Parking Lots only Free for Customers

Next time you go shopping consider that a free parking space can turn out to be expensive, when you get hauled away. This article will briefly discuss the legality of private companies hauling your car away and what you can do about it.

Department stores often offer big parking lots – free of charge for their customers. No potential customer should be excluded because of lack of a space for her or his car. Recently, these big stores have started towing away cars that evidently belong to customers. They warn the potential parkers that the spaces are exclusively reserved for customers and for limited time only. Few people normally take such warnings serious. However, you as a reader of this website ought to! Shopping malls have started to enforce this restriction. A judgment of LG Magdeburg July 8, 2008 (re 1 S 70/08) even shows how.

A car driver parked his car on a lot which had a sign instructing him that parking is free only for customers and only from 6 to 9 p.m. He ignored this warning as he parked his car on that lot to visit a concert next door. And it came as it had to come. The car was hauled away and the owner had to pay € 165 to get his car back.

The owner sought legal recourse and lost in all courts. The final court here, LG Madgeburg, held that the shopping mall has the right of “self-help (§859 BGB)”. In contrast to the police, private companies do not have to check out if there would be a way involving less impact other than hauling away. The only situation where hauling a non-customer’s car away would be wrong is, if it were done out of shear spite. This would be the case, when hauling was only done for the sake of money and not to secure space for clients.