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Parking fines: Only the driver must pay supermarket parking fines

Parking fines : Only the driver must pay supermarket parking fines

Parking tickets can legally be given in supermarket car parks, but producing a till receipt can avoid fines.

You finish your shopping to find you have been given a parking ticket in the supermarket car park. More and more customers in Bonn are getting upset about the increasingly common practice by retailers to employ private companies to patrol their car parks and to hand out fines when parking discs are not on display or customers have parked for longer than is allowed.

When asked by the General Anzeiger, a company spokesperson for “fair parken” said the company was currently monitoring eight “premises”, namely supermarket car parks, in Bonn. But who has to pay when a private fine is attached to the windscreen? The head of Bonn’s lawyers association, Ralf Schweigerer, says the legal position and case law are clear on this: only the driver must pay.

While some are upset over such fines, others welcome the practice of monitoring and checking, as heated debates on social media networks show. There is no denying that, particularly in built-up areas short of parking spaces, supermarket car parks are being used more and more regularly by non-customers and even long-term parkers, to the detriment of customers, as an employee of a Rewe supermarket in Duisdorf explained. A spokesperson for Rewe said this had even led to considerable falls in turnover. To prevent this, “fair parken” also looks after outlets in Bonn.

Employees of “fair parken” check whether those parking are obeying the rules and if not, hand out tickets with fines generally of Euro 19,90, although they can be more. However, lawyer Ralf Schweigerer says such fines are different to civic fines. A contract leading to such fines only comes into effect with the driver of the vehicle in question. He is the sole contractual partner because he drives into the car park and uses it under the relevant conditions. However, these conditions must have been made clear to him on signs that must be clearly visible.

The Berlin lawyer Thomas Hollweck, who is a consumer law specialist, addresses this problem on his blog: the crux of the matter is the visibility of the sign at the entrance to the car park. This must be large and obvious enough, that it cannot be overlooked.

However, as it is generally only the owner of a vehicle who can be traced, recovering the fines has its pitfalls, says Schweigerer. The owner of the car park has to prove that the car owner was also the driver who parked incorrectly. If the car owner refuses to pay, he can, in extreme cases, expect to be sued by the company. Schweigerer says the burden of proof in court is on the car park owner.

It need not come to this, if a customer of the business in question genuinely forgets to display his parking disc. “If he has a till receipt as proof of purchase, we will cancel the fine,” the spokesperson for “fair parken” told the GA and added: “In such cases, we are very accommodating.”

The courts are aware of how much this topic concerns drivers as more and more disputes over such fines are being contested.

(Original text: Rita Klein. Translated by Kate Carey)