Fez residents and local NGOs have denounced the city’s decision to delegate the management of public parking spots to a foreign company.
The company, branded under the name “Fes Parkings,” received heavy criticism from locals for its overpriced fees and privacy breaches, among other concerns.
Fes Parkings officially began managing public parking spots in the imperial city on November 30, pushing hundreds of Moroccans who used to guard parked cars for a living into unemployment.
According to the association of “car guardians” in Fez, more than 800 people used to monitor parked cars in exchange for a modest sum of MAD 3.0 ($0.34).
These informal guards no longer have the right to ask car owners for parking fees since the company is now responsible for managing all public parking spots in the city center of Fez, along with some outlying districts.
The National Union of Traders and Professionals (SNCP) in Fez criticized Fes Parkings for not taking former “car guardians” into consideration and not including them in its hiring process.
SNCP Fez issued a statement on Sunday, December 27, calling for a public manifestation to express discontent about the current situation.
“Fez belongs to all Moroccans and public spaces are not for sale,” the statement said.
The labor union maintains that local authorities in Fez do not have the right to “rent” public parking spots to a private company.
Besides the socio-economic impact the activity of Fes Parkings had on hundreds of local families, critics denounced the company’s economic model and its overpriced parking fees.
The company charges parked cars by the hour, with an hourly fee of MAD 1.5 to MAD 2.0 ($0.17-$0.22). For people who need to park their cars for extended periods of time, such as employees, the daily parking fee can reach up to MAD 20 ($2.23).
The amount is nearly seven times higher than what car owners used to pay before Fes Parkings took charge of public parking spots.
Moroccan Member of Parliament Rachid El Menyari voiced the concerns of Fez residents in a recent written question to Minister of the Interior Abdelouafi Laftit.
In his correspondence, El Menyari said the fees that Fes Parkings charges car owners do not match citizens’ purchasing power.
He urged the Ministry of the Interior to enact measures that would prevent the company from exploiting its contract with local authorities in Fez.
El Menyari also brought to light the privacy breaches that Fes Parkings commits against car owners.
To benefit from the company’s services, users must install a mobile application that allows them to view the availability of parking spots around Fez and make payments.
The application, however, requests users to input personal data and regularly update their location and the parking location of their car.
Many users consider the mobile application to breach their privacy, especially since it has not been approved by Morocco’s National Committee for the Protection of Personal Data (CNDP).
El Menyari’s written question highlights how the application threatens the security of users’ personal information, as guaranteed by the Moroccan constitution.
SNCP Fez addressed a letter to the CNDP regarding the issue, calling on the institution to ban the mobile application until its compliance with personal data regulation is proven.
Another concern that the Fez population have expressed is the “illegal” fines the company has enforced.
Fes Parkings issues fines for car owners that leave their parking spot without paying. The company offers a “grace period” of 48 hours when customers can pay the regular fee without penalty.
However, after 48 hours, the company demands a fine of MAD 100 ($11) for every day of delayed payment.
The exorbitant price and the lack of a legal framework to justify such fines led local residents to call for the abolishment of such penalties.
Fez residents who are not involved with any NGO organize their protests through a Facebook group called “Boycott Fes Parkings,” which currently has over 29,000 members.
The most recent public demonstration took place on Sunday, December 27, at the public square “Place Florence” in the city center of Fez and saw the participation of hundreds of citizens.
In the Facebook group, members are threatening to further escalate their protests and completely stop paying parking fees until local authorities respond to their concerns.
So far, neither the company nor Fez authorities have reacted to citizens’ protests. Meanwhile, Fez Mayor Idriss Azami Al Idrissi, going against the tide, hailed the project on several occasions, calling it an “innovative solution.”
If no compromise is reached, Fez residents might have to endure the company’s “unfairness” for many years to come. The contract between Fez authorities and Fes Parkings has a duration of 25 years.