Woolworths Car Park Usage Charge

About this Item
SubjectsRetail Trading; Parking; Woolworths
SpeakersAshton Mr Alan
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 2698

    Mr ALAN ASHTON (East Hills) [5.18 p.m.]: The new trend by Woolworths to charge shoppers who use its car park is causing great concern in my electorate of East Hills. While Woolworths is probably legally entitled to charge shoppers who use its car park, I believe making consumers pay for the privilege of making purchases in a major store is taking the user-pays principle to ridiculous lengths. The practice began in Padstow about three months ago, catching dozens and dozens of people completely unawares. Signs were erected in the Woolworths car park stating that the first two hours of parking were free but that thereafter patrons would be charged up to $88 for parking.

    People who received the payment notices thought they were, in fact, fines. Many chose to pay them. Originally, I was advised that those payments were not legal. I have since learned that a court decision has held that they are. Even though the first two hours parking are free, people are being sent payment notices when they may have been in the car park for only five minutes. Shoppers who arrive at the Woolworths shopping centre in Padstow must go to the middle of the car park to get their free ticket for the first two hours, but by the time they return to their car they may have been slapped with a $88 "fine", or payment, by an organisation called Australian National Car Parks Pty Limited.

    Many people have raised this matter with me. We spoke to people at Australian National Car Parks, which in the first instance was prepared to waive the payments. More recently the company has chosen not to do so. That raises a few issues. First, the Woolworths car park at Padstow did not submit a development application to Bankstown council for charging facilities and signs. The car park operator's people have to cross a dedicated road owned by Bankstown to charge shoppers entering the privately owned Woolworths car park. So, the council allows them to cross that road for nothing so that they can hit people who overstay with an $88 "fine"—or those who do not overstay at all but take a few too many minutes to get the free parking ticket. I might point out that truck deliveries to Woolworths at Padstow use the public, council-owned road, at no benefit to ratepayers, who must maintain the road. Pallets on which food and product have been delivered to the Woolworths shop are left on public land. It seems to me that Woolworths has been a total hypocrite in charging people to use its car parks, while making no contribution to the public road that its vehicles use to deliver stock.

    Another point of interest relates to a much bigger Woolworths store operated at Revesby, where the council imposes a cost on shoppers who overstay the parking time. I completely understand why Woolworths wants to deal with people it regards not as shoppers but people who use its car park all day and commute to the city. I can understand that action if that is Woolworths' aim. But I ask why it did not look to Bankstown council to raise this money, because money raised by the council could be used for swimming facilities, football ovals and cricket pitches, or for child care services, Betsy Women's Refuge or the many other worthwhile services run by the council to improve the lifestyle of the people of Bankstown.

    Mr Tycehurst is one of the many people who wrote to me about this matter. He paid the $88 fee, then wrote to Woolworths seeking information about the fee and why it had been imposed. He received nothing back but a letter thanking him for making his payment. Woolworths and Australian National Car Parks have not addressed any of the concerns he raised in correspondence to them, but instead said: Thank you very much for being silly enough to pay your money. My advice is that people should not pay the "fine". I have to check this information, but I am concerned that the Roads and Traffic Authority has provided to Australian National Car Parks the names and addresses of people who own the cars parked at Woolworths. That begs the question: What if your car is being used by a friend or relative or has been stolen? Are you expected to pay the fine? That rather brings into play the Einfeld question of just who was in your car when it was parked at the Woolworths car park. This practice is outrageous. Woolworths should refund Mr Tycehurst his money. [Time expired.]