A judge has found the University of British Columbia guilty of unlawfully issuing parking tickets since 1990, and has ordered the school to pay back more than $4 million in fines to thousands of parking miscreants.
Coleman on Campus: UBC can’t impose pricey parking penalties, court rules
The class-action lawsuit was brought to the B.C. courts in 2006 by representative plaintiff Daniel Barbour, a Vancouver-based chartered accountant.
Barbour’s two-door Jaguar was impounded while it was legally parked on Wesbrook Mall on the university campus. The school ordered him to pay $200 dollars to get his car back, alleging that he had violated the parking rules on at least one other occasion.
Until the start of the trial, UBC had argued that the fines were lawfully collected under the University Act, but then changed its tune, arguing that there were “private law justifications” for the regulations.
During the case, it was revealed that out of a total 432,847 tickets that were issued between January 1990 and December 2005, more than half remain unpaid.
Out of all the tickets issued, about 10 percent of license plates were responsible for nearly 40 per cent of the university’s parking violations.
In his judgment, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Richard Goepel said that although the university does retain the right to remove vehicles that are improperly parked, and can also recover the incurred costs, that the fines were far in excess of the damage caused to the school
“I’m extremely pleased,” Barbour told The Vancouver Province. “The court has recognized that UBC has been unlawfully collecting fines and unlawfully towing cars solely because people had unpaid tickets. The court has found that those are both illegal activities.”
Sharon Matthews, Barbour’s lawyer, told the paper that there were still several issues to be determined, which included setting up a system for people to come forward to recoup their money.
UBC public relations spokesman Scott Macrae told The Globe and Mail that the university plans to appeal the decision, saying it hampers the school’s ability to crack down on those who abuse on campus parking. This decision means that towing will now be the school’s only option for dealing with a car that is illegally parked.
“What we dispute is the judgment which says we cannot charge a fine for someone who abuses the regulation,” said Macrae, who said the money is used strictly for parking enforcement expenses. He says the school would rather be able to fine and not go to the “last resort” of towing.