With reporting by Heba Fahmy
The government plans to cap parking fees at shopping malls and other commercial complexes in Qatar, and drivers unable to find a free spot will no longer be charged, according to new rules.
In a directive issued in Arabic yesterday, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) ordered that all malls and shops that provide parking and valet services must not charge more that a designated ceiling fee.
However, the ministry does not specify what the maximum rate is, except to say that a committee will determine the permitted profit margin for each operator.
Malls car parks must also obtain get ministry permission to impose or amend existing parking and valet charges.
All complexes have 60 days to comply with the new regulations or face penalties and possible legal action, the MEC warned in a statement.
In what is described by the MEC as a decision “to protect the rights of the community”, all commercial establishments must clearly and prominently display a list of their parking charges at the main entrance.
The ministry gave no details of what the new tariffs or top-rate will be.
No space, no charge
However, the new rules also state that drivers will be given longer to hunt for a parking space.
The ministry has said that motorists have up to 30 minutes to find a slot. If they fail to do so in that time, they won’t be charged.
City Center mall currently only allows drivers free entry for the first eight minutes, before charges kick in.
This new rule would suggest that shoppers needing to do quick errands will no longer have to pay to park.
The new regulations also detail new responsibilities for complexes which offer valet parking services for their customers, stating that they will be liable for the security and for any damage which may be incurred while the vehicle is with them.
Unlike most major cities, there are only a few malls and shopping centers in Doha that charge for parking, with most charging relatively low fees.
City Center in Dafna/West Bay became the first mall in the city to introduce parking charges in 2011, as it attempted to stop people who work in the area from using the lot and to keep spaces free for shoppers.
It brought in a graduated charges tariff with QR2 for the first hour, QR3 for the second and third hour and then QR10 for each subsequent hour.
Battling with the same issue, the Gate Mall and the recently-opened Doha Exhibition and Convention Center (DECC) have also introduced parking charges, especially during weekdays.
However, the fees appear to have been withdrawn, as the ticket machines and barriers have not been in operation for several months.
The underground car park at Souq Waqif also charges for parking, but again the fees are fairly low and customers can spend several hours at the Souq for QR5.
By comparison, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai offers free parking on weekends and public holidays. During the week, the first four hours are free. After that, motorists are charged AED20 for the fifth hour and up to AED150 for eight or more hours.
Meanwhile, an NCP car park in central London’s Covent Garden district can cost GBP4.50 (approx. QR20) for just 30 minutes, while the charge for up to three hours of parking is GBP26 (around QR130).