Dear Consumer Ed: 

Last night my husband and I went out for ice cream and parked in the lot in front of the ice cream parlor. We put $5 in the drop box as the sign instructed.  We got our ice cream and went for a walk while we ate it. We came back to our car half an hour later and discovered that it had been booted.  This is extremely unfair and I want to file a complaint.  Whom should I contact?

Consumer Ed says: 

If you believe your car was wrongfully booted and want to file a complaint, you have several options:

•    First, contact the booting company and talk to a service representative.  If you aren’t satisfied with the response you get, ask to speak to the manager or owner.  Some booting companies have online complaint forms that you can submit through the company’s website.  

•    Contact the property owner of the parking facility.  Property owners contract with booting companies, giving them permission to boot cars illegally parked on their property.  They should be notified if a company is booting legally parked vehicles, as this could have a detrimental impact on their business.

•    Some municipalities and counties require that a booting company have a special license to boot cars in that area. If a license is required where you were booted, check to see if the company is properly licensed and file a complaint with the local licensing authority. Depending on the county or municipality, this may be the city or county business license and permitting office or the police department.

•    If you believe that you have given the company enough time to resolve the problem and they have failed to do so, file a complaint with the Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.  

In Georgia, car booting is generally regulated at the county or city level.  Car booting is illegal in some areas, such as the unincorporated areas of Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County and Gwinnett County.  In other counties and municipalities, there are special rules that regulate car booting companies, including limiting the fees that can be charged to remove a car boot; requiring that signage be prominently posted in parking areas where cars are subject to booting; requiring companies to provide a receipt with their company name and contact information when they’re paid to remove a car boot; and requiring that car booting companies be locally licensed.

Consumers should keep the following tips in mind:

•    Before you park your vehicle anywhere, look for signs indicating whether parking is allowed, whether you must pay to park there (and how much), how long you’re allowed to leave your vehicle after you pay, and the potential consequences for improperly parking your vehicle, including car booting or towing. 

•    Don’t park in parking lots or spaces assigned to a particular business if you are actually going to visit another business.  A booting company may be watching to see which business you enter, and even if you do enter the right business at some point, if you leave and go to another business, your vehicle may still get booted.    

•    If you find your car has been booted, immediately call the booting company at the number indicated on any notice left on your vehicle, or the number provided on the parking signage.  Get information on why the booting company believes you were parked improperly.  If you pay to remove the car boot, make sure you get a receipt, the name of the person who removed the boot, and the name of the booting company.  All of this information will be important if you choose to dispute the car boot later.

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