A man who parked in a clearly marked towaway zone has fought the $230 charge he incurred after being towed - and has won.

Dan Dwyer, a lawyer, saw the warning signs when he pulled into an empty parking lot on Dominion Rd but figured he'd take the risk given it was 9pm and he was ducking into a video store for just a few minutes.

"I thought about towing at the time but thought I'd only be 10 minutes ... I thought we'd get away with it."

But, when he returned with his movies, he found the Toyota Corolla he had borrowed from his flatmate was gone.


Mr Dwyer walked 4.3km to the Vehicle Recovery Group's base in Grey Lynn, asked if there was any way of getting out of paying the towing charge - then paid up after being told there wasn't.

By the time the 26-year-old got home, he had decided the levy was pretty hefty for towing the car such a short distance and decided to investigate his rights.

He found Consumer New Zealand advice which said courts have suggested towing firms should charge only for "expenses reasonably incurred in removing an unlawfully parked vehicle".

Instead of getting angry, he decided to get even, and contacted the Disputes Tribunal.

"In my Disputes Tribunal application I argued that the $230 cost in no way accurately reflected the actual cost of towing the few kilometres from Mt Eden to Grey Lynn."

The day before the case was due to be heard, the towing company offered his money back, which he happily accepted.

Mr Dwyer is now speaking out to warn others that there is an alternative to paying expensive towing fees.

"This was nine o'clock at night and there's not a car in the yard ... I don't know why you can't park there and nip in quickly.


"I implore all New Zealanders to pursue this remedy should they be towed."

A Vehicle Recovery Group spokesman said the manager didn't want to comment.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said tow companies were known for charging "outrageous fees" to collect cars.

"The tow companies know the places that people are going to quickly duck in and out of and get caught and you can see them cruising around all sorts of carparks just waiting for them to make mistakes so they know exactly where they can make ... the easy money."

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the fees needed to be reasonable and regulated as the amounts now being charged varied greatly.

"It's a private park and they have every right [to tow]. $230 sounds like a hell of a lot of money and more than what the average motorist would consider to be reasonable."