I was wrongly and illegally ticketed!
June 29, 2010 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I just got a parking ticket for a lot I was never in. I'm pretty annoyed. What can I do?

I never got a notice on my car, but I got it in the mail today along with a $30 late fee. Total cost $105. It's for a privately run surface parking lot. I remember the night in question and I parked on a city street which is adjacent to that lot. I was with friends who remember me parking on the street. I've confirmed the city has jurisdiction over parking on the street and there were no parking restrictions. I'm 100% certain I never entered that lot. I've confirmed that the ticket was for parking in that lot without paying.

I called them and they refused to cancel the ticket and said it would go through their normal collections process which could culminate in a provincial court action. I don't blame them for that as it's their word against mine. However I am fuming that I was ticketed by a private company on a public street; they told me that was impossible as they only ticket on their lots and don't have the right to ticket on the street, but it happened. It's especially suspicious that there was never a ticket on my car. It might have blown away, but then again they might have chosen not to display it since I could have taken a photo to help me fight it.

I don't intend to give them a cent and I will be happy to defend myself in court. But can anyone tell me what to expect in this process? What if this gets sent to a collections agency instead of to court, how do I fight it then? Also I don't want to let this sort of behavior stand. What can I do to punish them?

I'm in Vancouver, BC. Thanks.
posted by PercussivePaul to Law & Government (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever you do, you need to do it in writing. I don't know anything about Canadian procedure.
posted by ishotjr at 4:13 PM on June 29, 2010

Whoops! Was going to continue by saying that you may want to find out who regulates pay lots and file a complaint.
posted by ishotjr at 4:14 PM on June 29, 2010

I know you're a student; can you call over to the student services department or the law school and enlist student legal aid to write them a "cut it out, you have no proof" letter?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:15 PM on June 29, 2010

You're telling us that a private company put a private ticket on your car saying you owe them money? What I'm saying is, this is not a ticket from your local municipal parking enforcement people, but from private parties? Hmph.

I don't know the Vancouver law on this, but it sounds pretty scammy. I don't know if they can send you to collections without filing a lawsuit against you first, though. In which case, you'll get your day in court.

You should really contact somebody with a good knowledge of Vancouver vehicle codes (like a lawyer), because there might be a law on the books preventing private parties from issuing citations.

Here's some other person with a similar experience in Vancouver. Is Diamond Parking the culprit?

In the alternative, this sounds like a good racket. Do you want in?
posted by jabberjaw at 4:18 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've gotten tickets from Diamond Parking and Impark in Vancouver (in those cases, I deserved the tickets). The tickets usually have a box for a description of the car (Make/Model/Colour). Ask for a copy of the original ticket. Then take them to court about it.

FYI, despite their threats, the only thing they can legally do to you is tow and impound your car (under trespassing laws) if you park on one of their lots again.
posted by randomstriker at 4:25 PM on June 29, 2010

BTW...long shot, but did you pay for meter parking on the street with a credit card via the pay-by-phone service? If so, the record of this would help your case.

If not, it's wonderfully convenient, and there's no service charge anymore (probably to lessen the sting of the new requirement to pay for street parking until 10pm.)
posted by randomstriker at 4:38 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep, Diamond Parking. Seems they have a history of this sort of bullshit. They have the correct vehicle make and license, and the time written on the notice matches the time I was there (on the street, that is, not in their lot). I expect they had a guy who was sweeping the lot and just saw me parked on the street and decided to fraudulently ticket me. Maybe he gets a commission.

No receipts as it was free parking on this street.

Anyone know who regulates this, who I can call to file a complaint?

Also I emailed them at appeals@diamondparking.com to demand in writing that they cancel the ticket, we'll see if they write back.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:59 PM on June 29, 2010

Anecdata: my FIL says that the private parking enforcement in Vancouver is very mercenary and they have a reputation for this. He's a retired city hall employee and when my wife got one from a private lot, he told her to ignore it. We did and nothing happened, this was in the 90s though.

