A Queensland mum has slammed a third-party parking management group hired by McDonald’s after she and guests of a kids party held at the restaurant received fines in the mail.
Leisa Maia hosted an eighth birthday party for her son, Oliver Maia, at McDonald’s Indooroopilly on January 20. The party lasted less than three hours.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Family receives fine for parking at local McDonald’s
Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>
“We were there for a couple hours, purchased multiple rounds of food and desserts, sung happy birthday, had a lovely time, left thinking that was the easiest birthday party ever, what a great time,” Maia said.
A few weeks later, the fines arrived.
Maia said it was their cousin who first received a fine in the mail, from a third-party company called Smart Compliance Management.
“We received a fine as well for overstaying an apparent parking limit that we weren’t aware even existed,” she said.
“We didn’t see any parking signs or any notification.”
The group was in the restaurant the entire time and were never alerted by anyone to a parking limit.
Both Maia and her cousin have gone through the appeals process since receiving their fines, which she said “is not really a process”.
She supplied receipts, photos and videos of the group’s time in the restaurant to back up her justification that they’d been dining there.
Three days later, she received a “dry response” that said, in Maia’s words, “well tough, you overstayed the parking limit”.
“Pay up or we’re sending your details to debt collectors.”
They were informed that was the end of the appeal process.
While Maia said there was an element of fear about debt collection and the possible effect on her credit rating, she was mostly just upset at the situation and how it had been handled.
“I feel like I’m also representing our family members who were fined as well,” she said.
“Some of them were visiting from overseas, didn’t speak English, so McDonald’s was a perfect location. It’s food that they’re familiar with.”
It may be difficult for Maia to defend herself in this situation, but she said it would be even harder for someone not born here or who didn’t speak English as their first language.
She said she felt it was not just her fine she had to fight, but those handed out to her family.
Opportunistic and disgusting
Queensland’s state government has described the behaviour of private parking companies as opportunistic and disgusting and has vowed to take action.
“It appears to me to be a rip off…I think it is disgraceful and disgusting,” Transport Minister Mark Bailey said.
Private parking companies refer to the fines as “breach notices”.
Only governments and councils can issue fines, but companies like Smart Compliance Management are still trying.
“People are being intimidated, being made to think that they’re being fined when in fact under the law you’re not allowed to be fined,” Bailey said.
While she was told by many not to pay the fines, Maia said it was different when you actually found yourself in that position.
“Now the onus is on me,” she said.
“I don’t think the fine should be issued in the first place.”
The difficulties Maia has faced trying to talk to someone from McDonald’s or Smart Compliance Management only added to her anger.
She said she had thrown birthday parties at the same venue before and not encountered these issues.
“We’re never coming back,” Maia said. “They’ve lost our loyalty, they’ve lost our family members’ loyalty and after making a post on the community page no one is willing to throw a birthday party there anymore.”
Maia said she would like to think that McDonald’s was unaware of these issues.
“They must have had previous issues with parking, that’s fine, have a limit,” she said.
But she believes there should have been an easier way to handle their situation.
“I should be able to speak to someone, that’s the problem.”
Closing a loophole
The state government said it would review the behaviour but right now companies were accessing driver information from the transport department.
“If there is a loophole, we’ll be closing it as quickly as we possibly can,” Bailey said.
In a statement, Smart Compliance Management told 7NEWS that “clients are located on private land, so Smart Compliance Management are legally able to issue parking breach notices”.
McDonald’s previously told 7NEWS that “like many businesses, some McDonald’s restaurants may choose to engage a third party operator to manage their car park”.
“This ensures customers have a convenient place to park when they visit our restaurants and is part of our commitment to providing a great customer experience.”
After 7NEWS got in touch about the Maia family’s experience, McDonald’s agreed to drop the parking notice — despite the fact it was not legally enforceable.
They added that if customers felt they needed more time, they could speak to the restaurant manager to get their parking extended.
-with Sally Gyte and Ned Balme
If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .