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Inflated parking prices a rip-off

It will cost this child 14 years of pocket money to park under the clothes line. Picture: Katrina Tepper

It might have been in the city, at a shopping centre or at the airport when picking up or dropping off loved ones? If paying inflated petrol prices wasn’t enough, motorists are now also being hit with inflated parking rates when they go shopping or to the airport.

Then, of course, there are the CBD parking stations that cost an arm and a leg. It’s these CBD parking stations that consistently cost motorists dearly as the fees at the CBD parking stations start climbing the moment that boom gate rises to let you in. 

Of course the apologists for the CBD parking stations will rush to their defence and say that the exorbitant CBD parking station fees are the fault of higher land values in the CBD and city councils that impose parking levies on the parking station operators.

And, naturally, the free market theorists will say tough luck as it’s “the market” that decides the price. Well, the problem with all those excuses is that there’s a real market failure when it comes to CBD parking station fees. Quite simply, there’s a lack of full and timely transparency of the CBD parking stations fees. 

How many times have you driven past a CBD parking station only to see advertising boards offering an attractive “from” price? Rarely, do you see a full price board until you are sitting right in front of the boom gate with some impatient driver behind you honking their car horn for you to quickly go through.

Why don’t the CBD parking stations put their full price board in large print at a highly visible place where motorists have an opportunity not to enter the parking station if they don’t like the advertised prices? 

It’s pretty simple. CBD parking station operators don’t want you being able to shop around and that’s what you could do if you see the full price board from the road.

The harsh reality is that the operators don’t mind ambushing you with the exorbitant prices at the boom gate as you then have no choice but to accept the parking fees given it’s impractical or just dangerous to try and back out onto the road with cars behind you or that could come in behind you anytime. 

As for the price boards indicating an attractive “from” price there’s certainly a good argument to be made that they are misleading motorists by creating a false impression as to the true cost of parking at the particular parking station. 

And, of course, parking station operators should not feel protected by some tiny asterisk next to the attractive “from” price as the tiny fine print linked to the asterisk cannot generally be seen or read from a motor vehicle.

The key message is that the onus is on parking station operators not to mislead motorists. Here our friends at the ACCC could certainly take action to deal with the misleading conduct. They could also have some useful input regarding the development of a mandatory code of conduct for full and timely transparency of parking station fees. 

These initiatives would obviously help motorists, but more needs to be done as it’s not only motorists that suffer from inflated parking rates. Whether it’s at a Westfield Shopping Centre or a major airport inflated parking rates hurt retailers at those locations by penalising customers who spend more time shopping at the particular location. 

It defies logic that the longer customers stay to shop and spend money at the shopping centre or airport, the more they pay for parking. Where’s business sense in that? Or is it simply a case of what the shopping centre can get away with?

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