Wilson Parking has agreed to sell the leases of three carpark buildings it runs in Wellington, and pay the Commerce Commission half a million dollars after being investigated for anti-competitive behaviour.
Wilson acquired the lease for the Capital car park on Boulcott Street in 2016 without sign off from the Commission despite it already operating a number of other car parks in the same area.
The Commission had previously granted clearance for Wilson to acquire the lease for the Plimmer Towers car park on Boulcott Street, at the time noting the competitive constraint would primarily arise from the competition at the Capital car park.
The Commission began receiving customer complaints about parking price hikes in 2017 and filed High Court proceedings the following year, alleging Wilson Parking substantially lessened competition for the supply of car parking in the Boulcott Street area.
Commission chair Anna Rawlings said the proceedings were now resolved.
"Wilson Parking's acquisition removed one of the few alternatives for motorists wishing to park in this part of Wellington's central city, which, in our view, was likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition."
"The divestment of three car parking facilities in the Wellington central area will reintroduce a measure of competition and will mean that customers will have an alternative to Wilson Parking."
The total number of parking bays given up by Wilson was 850, including 659 in the Capital car park.
Wilson must also tell the Commission about any new purchases in Wellington central for the next five years.
Had a prosecution been successful in the High Court, the firm could have been liable for penalties up to $5 million.
Wilson New Zealand chief executive Ryan Orchard said no employees would be impacted by the divestments.
He said the company was pleased to have reached an agreement with the Commission, although it was confident in its legal position.
"Wilson Parking is committed to continuing to invest in its operations to maintain its excellent service to our customers.
"We believe that our open collaboration with the Commerce Commission is mutually beneficial and is an example of how we proactively work with the communities and businesses in building support for future endeavours."
He said the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake significantly changed the market environment, because most of the damaged carpark buildings - approximately 20 percent of carpark buildings in Wellington - were operated by other parties, some of which remain closed.
Wilson Parking is New Zealand's largest parking provider, operating 282 car parking facilities throughout the country, including 52 in Wellington. It is part of the wider Wilson Group that has similar parking operations in Australia and Asia.