Parking is an integral part of a shopping mall and an essential facility. In the absence of this facility, malls would not be able to attract consumers at all in the first place.
So much so that many retailers who do not have proper parking in front of their outlets offer valet parking to attract customers. So, it does not make sense for a shopping mall to levy a fee on car parking.
Yet, malls charge exorbitant amounts for the use of their parking bays. In fact, the parking fee goes up from Rs 30 on weekdays to Rs 50-R60 during weekends, when the demand is high.
This year, during Christmas, in many malls, car owners had to pay a whopping Rs 100 for parking.
This is sheer greed and whether it is Gurgaon or Delhi, the local administration has to step in and stop this kind of exploitation of consumers.
Consumers also need to send out a clear signal that they will not go to malls that impose such steep parking fees.
If the retailers in the mall want some business, then they will have to prevail upon the mall management to ensure that parking is free or the fee is kept at a reasonable amount.
Even the differential pricing based on demand (higher rates for weekends) has to be done away with. The traffic police too need to exert pressure on mall managements to keep the parking fee at a minimum, as otherwise, vehicle owners tend to park vehicles on the roadside, there by obstructing the free flow of traffic on roads around the malls.
In Pune, for the very same reason, the traffic police had sent out a proposal last year, suggesting that parking be made free at shopping malls.
Pradeep Kumar: Despite charging a steep fee, underground parking lots in malls put out boards saying that parking is at owner' s risk.
What happens if a car parked there is lost or damaged? Are they not expected to compensate the car owner? What can a car owner do in such cases?
Answer: Such a notice does not offer any protection to the parking lot contractor, nor does it allow him to escape liability for any loss caused to the car owner.
So, if a vehicle is stolen or even damaged and those managing the parking area are unwilling to make good the loss, then one can always go to the consumer court for relief. However, it is important to keep the parking receipt safe.
In a number of cases, consumers have got compensation from consumer courts for the theft of vehicles parked in manned parking lots.
In the case of Mahesh Enterprises vs Arun Kumar Gamber, for example, the airport authority and the parking lot contractor at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport argued they cannot be held liable for the theft of a vehicle from the parking area.
However, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission disagreed and ordered the parking contractor to compensate the consumer.
Then, in August 2008, the apex consumer court considered the question of whether a five-star hotel that provided free parking and valet service to its guests was liable for the loss of vehicles from its parking lot.
Its decision, directing the hotel to pay R2 lakh, along with 10% interest, further consolidates the rights of consumers vis-à-vis parking lots (Hotel Hyatt Regency Vs Mr Atul Virmani).