Tow-truck companies have been accused of paying "spotters" to dob in motorists - a lucrative practice that helped to pay the rent for one former student.
Several Herald readers yesterday said they knew of cases in which flatters and a dairy owner were paid to report illegal car-parkers in a practice going back at least nine years.
One reader said he'd seen taxi drivers "spotting" for tow-truck drivers, but did not know if they had been paid.
Tow firms dismissed the claims as "rubbish", but Luke Turner, 32, said his flat was paid a $10 kickback from a towing company, which has since changed hands, when he lived in Galatos St, Newton, nine years ago.
Another reader said he knew a dairy owner who made several thousand dollars a month from an arrangement with towies. He got $50 to $80 for a successful towaway.
Mr Turner, a cartographer, said his flat had the use of 10 private off-street carparks in front of a business outside working hours.
People heading for nearby Karangahape Rd on Friday and Saturday nights would park in them, despite it being illegal to do so.
"Often we'd come home at night and we couldn't get a park. And so we had an arrangement ... that for each tow, we would get $10 commission. Just so that we could have access to our property."
Mr Turner said that in a weekend, the towing deal could net his flat up to $200.
But after several incidents when residents' cars were mistakenly towed away, the company ended the arrangement.
Tow firms the Herald contacted said such arrangements did not exist and to their knowledge never had.
Auckland Towing director Antony Ashford said people "get greedy" and often asked for kickbacks, but commissions were nothing more than a myth.
He said tow trucks did patrol certain areas, but only at the request of businesses.
"People want their carparks monitored 24/7 ... A lot of the ones we do is because they've had damage and vandalism - condoms and rubbish left in their carpark."
Mr Ashford said he could understand people's frustration when they were towed after parking briefly in an empty carpark - but the solution was simple.
"There's a lot of lazy people who don't want the effort to go a little bit further and pay $3. And these are the ones who get caught out and then make a big fuss."
Southern Districts Towing operations manager Lionel Caines said suggestions that tow companies paid people to dob in drivers were rubbish. "I've heard whispers that some of the carpark places used to do it ... but you are talking years ago when tow trucks weren't very well under control.
"What we do have problems within the industry is these one-man bands that run around and have no names on their trucks, and cause problems, and then everyone gets tarred with the same brush."
Consumer NZ and the Automobile Association said they had received no reports of tow-truck companies paying commissions.
The Herald has been flooded with reader letters after reporting that Vehicle Recovery Group refunded driver Dan Dwyer a $230 fee to avoid a Disputes Tribunal hearing.
Mr Dwyer, a lawyer, took the matter to the tribunal on the basis that $230 to tow his car from a Mt Eden fruitshop's carpark less than 5km to a Grey Lynn yard did not reflect the true cost of towing.
Vehicle Recovery Group chief Craig Burrows has said he refunded the money to avoid missing a family commitment to attend the hearing, but would have won the case easily.
Mr Ashford said three tribunal cases against Auckland Towing's tow fee of $250 had been dismissed in the past year.
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