New Delhi, May 23
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) has called for a meeting with the National Restaurant Association of India to discuss issues arising from service charges charged by restaurants, stressing that restaurants are “imposing” such fees on consumers. The meeting is scheduled for June 2.
under the scanner
The department will examine the case in more detail and scrutiny. Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary of Consumer Affairs
Officials say the move follows media reports and grievances that consumers have registered with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH). Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh wrote to the National Restaurant Association of India, explaining that consumers are forced to pay service charges “often set by restaurants at arbitrarily high rates”.
Consumers are misled about the legality of such charges and harassed by restaurants when they apply for such charges to be removed from the bill amount.
He wrote: “Since this issue affects consumers in general and has a significant impact on consumers’ rights, the department has interpreted that it is necessary to examine it in greater scrutiny and detail.” The June 2 meeting will discuss complaints such as restaurants claiming service charges are mandatory, service charges charged under the guise of some other fee or fee, and consumers not being told that service charges are optional and embarrassing consumers if they refuse to pay the service charge.
The officials said that, in 2017, the administration issued guidelines under which a customer’s entry into a restaurant cannot be interpreted as agreeing to pay a service fee. “Any restrictions on consumers’ entry by forcing them to pay a service fee as a condition of placing an order amounts to ‘restrictive trade practice’ under the Consumer Protection Act,” the officials said.
“Without the express consent of the customer, it would be an unfair business practice under consumer law,” they added.