Those shopaholics who' />

Some of the country's biggest shopping centres are preparing to hit shoppers with $45 parking fines, a leaked memo reveals.

Those shopaholics who stay more than four hours in the malls' expansive car parks - which once boasted free parking - will be ticketed.

Westfield malls at West City and Manukau have already begun fining shoppers, and St Lukes will begin doing so next month. Similar schemes are planned for Queensgate in Lower Hutt, and Riccarton in Christchurch. Saturday shoppers were dismayed by the idea of Westfield penalising them while they spent money inside.

St Lukes regular Megan Smith said she would not take the $45 fine lying down.

"It's got 'money-making scheme' written all over it," she said. "Westfield are starting to seem like a huge corporate parking monster."

Kaitaia woman Amber Prouting travels to Auckland several times a year to do "big shops", and said she would sometimes spend an entire day inside the mall. "A four-hour limit will make that difficult," she said. Other shoppers said they would choose different malls.

Westfield public relations manager Debra McGhie claimed bona fide shoppers could appeal against the ticket if they had proof of purchase.

But the leaked memo reveals that Parking Enforcement Services, which is contracted to patrol the carparks, will ticket any car that has been there more than four hours - shopper or not.

Posters and signs will be erected around the malls and for the first four weeks shoppers will get a warning, not a fine.

Consumer Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Kate Camp said the fine was legally binding, but only as long as the consequences were clearly signposted. "If they're advertising free parking and then have a tiny piece of fine print saying it's only for four hours, that would be misleading consumers and breaking the law," Camp said.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the policy was heavy-handed.

"People go to these malls because they expect to get a free car park," she said.

"They are quite possibly spending quite a lot of money if they're there for four hours and they shouldn't then have to prove that is indeed what they've been doing. I think it's really unfair."