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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Bluesfest found to have misled over paid parking

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The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

Paul Bibby

The Byron Blues Festival engaged in ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ over its decision to introduce parking fees months after many people had already bought tickets to this year’s event, a tribunal has found.

The finding was made by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) last week after a frustrated ticket holder took the festival on over its paid parking plan.

Anthony Donnellan from Burleigh Heads claimed that he was entitled to a refund because he wasn’t told that he would have to pay up to $250 extra for parking at the time he bought his tickets.

The announcement about paid parking didn’t come until December 12 last year, more than seven months after early bird tickets first went on sale.

The NCAT upheld Mr Donnellan’s claim, ordering Bluesfest to immediately refund him the $1,200 he had spent on tickets.

The tribunal’s general member, William Priestley, said he had ordered the refund owing to ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ on the part of Bluesfest.

Mr Donnellan said he hoped that Bluesfest would now waive the parking fees for those who had bought tickets prior to the December 12 announcement.

‘I’m very happy to be vindicated in the case and hope that Bluesfest management do the right thing by their loyal ticket holders’, Mr Donnellan said.

Possible precedent

The decision could provide a precedent for other frustrated Bluesfest ticket holders to seek a refund, and could even force festival organisers to postpone the introduction of parking fees until 2020.

Bluesfest sought and was granted approval to introduce paid parking by Council last August. However, it has emerged that there remains a condition within the festival’s development application, clause 101, stating that paid parking must be included in the ticket price. The festival has sought to amend clause 101, with the matter currently on public exhibition.

Bluesfest’s media spokesperson told The Echo, ‘We are yet to receive the judgment, and will then seek legal advice regarding an appeal’.

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  1. I received my copy of the summarised judgement within 2 hours of the decision.
    I repeat my preferred position that BF RESCIND THE ADDITIONAL PARKING CHARGE (as it has clearly always been included) for this year at the very least.
    Also, I would like to see them follow through on their commitment in the Traffic Management Plan that Council have based their consent on to “PROVIDE AN AMPLE INFORMATION CAMPAIGN” so every one is aware of what is in stall when they arrive not knowing they are about to be hit with a $50 fee.
    I sincerely pity the car park attendants.

    • Despite reports to the contrary, I have not been advised of any pending appeal, nor have I yet received the “immediately payable” refund, nor have I received any correspondence regarding either from the respondent in the case held and decided last Thursday, 16th of March.

  2. parking fees should never have been charged to those who had already bought their tickets, so from that perspective Bluesfest has screwed up. If somebody bought their ticket in good faith and had done so either due to the fact that in previous years parking had always been included in the ticket price or on the assumption that that was the case, given the history of Bluesfest ticketing, there is no defense for what they have done. So Bluesfest should just admit they’ve done the wrong thing to folks who had already purchased their tickets rather than having to go through some sort of legal process to prove the point.

    There is no defense for stupidity and Bluesfest did something very stupid with the introduction of this parking tax. They would be far better off to admit they’ve done something stupid and keep the good will of the long term Bluesfest supporters.

  3. $200 for a day ticket! Then they want to scam another $50 to park…not going this year…first time for many years that I won’t be. Feeling ripped off!

    • i agree with you , i loose to much if i dont go air fares , accomodation etc . my last fest this year for now . dissapointed with parking , line up and the overall handling of the setup. bring back keven and danny. LOL.

  4. I think this is a great example of how companies will try to get away with things for an extra dollar. It great that the Australian Consumer Law protection system is in place for these kinds of issues.

  5. I bought my tickets for this year’s festival on the last day of last year’s festival and have paid $250 for parking over the five days for two cars. After the successful submission by Anthony Donnellan to NCAT I am currently seeking legal advice to take Bluesfest management to NCAT for reimbursement of my money.

    Anyone else considering the same action?

  6. I think it’s wrong to charge loyal Bluesfest patrons this fee especially after we’d purchased our tickets well before they advised us of the $50 a day fee, stating it was a ‘Green’ decision.
    Its not ‘Green’ at all, …. I budget carefully for this event and as a musician myself, this is the only week off a year and my annual vacation.
    This is the final year I’ll (along with my group) be attending.

  7. I agree with Santo. I am a local and have been going to the Blues Festival since it first started in the Old Piggery 30 years ago. This is my big treat for the year. Living in the hinterland of Byron I don’t go out of an evening. The ticket prices go up every year and I have always bought my ticket as soon as they become available, well in advance, so I agree it is very misleading and greedy of the Blues Festival to hit the dedicated locals and those who travel distances to attend the festival with a parking fee. Sadly, I doubt I will attend any future Blues Festivals if this is how they treat loyal Festival goers, and for that matter all those who purchased their tickets early with the knowledge that it was as per usual, free parking, then to hit us with a paid parking fee after we have purchased our tickets.

  8. If Bluesfest thinks introducing paid parking will solve traffic control issues wait until the backlog at the entrance while attedants collect fees from those who havent pre-paid and also check passes from thise who have. Regardless of the inevitable shamble this will cause, fifty dollars a day is simply a rip- off. That’s an extra $250 for a five day pass-holder without pre-purchase. Even at $100 for others it is still a rip off. They need to backdown on this absurd decision and be real about ‘reducing environmental impact from cars’…are they going to donate all the proceeds to an environmental group? #ripoff

  9. Many thanks Anthony for undertaking this action.
    I hope Bluesfest come to some sense.
    Without patrons they are just an empty paddock.

