All across Australia there should be three cheers and a long and hearty round of applause for Victoria’s Ombudsman, Deborah Glass.
The outspoken Ms Glass has just become the best mate of anyone who has had their ire raised as a result of an unjust parking fine, by labelling Melbourne’s parking officials as, well … dodgy.
Officials are ‘overzealous’ and ‘overly rigid’
Following an investigation initiated by public complaints, she has labelled the officials as – among other things – “overzealous”, “misleading”, “overly rigid” and having an attitude that “the customer is usually wrong”.
This is something that many thousands of angry Aussies could have told her. But, nevertheless, it is nice to hear it from someone with clout.
How much clout does the Ombudsman have? Enough to get the City of Melbourne to refund more than $80 000 in fines to motorists, and to promise to review all future complaints and pay up when necessary.
Lord Mayor laments lack of ‘common sense’
And sufficient to get a contrite Lord Mayor, Sally Capp, to admit to the media that the report made “shocking reading” and that the city needs “fairness and common sense in our systems”.
The Victorian Ombudsman investigated multiple complaints that drivers – apparently estimated to number around 1,200 people – were fined $83 each after they had parked legally but confused the letter “O” with the number “0” when entering their details in the PayStay app.
This led officials to issue a fine because they deemed the vehicle to be illegally parked.
“The Council knew the number 0 and letter O were virtually indistinguishable on registration plates, and drivers would not be aware they had made an error,” Glass said.
‘The customer is usually wrong’ mindset
According to a report by ABC News, she said there was a mindset within senior managers in the parking branch that “the customer is usually wrong and drivers must be punished for their infractions, no matter how small or how great the mitigation”.
“This attitude continued for years, despite some council officers expressing concerns about it to management.
“This mindset was further illustrated by the council rewording its Penalty Reminder Notice, ostensibly to encourage drivers to make payments as soon as possible, but against their own legal advice that the wording was misleading,” Glass said.