Helsinki’s Private Parking Mafia!

Readers will know that Finland has a love of natural monopolies and its little sister oligopolies – the latter two have another word that describes them “cartel cheats”!

On the retail side we have two companies that have more than a 80% share for household and items groceries (Kesko and S-Group) and similar household items that are found on every corner of every town and city throughout the whole country. Political contributions keep people like LIDL (just 10% market share) from getting too much space!

Banking is another nice arrangement with three banks gobbling up 80% of the market (Nordea, OP Group, Danske).

Dairy products (Valio, Arla), airlines (Finnair), pensions (Imarinen, Varma, Elo) insurance (IF, OP-Group), media (Sanomat, Alma), hotels (Scandic, S-Group), etc., all have their dominant players where price differentials are tiny and advertising aggressive to keep out strangers!

Now we have a new small group of players (EuroPark, Aimo) – the folk who charge for parking in Helsinki! Let’s call them the Parking Mafia between them they run the digital parking systems of many of the major car parks in the city and suburbs.

If you want to park your car in one of the big underground parking caverns or under the big shopping centres and malls for a longer than a few hours, you can easily end up paying €7 an hour which quickly adds up to €32 and more a day!

During the last few years Helsinki has encouraged people who live outside Helsinki (several million) to drive to special underground parking areas connected to Helsinki’s Metro stations, and for €2 you get to park your car for 12 hours if you travel by public transport. This is a great deal because driving and parking in Helsinki is hell.

Today, most of these parking spots are managed by the Parking Mafia, and guess what… they have started to play tricks on unsuspecting drivers. Few people can afford to pay with their own money for regular visits in the car to Helsinki. It is far cheaper and affordable to avoid going into the centre by using Helsinki’s special €2 offer and then just travel into town by excellent public transport – the Metro, tram, or bus.

But your correspondent recently parked twice using the parking area connected to Helsinki’s Metro stations. He registered his car on entering, showed his Metro ticket to the digital reader and was charged €2.00. Later in the week he checked his bank account and saw that the Parking Mafia had charged his account for €35, and not €4!  He immediately sent out an email to the Parking Mafia for an explanation. It turned out that he was charged the normal full parking cost because he had not turned off the automatic registration of his car’s number plate!

The company refunded his cash for their error – that was good – but only after he contacted them and complained.

A quick round of calls, and a search on the internet revealed that you only learn about turning off the automatic registration of the car’s number plate after paying the full inflated cost, and after receiving such information from the Parking Mafia!

How many people check their bank accounts when nobody is aware of this in the first place…

… and even if you do, are you going to send an email demanding a refund when that will take 20 minutes of work looking up all the details for the email!

The Parking Mafia have hundreds of thousands of users so they must be earning some nice returns from letting customers find out the hard way!

Naturally, they could have avoided such nasty habits by correcting their software, something that would only take five minutes. Since cars must be registered under their system on entering a carpark it should be easy for the software to charge the right price if the user intends to travel on public transport…

… but why should the Parking Mafia bother if drivers are dumb users who have already got used to paying up to all the cartels here…

or, Caveat Emptor…

or, is this just daylight robbery?

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