  10. I’m in the same boat as Andrew. I bought tickets for the 2019 BF at the 2018 BF and paid for parking a couple of weeks ago when their sneaky effort to charge double for parking if not paid in advance was brought to my attention. What blackmail! If you are planning to go to NCAT for a refund on parking (still want to go to BF) let me know, I would be happy to join you.

  11. im kinda surprised that the airstrip or other neighbours are not offering parking on their land for $20 or $30 a day. this whole thing could have come from a genuine place…ie reducing private travel and encouraging public transport for the environmental benefits and part cash going towards an appropriate charity…

    • I offered a challenge to BF that the loser in the case donate to a local environmental charity. No reply as usual, thought reducing carbon footprint etc was their prime objective. Well until I read the council applications of course claiming car parking infrastructure costs of “over $100 000” its purely financial and with a potential 6000 cars, the maths is fairly easy to do.

  12. One of the biggest problems here is that Bluesfest tried to tell us that the parking fee was a “green incentive”.At a council meeting in Mullumbimby,when Bluesfest applied to have the parking fee introduced,they said that it was for “financial reasons”,the problem is that any business that lies to its bread and butter supporters is on a very slippery downhill slope.My wife and I will not be attending any more Bluesfests based on this.Our normal spend on the festival and accomodation and food and sightseeing each year is around $6000 over 10 days.

  13. I too buy an early bird ticket year after year after year and am a long term local having supported BF for the best part of the 26 years I’ve been here.
    The ticket I bought (along with my friends) included parking.
    When I arrive at BF this year without a parking ticket I will be refusing to buy one at the gate on the same grounds as Mr Donnellen was awarded as a result of his claim with NCAT – ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ by BF.
    Probably my last year too.
    C’mon Peter be fair – withdraw this hoo haa for locals and those with tickets bought prior to this absurd new parking fee being introduced.

  14. I have emailed Bluesfest and asked for a refund following this ruling. Should NEVER have happened in the first place!

  15. I bought my tickets at pre early bird price which was well inflated from last year, and then to be told you have to come up with between $125 and $250 8 months after purchase is robbery.
    And to sell it as a being “green” is arrogant and disrespectful to your loyal customers.
    We travel 12 hours each way and spend atleast $5000 on accomodation, tickets, food and activities in the region each year and im sorry…this is our last.

  16. I think the tribunal’s finding of ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ well describes Bluesfest’s behaviour.

    They start selling tickets to Bluesfest 2019 from 29 March 2018 (Day 1 of Bluesfest 2018) and continue to do so until 12 December 2019 without any mention of a separate charge for parking. So we buy our tickets on the basis that parking at Bluesfest is included in the ticket price as it has been every year since Bluesfest moved to Tyagarah in 2010.

    Then when they announce the separate parking charge they attempt to pass it off as a ‘green initiative’ on the basis that it will ‘reduce their carbon footprint’. Then when Bluesfest ticket holders raise legitimate concerns about this explanation on the Bluesfest Forum and Facebook page all the comments are deleted and the discussion is shut down. Subsequently Bluesfest are forced to acknowledge that the parking charge is really a revenue raising measure.

    When it is discovered that a condition of the development consent approved by Byron Shire Council for Bluesfest to be held at Tyagarah is that parking there is included in the ticket price, Bluesfest claim this is a mere oversight or minor error and continue to sell paid parking vouchers to unsuspecting Bluesfest ticket holders in direct contravention of that specific condition of the development consent.

    It is only after a group of Bluesfest ticket holders raise this issue directly with Byron Shire Council that Bluesfest makes an application to Byron Shire Council to amend the development consent so that there is no longer a condition of approval which states that parking is included in the ticket price. It is my understanding that Byron Shire Council has not yet made a decision on Bluesfest’s application to amend the development consent but Bluesfest still continues to sell paid parking vouchers in direct contravention of the conditions of the existing development consent.

    There is so much more I could say but surely these facts speaks for themselves. Bluesfest have treated their loyal ticket holders with contempt and appear to regard the Byron Shire Council as nothing more than a rubber stamp who will approve whatever Bluesfest puts before them. Otherwise how else can we explain Bluesfest’s actions in continuing to sell paid parking vouchers before Byron Shire Council has made a decision on their application to amend the development consent.

  17. An apology is in order from Blues Fest for even thinking about whacking on a massive extra charge for an already expensive festival way after 1000’s of us bought tickets. We all rightfully assumed we could get to the festival this year without spending 100s more dollars to park because this is what we have done every other year. Peter Noble et al need to say sorry and reverse the decision – or explain really clearly why they felt they had no choice but to whack on the extra fee months later- and give us all a seriously good reason to pay it (green incentive? seriously!) Right now its deceptive. And the organisers of Blues Fest have said nothing publicly. We all deserve an apology and an explanation about the timing.

  18. As expected Bkuesfest have elected to, rather than acknowledge their lack of respect for the fans that put them where they are, to challenge the letter of law in respect to NCAT’s decision.
    Whilst I’m happy to go along and watch them self.destruct in the same of extra 2019 revenue, I do feel for the fans who are witnessing the decline of this event from a premium people’s festival to just another corporate cash grabber.
    The easiest fight to fight, is the one where your opponent has everything to lose and you have nothing but time to sit and watch them self destruct.
    See you in Goulburn St BLUESFEST…I’ll be the one without a lawyer…


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