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Last year our office of parking upgraded their system, they didn't notify the users, they didn't tell anyone about this change. So I bought a parking permit and they have this dropdown where you choose the state of your plates. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but my car is international, and also this year they added to the dropdown every single possible Mexican state. So I chose my Mexican state.

Eleven months later, I got a citation saying that I had to choose Mexico instead of choosing the actual Mexican state (which was provided in the dropdown). Their excuse? Hidden within their website there is a paragraph and in its last sentence it says that if you own an international car you must choose the country. (They added this the year they changed the system, without anyone being notified about it.) This seems very shady to me, providing options which their only purpose is to give citations, making changes to the system without any notification, and blaming the user for not reading the entire website before any purchase.(The system has not been changed in any of the previous 6 years that I have been here.)

Is this legal? providing options for users that serve no other purpose other than to give citations, and then protecting yourself saying that somewhere in your website there are instructions on how to do it.

Summary: a website provides options whose only purpose is to give citations, somewhere in their website they say not to choose those options.

  • Are you being asked to pay a fine (for example) for filling in the web form the way you did? Or is it more a 'slap on the wrist'? – Bad_Bishop Jun 15 '16 at 15:18
  • Im asked to pay the fine for filling the web form the way I did. – luisluix Jun 15 '16 at 15:27
  • Tell them to refund the invalid permit they generated, then you can pay their fine. – user662852 Jun 15 '16 at 15:57
  • What country / state are you parking in ? I'd suggest that what they are doing is illegal - the exact statutes and your remedies will depend on where you are, but a fallback law/tort of "obtaining advantage by deception" often exists. Also, you may be able to challenge them to prove there damages - I assume this "citation" is actually some kind of notice of breach of agreement, and is a civil matter between you and them - Most reasonably civil countries would have consumer protection laws and/or laws requiring they prove there damages. – davidgo Jul 13 '16 at 3:33
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    @user662852 - Its probably not actually a fine - ie they have no government authority - this is an important element in how this would be viewed by courts. – davidgo Jul 13 '16 at 3:34
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IANAL, let alone in Texas, however what they are doing would appear unlawful under Sec 17.46 of the BUSINESS AND COMMERCE CODE which regulates deceptive trade practices.

You might be able to rely on 17.46(b)(24) which states "failing to disclose information concerning goods or services which was known at the time of the transaction if such failure to disclose such information was intended to induce the consumer into a transaction into which the consumer would not have entered had the information been disclosed;"

Also, depending on what the ticket looked like 17.46(28)(28)

delivering or distributing a solicitation in connection with a good or service that: (A) represents that the solicitation is sent on behalf of a governmental entity when it is not; or (B) resembles a governmental notice or form that represents or implies that a criminal penalty may be imposed if the recipient does not remit payment for the good or service;

You may also be able to seek relief as per section 17.50:

Sec. 17.50. RELIEF FOR CONSUMERS. (a) A consumer may maintain an action where any of the following constitute a producing cause of economic damages or damages for mental anguish:

(1) the use or employment by any person of a false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice that is:

(A) specifically enumerated in a subdivision of Subsection (b) of Section 17.46 of this subchapter; and

(B) relied on by a consumer to the consumer's detriment;

(2) breach of an express or implied warranty;

(3) any unconscionable action or course of action by any person; or

(4) the use or employment by any person of an act or practice in violation of Chapter 541, Insurance Code.

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This isn't legal advice. I am not a lawyer.

From the information provided, the website is using browse-wrap agreement, i.e. agreement to Terms of Service whereby you have not had to expressly read the Terms of service and press a button such as 'I agree to the terms of service'.

Browse wrap agreements are enforceable only when the following conditions apply (according to the linked source):

The user:

1) had actual or constructive knowledge of the terms,

2) had an actual opportunity to review them before proceeding, and

3) understood that he or she was accepting them by using the website or doing some action.

Source: InternetLegalAttorney.com

According to this, I doubt that the Terms of Service are enforceable, as point 1 has been violated.

In terms of advice for going forwards, you can either:

  1. Have a civil conversation with the company explaining the circumstances. Also, underscoring that you've had the permit for 11 months and are a long term, loyal employee in the office would also help
  2. Consult a lawyer, but the costs here may outweigh the fine itself
  • I agree with the suggestion to have civil conversation, but how do we know that he didn't have "constructive knowledge" of the notice? We would have to have knowledge of the structure of the web site to know whether it was findable. – user6726 Jun 15 '16 at 16:01
  • Constructive knowledge does not mean actual knowledge - generally, it is the knowledge that a reasonable person would have in the given situation. As an example, if you walk past a large stretch yellow wall every day on the way to work, no one can prove that you had that information in your mind, but it is assumed that you know that the wall is yellow. – jimsug Jun 19 '16 at 12:31
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I assume that you went to the web site to get parking as you have done in the past, and assumed that they would have told you by email or some prominent warning if the rules had changed. Legally speaking, they simply need to have stated their conditions in a manner that you could find them, for example with a link to "parking rules". The standard is that a person exhibiting "reasonable care" would then know what the current procedure is. There is, however, a lot of art to knowing what courts (juries) would find "reasonable". If the information is there under a link displayed on the renewal page or some page that you would pass by to get to the renewal page, and that link is termed something like "Rules", "Regulations", "Conditions" then you are expected to read that stuff. If the information was accessed under a link "Company History", "What We Do", "Contact Us" or the like, then a reasonable jury would find that this is not findable with reasonable care. (That assumes that the jury is reasonable).

This is not to suggest that it is good business practice to change important terms of an agreement without some kind of up-front notice like "please note the following changes in terms".

  • No, they didnt notify anyone. They do have a parking basics link (which they changed), but you dont have to click on it in order to buy a permit. – luisluix Jun 15 '16 at 17:02
  • Is the link anywhere visible as you navigate to the link for buying the permit? – user6726 Jun 15 '16 at 17:23
  • after you click purchase permit, and go follow instructions no, before that yes. But its link in the menu, so you need to know that the info is in another page, and visit that page from the menu. – luisluix Jun 15 '16 at 17:30

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