Malls continue to levy parking fee despite diktat

Two weeks back, the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) had issued a notice regulating the collection of parking fees by commercial establishments, cinema theatres, malls and shopping complexes.

The establishments were told in no uncertain terms that they would have to shell out hefty fines if they charged parking fees from customers who park their vehicles for less than half an hour. For those parking their vehicles for more than 30 minutes and up to an hour, no parking fee would be collected if the visitor does any shopping. No parking fees can be collected if the visitor’s shopping bill is equal to or more than the parking fee if the vehicle is parked for over an hour, according to the GVMC diktat.

However, despite the warning, the multiplexes, malls and shopping complexes are continuing to collect parking fees, now under the garb of ‘maintenance fees’.

The ‘maintenance fee’ is nothing but a blatant attempt at bypassing the law on the part of the establishments, say motorists. Signboards are being put up by some establishments displaying the ‘facilities’ being provided at the parking lots, such as lighting, security, washrooms and drinking water — all of which merit charging a maintenance fee, according to the establishments.

In an order issued by the GVMC Commissioner, the fine that will be imposed on establishments for first-time violations will be ₹10,000. A second violation would entail a fine of ₹50,000. For repeated violations, the GVMC can seal the premises or impose any quantum of fine as desired by the Municipal Commissioner.

Action sought

Demanding that the civic body begin implementation of the revised parking fee norms, many irked citizens posted on social media pictures of the ‘maintenance fee’ receipts and videos of the attendants collecting the money while entering or exiting an establishment. GVMC officials have been receiving a number of complaints regarding illegal collection of money both online and offline, but they are yet to respond.

"GVMC says parking is free, but here the scenario is different. The staff say that they are collecting maintenance fees, not parking fees. When we try to question them further, they say that they are just paid to do their job and that they cannot let us enter or exit without paying," said N. Raghu, a student from a deemed to be university.

According to the staff at a renowned commercial establishment in the city, they earlier used to charge ₹20 for three hours. But now, ₹20 is being collected from a customer if he/she parks a two-wheeler for up to six hours. Similarly, ₹40 is being charged for a car for up to six hours.

"We were instructed to collect maintenance fee, but not parking fee. Maintenance fee is the user charge for facilitating lighting, providing security, CCTV surveillance, drinking water facility, air ventilation system, firefighting equipment, and elevators," said a staffer of a commercial establishment.

GVMC Chief City Planner R.J. Vidyullatha said that they have asked the owners of commercial establishments, theatres and malls to streamline things within a week.

"After seven days, our staff will start inspecting the premises and impose penalties if any non-compliance is noticed," she said.

However, a senior police officer on condition of anonymity said that it will be difficult for the civic body to implement the regulations, as the establishments will somehow find a way to fleece visitors, as they would not want to lose out on a major source of revenue like parking fee.

According to him, every large mall or multiplex earns around ₹50,000 daily on an average from parking, which comes up to about ₹1.5 crore a month and close to ₹18 to 20 crore in a year. "Why would they let go of such a huge revenue source? It requires some tough enforcement to bring them in line," he said.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 9:50:07 AM |

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