Kochi Corporation and Lulu customers: Is the Mall taking you for a parking "fee" ride?

Kochi Corporation and Lulu customers: Is the Mall taking you for a parking "fee" ride?
Kochi Corporation and Lulu customers: Is the Mall taking you for a parking "fee" ride?
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It is Kerala’s biggest shopping mall. And it’s the one-stop destination for all families in Kochi as well as the rest of Kerala  who wish to splurge on goods and savour the many cuisines on offer as well as soak in oodles of entertainment.

Now comes news that the Ernakulam District Consumer Court has asked Lulu Mall’s management to maintain a separate account for parking fee until the court decided on the matter. The Mall has allegedly been collecting parking fee from customers in an illegal manner.  

Not everyone was buying into the Mall’s story, certainly not Rema George -Parliamentary Board Chairperson of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)- who filed a complaint in the consumer court in January 2015.

Citing municipality rules, she says every building should have one tenth of its total area allotted for parking space and that this should be done free of cost.

“Lulu Mall consists of 25 lakh square feet, so 2.5 lakh square feet should be allotted for free parking as per the rules. But all the parking areas of the Mall charge parking fees,” George told The News Minute (TNM).

The Mall -owned by NRI businessperson M. A. Yousuf Ali- charges a minimum of Rs. 40 for four wheelers and Rs. 20 for two wheelers and this is doubled every two hours. The Mall was earlier equipped to accommodate over 2.500 vehicles and later another five-storey building too was constructed exclusively for parking.

“For certain areas, the parking should be free and for the excessive area, let them charge what they wish, but only after paying tax to the municipality, “ George said.

The LJP politician estimates that the Mall’s income from its parking would be around Rs. 3 lakhs per day though accurate figures will only be known once they are submitted in the court next month. “The consumer court order is significant as most of the malls in the city do the same thing except that their charges are not this high. We will receive the written judgement next week,” she told TNM.

In Kollam, the RV Mall owned by NRI businessperson Ravi Pillai stopped collecting parking fees following complaints. The old parking space for the building comes under the Kalamassery municipality and new multi-storied parking slots come under the Cochin Corporation. But similar rules apply across the board.

Cochin Corporation Deputy Mayor T.J. Vinodh told TNM that as per the law, every building should provide free parking for its customers and the parking area should be proportionate to the size and area of the building.

“We are in discussions regarding the complaints received and as per the law, buildings are required to provide free parking. Extra parking spaces are not encouraged by the corporation,” he added.

Kalamassery Municipality Chairperson Jessy Peter also says it is not legal to charge parking fees. “If it is a flat, we don’t take payment from the residents who park their vehicles. So the rule is the same. Every building should have the necessary parking area for their customers,” she said.

A question from TNM about lack of action in the face of rules being blatantly disregarded went unanswered. “We will enquire about it and take a decision,” Jessy Peter said.

An RTI reply from the Kalamassery Municipality says no money was received as tax from the Lulu group in so far as the parking fee collection is concerned.

Rules require that in case of use of extra parking space, the management can keep a ‘pay and park board’ and pay tax to the Municipality.

Rema George says this is just the beginning and they will legally move against all commercial buildings in the city which charge parking fees illegally. If her grit and determination is any indication, illegal occupants in Kochi would do well to wake up from their ‘Lala Land’ and come down to earth.

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