Reprieve for used car importers in Mombasa permit fee row

car yard

Imported secondhand cars at a yard in Mombasa on September 5, 2020. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

The High Court has ordered maintenance of the status quo regarding payment of trade licence fees in a dispute pitting importers of used vehicles and Mombasa County.

Under the umbrella of Car Importers Association of Kenya (Ciak), dealers had sued the county government of Mombasa, challenging a demand for payment of Sh110,250 per showroom for them to be issued with trading licences for this year.

Justice Eric Ogola gave the orders, saying he had factored the county government’s position that importers are not being harassed.

The status quo is to remain until the case is heard on July 27, he directed.

Through lawyer Elizabeth Kisingo, Mombasa had told the court that there was no evidence to show harassment of the traders.

Importers also accuse the county government of demanding payment of Sh90,250 per year for 2019 and 2020 arguing that the devolved unit has no power to seek the same retrospectively.

Electronic licencing

In its petition, Ciak wants an order directing the county government to configure its electronic licencing system to allow its [Ciak] members to access it, apply and obtain the annual trade licence for 2021.

Ciak also seeks a permanent injunction restraining the county government from interfering with its members’ business until the online platform is configured and rates for Sh45,000 per year are lawfully reviewed.

Through lawyer Gikandi Ngibuini, Ciak says its members were willing to pay for trade licences from 2019, but without explanation, the devolved unit blocked them from accessing its electronic platform, thus preventing them to pay.

Ciak says it had filed a petition challenging the disbarment. A judgment was entered in its favour. The county government, Ciak says, persistently locked out its members until it was served with a court order. 

The association claims members were surprised that the system was programmed to demand payment of Sh90,250 per showroom per year for 2019 and 2020, and Sh110,250 for 2021, before they could be issued with trade licences.

“Members found the demand to be unreasonable and untenable,” argues Ciak in its suit papers.

Ciak says its members have not renewed their trade licences and are afraid the county government may charge them for conducting business without permits.

According to the petitioner, in a public participation exercise conducted in September 2019, its members made a strong case that licences should attract a charge of Sh45,000 per showroom per year.