Some Bluesfest fans paid $250 for each person for parking on top of ticket prices.
The parking fee, as reported by Brisbane Times, was made public on December 12, eight months after tickets went on sale for the festival.
Bluesfest Pty Ltd owner Peter Noble was taken to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) by Anthony Donnellan from Burleigh Heads, who was angry there was no warning paid parking would be introduced before people bought tickets to the five-day festival over Easter.
The NCAT on March 20 upheld Mr Donnellan’s claim.
It ordered Bluesfest to immediately refund Mr Donnellan $1200 he had spent on tickets, The Byron Shire Echo reported on March 20.
Bluesfest’s appeal was set to be held on April 4 in Sydney, according to NCAT.
The tribunal’s general member, William Priestley, said he had ordered the refund owing to “misleading and deceptive conduct” on the part of Bluesfest.
A Bluesfest spokeswoman also confirmed on Thursday the company had been found guilty.
Under the Bluesfest’s development application approval with Byron Shire Council, parking fees at the festival are included in the ticket price.
Bluesfest has applied to the council to amend that condition of its approval.
Bluesfest chief operating officer Steve Romer explained the situation at the Byron council meeting last week.
He said the festival needed to cover the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” it cost to provide parking at the festival when fewer people parked at the site.
“About 50 per cent of people either catch public transport, camp or find other ways to attend that don’t involve parking at the festival,” Mr Romer told the Byron council.
Bluesfest applied to Byron Shire Council in February 2018 to introduce paid parking at the festival, however, that was rejected.
It applied again in August 2018, describing the proposal as a “congestion-busting” green strategy to discourage people from driving to the festival, where it was approved.
Bluesfest organisers issued a statement on Thursday morning in which they apologised to customers but did not mention the NCAT ruling.
The statement said it had council approval to introduce paid parking at the festival in 2019.
However, it said it intended to introduce paid parking in 2020 if it could overcome the ruling in the Byron Shire Council’s original development approval.
Bluesfest runs from April 18 to 22 off the highway between Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay.
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times