the company would refund the money he had paid the officer, by depositing it into his bank account.
"She was really apologetic, which is nice, but what annoyed me is they destroyed our whole night out with my daughter."
Mr Cleaver said yesterday he had yet to receive a refund.
Tournament Parking general manager Rachel Valentine has not responded to Weekend Herald phone or email inquiries, but another company official said it had taken steps to direct the money back into Mr Cleaver's account.
Asked earlier for a comment about his complaint, she said: "We've settled it with the customer and don't feel we really need to go any further with that."
The company is one of five signatories to a voluntary code of conduct for wheel clamping on private land, which was drawn up last year after the Automobile Association lobbied the Government for industry regulation.
But AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said the code was toothless because of its voluntary nature, and the organisation intended forwarding details of several breaches of it to Consumer Affairs Minister Craig Foss.
"The problem is, there's nothing stopping anyone using wheel-clamping as a way of getting money out of somebody.
"When there is no regulation governing wheel-clamping, nothing is legal or illegal," he said.
- Additional reporting: Morgan Tait
A lack of industry regulation means private land owners can use clamps to extract money, but the Automobile Association wants the Government to introduce legislative controls.
A code of conduct between parking companies Comprise Group, Egmont Security, Tournament Parking, Valley Parking and Wilson Parking came into effect last year requiring:
• Clear signage explaining conditions of parking
• A $200 cap on release fees
• Not clamping emergency vehicles
• Not clamping cars that have overstayed by less than 10 mins or if the owner is present with the engine running
• Photo/video evidence of breach that is kept on file for one year
• If a vehicle has been incorrectly clamped it will be immediately released without a fee, or a fee will be refunded