When Is the last time you purchased the water bottle from a nearby shop or ordered it in the restaurant and paid more than the MRP written on it? Obviously every time. You have left with no options but to pay for it. But now this malpractice of the shopkeepers and restaurant owners will soon be stopped or else they will have to pay for it. As per the latest developments, the shopkeepers or hoteliers won’t be able to fleece the customer for package drinking water.
Overcharging customers for the packaged drinking water, Aerated water and bottle of Beer is a common trend across the country and Goa being one the major tourism destination in India has not been spared from this malpractice done by the retail outlets or hoteliers. According to the new development in the Maharashtra, the Legal Metrology Organisation (LMO) has warned all the hoteliers to not to get involved in such malpractice or else they may have to pay for it.
Based on the information available from the reliable sources, the Union Minister of Food and Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan, tweeted that “Airport or Malls, Mineral Water Bottle will be available only at MRP”. Mr. Paswan has been working in this direction to stop the unethical business practices done by the vendors and hoteliers. The outlets which are selling packaged drinking water and Aerated drinks above the maximum retail price (MRP) at airports, restaurants or multiplexes, would be liable to pay penalties and may even serve the jail term.
It may be recalled that in his statement in the month of October 2016 Mr. Paswan had urged the consumers to lodge the formal complaint against the people who overcharge for the packaged drinks such as Mineral Water and Soft Drinks. According to the minister, he is aware that vendors and hoteliers charge premium rates (20 to 30 percent above the MRP) for the packaged drinking water. “Charging above MRP is a violation of the law. But we still see at airports, multiplex, and hotels, that packaged water is sold at more than the MRP. This needs to be stopped,” Paswan said. (Source) “We have sufficient powers to take action against violators and we will take if consumers file complaints in this regard. There are penalty and even jail term for violators,” he added.
There are several cases in the country wherein the hoteliers have paid a huge penalty for overcharging the consumers. It all depends on the consumer if they do not come ahead with the grievances when the law allows them to do so. Let us take the case of a restaurant in Chandigarh where the restaurant owner charged Rs. 312 for two bottles of the packaged drinking water and he had to pay the penalty of Rs. 12000/-
According to reports, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has asked a leading restaurant to pay a compensation of Rs 12,000, including Rs 5,000 as the cost of litigation, to the complainant on account of deficiency in services. The forum has also asked the restaurant owners to deposit Rs 15,000 in the consumer legal aid account. According to the sources, Jagvir Singh Kang, a resident of Ludhiana, stated in his complaint that on June 20, 2015, he along with his wife and family friends had gone to Brooklyn Central for dinner. The bill for the dinner was cleared by the complainant’s friend. When the complainant and his wife were to leave the restaurant, he purchased two sealed water bottles from the counter of the restaurant, for which he was handed over a bill of Rs 312. It has been alleged that the maximum retail price (MRP) of each sealed water bottle was Rs 60 (inclusive of all taxes) which was sold by the opposite party for Rs 156. When confronted, Kang was informed that it included Rs 16.50 as VAT, Rs 12 as service charge and Rs 7.39 as service tax. Since the complainant had to travel a long distance of 70 km and it was around midnight, he paid Rs 312 and left the place. He then filed a case in the consumer court. (source) In another event published in the newspaper The Hindu, the eatery at Hyderabad had to Rs. 20 thousand fine for charging Rs. 40 for the water bottle which costs only Rs. 20/- (MRP). According to the sources, Ch. Kondaiah, a resident of Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, knocked on the district forum’s doors with a complaint against Sarvi Food Court, located in Banjara Hills. Mr. Kondaiah told the forum that he had lunch there on 27 July 2015, and was charged double the amount for a water bottle which had an MRP of ₹20. In his complaint, Mr. Kondaiah claimed that on being questioned, the manager of Sarvi had told him that charging over the MRP was the general practice. Sarvi Food Court in its defense quoted the ‘Principles of Hospitality Law’ treatise authored by Michael John Boella and Alan Pannett, that a customer ‘is duty bound to pay the charges so perused by him in the menu card, and the customer is stopped from claiming that he was overcharged’.
The hotel’s management also told the forum that Mr. Kondaiah had enjoyed Sarvi’s ambiance and that he cannot claim any redressal. It also stated that ‘there is no evidence that the complainant visited the restaurant on the purported date, and the said bill could have been picked up in a waste paper at any place. After going through the entire set of evidence, the forum noted that Mr. Kondaiah had indeed visited the restaurant on 27 July 2015. “The opposite party is entitled to fix any rate and maintain a menu card with the price list for the food products prepared by them but in no way they have any authority to charge a rate above the MRP rate for packaged goods,” it said in its ruling. (source)
Meanwhile, according to the reports, the hotel and restaurant owners have protested against the move of the Consumer Affairs Ministry and warned that in case the decision has not taken back, they will approach the courts for the justice. According to them, there are hundreds of overheads attached to the business and selling the products at MRP is not possible.
The owner of a bar and restaurant from one of the suburbs of Mumbai told the media that, LMO cannot dictate the terms like this. “They should know that in Mumbai we pay Value Added Tax (VAT) and service tax on beer and other packaged products over the MRP. In five-star hotels, the array of taxes on beer is almost 43 per cent above the MRP. How is it possible to serve beer at MRP,” asked the restaurant owner. He said the bar/restaurants have also to pay salary to waiters, electricity bill, and house rent. “These factors determine the retail price of beer or any other item in the establishment,” he said. However, if someone takes a parcel or takeaway of beer or any other beverage, the restaurants sell it at MRP. “We charge extra for the service at the establishment.”
In case you have also come across any such malpractice, you can report the same to consumer forum. Officials from Consumer Affairs Ministry have urged people to register grievances as more options are available to lod
get complaints. They have further advised consumers to maintain receipts of their purchases, as proof for filing a complaint. The government has assured strict action against offenders. For more details, you can visit the Consumer Forum online or call them toll-Free on 1800-11-4000 or 14404 or Send SMS on 8130009809
SOURCE: VARIOUS SOURCES | IMAGE SOURCE