A recent article in The Herald outlined the unfortunate circumstances of a couple who’d had their car stolen. It wouldn’t have been newsworthy had it not been for the actions of Tournament Parking. The car had be wrecked and abandoned in one of the company’s carparks. Police located it the following day and had it removed a couple of days later, however Tournament then decided to bill the owners for the three days of unauthorised parking at $70/day for a total of $210.
The couple communicated in writing with Tournament, as they were unable to reach the right people by phone, and explained the situation and provided a copy of the police report. This wasn’t good enough for Tournament – they suggested that the couple should get their insurance company to pay the fee and threatened to pass the debt on to collection agency Baycorp, with the requsite threat that it would affect their credit rating.
A follow-up article the next day then explained that the couple’s insurance company would not pay the fee and also had difficulty communicating with Tournament. This newer article actually has a couple of quotes from Tournament, which just make them seem even more scummy…
Tournament general manager Dale Clements said the onus was on the car insurance company to cover the fines.
“I have it on authority that the reason we ask the customer to go to the insurance company is because in the past they have covered that,” he said.
So he’s saying that previously they have held vehicle owners liable for fines owing on their car as a consequence of theft? Fuckwits. The article then comes to this…
Mr Clements said the owner of any car which drove into a Tournament carpark was the person responsible for paying the fees – not the person who was driving it.
“We’re quite clear on that because if you’re driving a car that’s not yours and is owned by someone else, you’re deemed to have the authority of the owner to drive that car.
“So the onus comes back to the owner, unless they can prove otherwise that they hadn’t given authority to someone else. We are absolutely watertight on that.”
He said because the car was stolen, the ownership was handed over to AMI Insurance.
Quite clearly, in fact by definition, the driver of a stolen car does not have authority from the owner of the car. Surely a police report is proof otherwise? Similarly the owner in such a circumstance would not be liable for things like speed camera fines either.
The ownership of the car was only transferred to AMI once the car had been found and deemed written off (ie the insurance company would take ownership and pay the policy holder out). And even if by some bizarre twist of imaginiation you believe that an insurance company becomes the ‘owner’ of a car the moment it’s stolen, they still have not provided any sort of authority to the driver.
And a day later there was a new article, Parking firm backs down on fine, but it wasn’t as if they’d suddenly realised they were in the wrong about the whole issue of liability (or committing some sort of PR suicide). No. Instead they parking company has now decided it will puruse the insurance company for the money, although AMI seems to have made it pretty clear they will not be paying, and nor should they.
A lawyer quoted in the last article made the key point: the only person who could possibly be liable for any fees to Tournament is the thief. But that’s no good for Tournament as they don’t know who he is, but the registered owner and their insurance company? Easy targets.
It appears that this is the sort of thing that Tournament has tried in the past, and most likely they have been successful too. Debt collection is a scary threat (although no collection can be undertaken on a disputed debt) and people would probably choose to pay when it became clear obvious that it was the easier way to make the issue go away.
In summary I will never part in a Tournament carpark again, and I’ll suggest the same to others. Tournament claims $210 in “lost revenue” from the stolen car, I’m sure they’ve lost a lot more than that thanks to the media coverage around their shitty treatment of the victims of this crime (and probably others before them).