|Independent MP Andrew Wilkie is calling on the Tasmanian Government to intervene to stop the Hobart City Council’s exorbitant credit card fees on their new parking meters.
The call comes as the nation’s consumer watchdog told Mr Wilkie that while state and local governments were exempt from a new law banning excessive credit card fees, the Hobart City Council’s conduct might otherwise fall foul of the laws.
Mr Wilkie said that the Council was ripping people off by charging a minimum $3 fee for paying by credit card, even when the park may only be for a few minutes.
“The Council’s conduct is simply unconscionable,” Mr Wilkie said. “Tasmanians and visitors alike are being robbed by these excessive credit card fees which, if they were charged by the private sector, would be illegal. No wonder the ACCC found there were concerns about these fees after I raised them.
“I call on the State Government, and Minister for Local Government Peter Gutwein in particular, to step in and bring the Council to heel. Councils can only make parking by-laws by authority of the Local Government Act, and so the Government can seek to amend the Act to stop these rip-offs happening in the future. Such a move would certainly have the support of the long-suffering public.
Mr Wilkie said that since he first raised the issue in the media late last year the community had told him loud and clear that there were many problems with the new parking meters.
“It’s also misleading for the Council to put a maximum time limit on a parking space but to let you pay more using the meter or the EasyPark app. This is doing nothing but dishonestly letting people overstay and incur fines while putting more money into the Council’s coffers.
“But so far the Council has been deaf to these concerns. And we can see why. Their own budget documents show that they expect to receive more in parking fines than in parking fees.
“The only conclusion to draw is that the Council’s happy to confuse and overcharge Tasmanians and visitors in order to prop up the budget bottom line. That’s reprehensible conduct and the State Government should step in and stop it.
“The broader issue, that the federal Act banning excessive credit card fees fails to include local government, needs to be addressed and I’ll raise the matter with the Federal Government.
“Regardless, Hobart City Council should comply with the intent of the law, do the right thing anyway and dump this price gouging.”
Download of the ACCC’s letter to Mr Wilkie, as well as his original letter …
Authorised by Andrew Wilkie MP 188 Collins St Hobart