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Wheel-clamped Auckland motorist wins case against Supercity Towing

3 min read

An Auckland diner who had his car wheel clamped after using an unmarked private carpark has won a small claims case against a tow-truck company.

Supercity Towing Ltd has been ordered to pay Mike Watson $100 after the motorist took the company to the Disputes Tribunal claiming there was no way he could see signs warning him it was a private park.

The episode has left Watson angry and disappointed by the experience and is now steering clearing of that particular Browns Bay carpark.

“I’m disappointed in the tactics that the clampers use in order to get payment from people. It’s not very nice in the way they hold you to pay pretty much on the spot,” he told the Herald.

“It’s good to be able to stand up to companies that you don’t believe are practising fairly.”

According to the recently released judgment, Watson and his partner had driven into the off-street parking in Browns Bay before going across the road for brunch at a cafe.

A sign on the footpath indicated public parking was available within the carpark.

Watson told the tribunal he chose a space that had no markings about restricted parking.

However, during the meal he noticed his vehicle had been wheel clamped by Supercity Towing Ltd.

He went across the road and asked the representative to remove the brace. When he was told it would cost $140 to take off, a disgruntled Watson threatened to take off the immobilised wheel.

A tow truck was called and the driver started to hoist up the vehicle. At the same time Watson attempted to change the clamped wheel.

He then offered to pay $100, which saw the clamp and tow hoist removed.

After officially disputing the fee with Supercity Towing and getting no response, Watson lodged a claim in the Disputes Tribunal to get his money back. The towing company did not attend the tribunal, which took place on April 15.

Watson claimed he did not consider signs in the car park to be clear and completely missed one written on the ground that he deemed illegible.

The tribunal heard a footpath sign indicated public parking was available through a parking app, with a second sign written on paving at the entrance indicating private parking and a 24-hour towaway.

There was also a sign on a wall at the far end of the car park indicating tenants parking only.

Watson said the empty space he drove into was not marked and had no signs.

He told the tribunal he didn’t see the information about a parking app on the footpath sign as it was in small lettering. Nor did he see the two specifically marked public spaces, one of which was taken up by the wheel clamper.

He also claimed the writing on the ground was illegible.

The referee found while Watson took a gamble selecting unmarked space and assuming it was free, before a vehicle could be clamped or towed the person removing the vehicle must have signed authorisation.

On top of this, vehicles could not be towed once the owner was in possession.

“Although I consider Mr Watson took the risk when parking in an unmarked space in a private car park, Supercity Towing have not provided authority from the landowner to either clamp or tow,” said the tribunal referee.

The tribunal referee said the towing company was restricted under the Land Transport (Wheel Clamping) Amendment Act 2019 to charging $100 to have a clamp released.

“Mr Watson claims he was told to pay $140 to release the clamp, which is a breach of that Act,” said the referee.

The company was ordered to pay Watson by April 29.

Watson said the clamping ruined an outing with his brunch left untouched while dealing with the threat of his car being towed.

And he was disappionted the company never explained their actions to him or the court.

“I accept accountability that we parked somewhere we shouldn’t have – we understand that now – and we won’t use that carpark again.

“But it’s the fact that we felt deceived, that there was a big sign that said public parking available but it wasn’t clear in the carpark where you could park. We thought we were enticed in and that’s what the judge has ruled in our favour.”

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