Fact Sheet 14 - Infringements

The Victorian Ombudsman takes complaints about the administrative actions and decisions of state government departments, agencies and local councils (and bodies acting on their behalf).
 
We can look at whether their actions were lawful, reasonable and fair, and whether they are compatible with the human rights in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 1996 (Vic).
 
We are independent and impartial and our service is free.
 
We can take complaints about most agencies involved in the infringements system, but not Victoria Police. 

Disputing an infringement

People who want to dispute infringements can contact the Victorian Ombudsman for advice, but we only get involved in limited circumstances.  This is because infringement laws provide other ways for people to dispute infringements, including taking the matter to the Magistrates’ Court.
 
The Ombudsman Act 1973 (Vic) states that the Ombudsman must refuse to deal with a complaint where the person has or had a remedy by taking proceedings in a court unless:
  • It would not be reasonable to expect or have expected the person to take those proceedings, or
  • The matter merits investigation to avoid injustice.
There are no hard and fast rules about whether the Ombudsman becomes involved. We look at the circumstances of each case.
  
We are more likely to become involved if a person has already requested an internal review or enforcement review without success and:
  • There is clear evidence that the decision to issue the infringement was wrong eg the person was not in Victoria at the time.
  • The person cannot go to court because of health or other problems. 
  • There is evidence that the agency made an error eg the parking sign was incorrect or obscured, or the agency failed to consider relevant evidence when conducting a review.
  • There is evidence of a systemic problem that has a broader impact on the public eg an agency is issuing infringements from faulty parking meters.

Our role at the different stages

Infringement notice / Penalty reminder notice

People can dispute their infringement at these stages by:
  • requesting an internal review
  • nominating another person (for vehicle offences)
  • electing to go to the Magistrates’ Court.
People can find information about these options on their notice.

The Victorian Ombudsman is more likely to become involved if the person’s request for review or nomination was unsuccessful and it would not be appropriate to expect the person to go to Court. 

Notice of final demand

People can still dispute their infringement at this stage by requesting an enforcement review from Fines Victoria. There is information about how to do this on the notice.
 
The Victorian Ombudsman is more likely to become involved if the person’s request for review was unsuccessful, and it would be unreasonable or unjust to expect the person to dispute the infringement in court at an earlier stage.

Enforcement action

The Victorian Ombudsman’s role depends on what enforcement action is being taken. 
 
In many cases, people can still apply to Fines Victoria for an enforcement review. The Victorian Ombudsman is more likely to become involved if the person’s request for review was unsuccessful, and it would not be appropriate to have expected the person to go to Court at an earlier stage.
 
If the person’s request for review was unsuccessful, or they have exhausted their review options, people can contact the Victorian Ombudsman for advice. 

A case where the Ombudsman is more likely to investigate

A woman received a parking infringement from a council. She says her child has a disability and she pulled over because he was convulsing. She asked the council for an internal review but it told her she could go to the Magistrates’ Court. She has limited capacity to go to court because her child requires her full time care and attention.
 
It would not be reasonable to expect the woman to take court proceedings, or to wait until the infringement is registered with Fines Victoria to seek an enforcement review.

A case where the Ombudsman is unlikely to investigate

A woman received a parking infringement from a council. She says she returned to her car before the inspector finished writing the ticket. She asked the council for an internal review but it told her she could go to the Magistrates’ Court.
 
The woman has the option of taking the matter to court, or waiting until the infringement is registered with Fines Victoria and seeking an enforcement review. There are no extenuating circumstances that would make these options unreasonable and the matter does not merit investigation to avoid injustice.

Other complaints about infringements

Sometimes people accept that they committed an infringement offence, but are upset by another decision or action by an agency. Examples are:
  • The agency rejected the person’s application for a payment plan or a payment arrangement that would allow them to pay off the infringement over time.
  • The agency sent infringement notices to the wrong address, even though the person’s address details were up-to-date, and the person incurred extra penalties.
  • The agency is taking unlawful or unfair action to enforce an infringement.
The Ombudsman generally expects people to try to resolve the problem with the agency in the first instance. If the person is dissatisfied, or does not receive a response within a reasonable time, they are welcome to call us for advice. 

What we need from you

When you make a complaint to the Ombudsman, it is helpful if you can provide:
  • a copy of the request for review or complaint that was submitted to the agency, and the agency’s response
  • why you believe there has been an error
  • any evidence that supports the complaint
  • an explanation of the outcome you are seeking.

Unsure about whether the Victorian Ombudsman can help?

You are welcome to contact us for advice.  You can speak with one of our investigation officers by calling 9613 6222. Country callers can call toll free on 1800 806 314.