Kenya Supermarkets and malls on the spot over parking fees

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BUSINESS DAILY/Kiarie Njoroge: Supermarkets and shopping mall owners face a class action suit over the charging of parking fees.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) is threatening to sue the businesses, arguing that levying the charges violates the Physical Planning Act.

Cofek Secretary General Stephen Mutoro said the businesses are by law supposed to provide free parking to customers.

The City County of Nairobi officer in charge of parking, Tom Tinega, said he would write to 14 major supermarkets asking them to stop levying the fee in line with a recent directive from governor Evans Kidero.

Dr Kidero said plans for the malls approved by the county government showed that they do not charge for parking. However, shoppers have been paying a higher amount than the county government charges.

“Supermarkets or such areas are not licensed to operate as private parking businesses. If they do so for purposes of regulating illegal parking, then we are ready to help clamp such vehicles if they request us to do so,” said Mr Tinega.

Most of the supermarkets operate as tenants in large buildings or malls, but Mr Mutoro says that they bear that responsibility as the principal tenants. He said about 60 per cent of shopping malls in Nairobi charge parking fees.

A Nakumatt Holdings manager who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media said the main reason they charge for parking is to avoid park-and ride cases where drivers leave their cars and travel by public service vehicles to other places or go to work as was the case when the Nairobi’s Lifestyle branch was opened.

“The central business district is where this happens the most. Anyone offering free parking for customers never gets to have it used by customers because of other motorists who park there and disappear to work,” said the manager.

However, Cofek said no one is supposed to pay parking fees at shopping malls except in extreme cases where vehicles are left for more than three hours in which case they should be clamped.

Mr Mutoro said those charging could apply for a licence to operate as a private parking business.



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