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An Auckland man has won a battle against a towing company after his van was illegally towed from a private car park in Auckland's CBD, even though he did not have permission to be parked there.
The Automobile Association is claiming Steven Ooi's win at the Disputes Tribunal as a victory for motorists, and says the ruling could set a precedent because it raises questions about motorists parking in business carparks after hours if they are not causing any harm.
Super City Towing was found to have breached regulations by not completing a tow authority - a form towing companies are required to complete and have signed by a police officer, traffic warden or landlord before removing the vehicle.
The tribunal also ruled in Mr Ooi's favour because he had "caused no actual harm" by parking at the Wellesley St car park without permission as the building was empty and it was outside usual business hours.
The company was ordered to pay Mr Ooi $526.
Mr Ooi told the Herald he felt tow firms were making too much money off unsuspecting drivers.
"When I went there [to the collection yard], there were 40-odd vehicles there. Imagine at $250 a pop - that's quite a bit of money. I imagine some of them deserve it but those who don't can fight back."
Super City Towing general manager Craig Burrows, whose firm trades several names including Vehicle Recovery Group, First Recovery and Amalgamated Carpark Services, said it would pay Mr Ooi the required amount.
Last night, Mr Ooi had not received the repayment, due by March 15, but had received an email from Super City Towing on Monday saying it was considering appealing against the decision.
AA principal regulatory adviser Mark Stockdale commended Mr Ooi for standing up for his rights.
"The more people that do this, the more it will force tow companies and clamping companies and private parking operators to follow the rules and to have good systems in place to minimise unauthorised parking."
Mr Stockdale said the ruling had set a precedent over unauthorised parking in carparks after hours.
"That is a precedent in our view and I think that is something really worth exploring with landlords, businesses and the tow companies to understand if there's no harm.
"Does there need to be enforcement or is it just about revenue gathering on the part of the tow companies and wheel clamping companies?"
Auckland Towing Company director Antony Ashford said towing companies took the regulations seriously and faced hefty fines for non-compliance.
His company had office staff check all tow authorities had been completed.
Mr Ashford did not accept that vehicles shouldn't be towed if they were in an unused business carpark as such removals acted as a deterrent to vandals.
- Nikki Preston of the New Zealand Herald