An Auckland businessman who refused to pay a $65 "breach" notice from a parking site operator says motorists, who are receiving them for being as little as five minutes over time, should fight too.
Thomas James said the breach was for exceeding the prepay time by 20 minutes at a Wilson Parking site in downtown Auckland last August.
But the breach was cancelled after he challenged the company to "prove it cost them $65".
He said he was moved to tell of his experience after the Herald reported that Dunedin woman Emmeline Kendrick had received a $65 parking breach notice at a Wilson site in the southern city after 11 minutes.
The article also brought responses from other readers, who revealed their breach of contract notices were written out from five to 11 minutes after expiry of the time they were meant to park there.
"I wrote to Parking Enforcement Services [a division of Wilson] and told them that I do not have to pay," Mr James said.
"If they want money from me, they have to take me to court.
"I said they do not have power like the police or council to put a ticket for $65 on my car; you have to prove that you suffered a loss for that amount from my parking there, which is impossible."
Mr James said he had paid $8.90 for an hour's parking and was happy to pay an extra $1.50 for the 20 minutes over.
"If they wanted more they had to take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal. They never replied and they wiped the ticket."
Automobile Association spokesman Mark Stockdale said parking operations run by local authorities had regulations to back their right to issue infringements on public land.
But the private parking companies' $65 demands were not a legal penalty and a motorist could dispute the value of the breach notice.
The Consumer Affairs website says information on signs in the car park become part of a contract with the operator and by parking, motorists are agreeing to the terms of the contract written on the signs.
Mr Stockdale said the advice to the AA was that having breached the operator's terms and conditions, motorists should compare the amount of the breach notices with what they should have paid - based on the hourly rate, adding a reasonable cost for administration.
"And go back with a cheque for that amount and that should be the end of the matter. If they don't accept it, it's their responsibility to take the motorist to the Disputes Tribunal."
Wilson Parking said its feedback was that the breach fee was preferable and less stressful to customers than towing and clamping and towing could cost $100 to $250.
Commercial parking sites
• Operators on private land cannot issue fines and penalties. They issue private breach notices for exceeding the time paid for.
• Exceeding the time is a breach of the parking contract terms, displayed on signs.
• Acceptance of the terms is a condition of use.
• Private breach notices are issued under contract law and informed consent.
• A reminder adds $25 to the cost.
• Customers can appeal a breach notice to the issuing company.
• A breach notice requires payment within 21 days, up to $65 costs of enforcing.
• After 30 days, the debt passes to a debt collection agency - more cost.
• An operator can only claim for damages - actual and reasonable costs they incurred because a motorist breached the contract, for example, the time overstayed and the cost of recovering the money.