Maybe contact a consumer beat journalist?
posted by arcticseal at 7:21 PM on June 29, 2010

If you were in the US, I'd suggest you complain to your city councilperson ... if Diamond Parking has a history of doing this, it won't be the first time they've had a complaint, and city councilpeople can often get stuff like this fixed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 PM on June 29, 2010

Hah! I knew it was Diamond parking as soon as I read your question. If it's any consolation, they send to collections quickly (mine was there in 2 months), but it's some two-bit collection company in Langley that calls everyday and leaves an automated message on my voice mail. I was parked in their lot when I got the ticket, but it was *not* for as long as they claim. My ticket was during the Olympics, and I'm sure they were ticketing everybody, just because they thought they could. Anyway, I've successfully ignored these phone calls for a month now, and I'm going to continue ignoring them; I have more patience than they do. And I'm avoiding their lots, not for fear of being towed, but on principle alone.
posted by cgg at 8:12 PM on June 29, 2010

While I can't speak to Canadian laws that would apply to the parking situation or collection agencies, I can say that in America there is a very strict set of guidelines on how collections agencies have to operate. Unfortunately the vast majority of people are unaware of this and the agencies use that to their full advantage.

If you start getting harassed by them, look into the laws--there could very well be something that allows you to demand proof of debt owed in writing and that prevents them from communicating with you further unless doing so in writing. If you show you know what you're talking about and you know their game, they tend to leave you alone rather quickly. If they are stupid and our laws are anything alike, you might even be able to make a buck off of them.

But again, knowledge is power. Also, consider writing to Consumerist.com. They love this kind of stuff and you may find more resources from people who have experienced the same situation. At the very least, it gets eyeballs and that gets action from people high up.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:59 PM on June 29, 2010

Vancouver city councillors can't and won't do anything about this. They are dedicated, overworked, underpaid public servants -- please don't waste their time with this. And Consumerist is a lost cause -- Diamond Parking won't give a shit about bad PR from some website in America.

The basis of their tickets is BC's trespass laws. If you park on their private property, you agree to their terms (i.e. pay the parking fee) or you're trespassing. So what it now boils down to is your word against theirs about whether or not you were on their property. You have all of your friends as witnesses who will testify under oath, and they have their meter maid.

The way to deal with this is to call their bluff and let them take you to court. They'll never actually take you to court, of course, and you'll never be able to park in a lot of theirs without getting towed. You don't intend to, anyway.

I would just ignore it, block the debt collector's number, take a deep breath and let it go.
posted by randomstriker at 11:17 PM on June 29, 2010

(Diamond Parking is not localized to Vancouver, and is ubiquitous throughout the U.S. as is their behavior; also Consumerist isn't localized to just the U.S., and can actually be viewed in Canada; finally, if you feel like telling your local government official, do so, and leave it up to them to decide whether they are too busy to do anything about it.)
posted by jabberjaw at 12:42 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whenever I get private parking tickets I ignore them. Nothing bad has ever happened.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2010

Eech, Diamond Parking. The parent company was sued in Seattle for imposing 'collection fees' alongside their tickets... classy.

What I might suggest is talking to the Better Business Bureau and giving Consumer Protection BC a call (tf 1 888 564 9963). I haven't dealt with them before so I don't know how useful they are, but they might have some information. Dialalaw.org also has legal scripts detailing what they can and cannot do while trying to collect on their 'debt'.
posted by zennish at 10:48 AM on June 30, 2010

I filed a complaint with the BBB. There is evidence of someone having used this successfully before. Other than that I'm just going to forget about it. I'll post updates though if anyone's curious how it turns out. Thanks.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:53 AM on July 1, 2010

I filed a complaint with the BBB. Diamond responded by voiding the ticket because it was a first offense, but still claiming I was in the wrong. I continued to demand an apology, they continued to refuse, and the BBB closed the complaint as resolved, because basically we were arguing at that point.

I also found out that another friend of mine parked on the same street that same night (attending the same event) and also got a ticket from Diamond. However, she called to complain and got it voided right away. I encouraged her to file with the BBB as well, but seems unlikely she'll get around to it and I don't want to push it.

Thanks for all the advise everyone.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2010

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