The festive season is meant to be a time for winding down and celebrating the end of another year.
Shopping has become the main feature of the festive season. One has to juggle time and costs associated with this particularly when it comes to transportation and convenience.
Parking can become a costly affair not only during the festive season, but at any time a consumer (with a car) goes into the city to shop. It?s a user-pay system, unless one finds some free parking time left by another user or a place where there is no parking charges.
The Consumer Council of Fiji conducted a survey of parking fees and services in Suva City provided by major retail outlets such as Sports City, Damodar City, MHCC, Suva Central, Tappoo City, Rups and the public parking facilities provided by Suva City Council (SCC).
Parking rates range from $0.80 to $2.50 per hour. Most of the major retailers provide free parking for a certain period of time, e.g. 1 hour provided the users produce receipt or some evidence that they were there to conduct genuine business.
Sports City and Damodar City provide free parking to its customers with no restrictions. But when it comes to paying fees and charges, ?the Council found SCC parking facilities the cheapest with no strings attached and is available to the general public using a ?pay and display? ticketing system at a cost of $0.80 per hour.
The most expensive car park is Tappoo City which makes their loyal customers spend minimum $20 from any retail outlets or restaurants on the premises to avoid paying $2.50 for the first hour for parking. It charges $2.50 per hour for those without receipts or for subsequent hours of parking.? Such system works unfairly for consumers who use car park to collect their takeaway which may not cost $20.
The second most expensive car park is Rups Big Bear carpark in Stuart St which offers first hour free parking on $5 minimum purchase (with receipt) or otherwise they charge $2 per hour.
MHCC has no restriction on the purchasing amount to get one hour free parking. A consumer with a valid receipt on purchases of any amount from any of the retail outlets or restaurants in the shopping mall is not required to pay any money for the first hour of purchasing. It charges $1.50 per hour for those without receipts.
Suva Central charges $1.50 per hour.
The Council is urging retailers to provide at least 30 minutes free car parking to its loyal customers with no condition attached. Why should customers have to spend money to get free car parking if they are seeking redress from the retailer for faulty products? Consumers have also reported that in many cases when they visit the stores to buy advertised items, they find the item is not available or the size is not there. In such situations why should a customer pay for the parking? At least with 30 minutes free car parking consumers will not feel cheated.
The Council is urging consumers to check for the terms and conditions of parking facilities before using them. They should check the rates and ensure that information is disclosed properly and accurately. In facilities where a check-in and check-out ticketing system is used, consumers should always check that the recorded time is correct and that they are charged the correct rates.
Furthermore, consumers should also check whether using the cheaper public parking is convenient for them in terms of distance and time to and from their shopping destination. If they are visiting a major shopping outlet and there is public parking space available very close by, they can opt for this.
As we approach the busiest shopping time of the year, consumers must bear in mind that parking can be a hassle and a cost.
Ms. Premila Kumar
CEO – Consumer Council of Fiji