District collectors have been ordered to prevent the imposition of restaurant service charges
The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), the country’s top consumer watchdog, has asked district collectors to take notice of complaints about the perception of hotel and restaurant service charges in violation of government directives and take “appropriate” measures to protect the interests of consumers.
The CCAC has also written to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories to publicize its guidelines. “The CCPA has also written to District Collectors with a clear directive that charging service fees in violation of the guidelines constitutes an unfair business practice and affects the rights of consumers as a class, and knowledge of such complaints should be priority,” the CCAC said. in a report.
“The District Collector may conduct an investigation into the violation of the guidelines based on such a complaint and submit his report to the CCPA within 15 days,” the statement said.
According to the statement, “Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA, clarified that the guidelines are not advisory in nature and are fully enforceable by law.”
The move comes days after the CCPA banned hotels and restaurants from adding service charges “automatically or by default” to food bills.
In issuing guidelines on Monday, the CCPA said a consumer can ask a hotel or restaurant to waive service charges, or seek redress by filing a complaint.
According to the guidelines, “No hotel or restaurant should force a consumer to pay a service charge and should clearly inform the consumer that the service charge is voluntary, optional and at the consumer’s discretion.”
The CCPA also said 537 consumers complained through the National Consumer Helpline between 01.04.2021 and 20.06.2022 about hotels or restaurants charging service charges.
“From 05.07.2022 to 08.07.2022, i.e. after the publication of the guidelines by the CCPA, 85 complaints were registered on the NCH. The top five cities for service charge complaints are New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Ghaziabad with 18, 15, 11, 4 and 3 complaints respectively,” the statement added.
“Major grievances include hotels/restaurants making service charges mandatory, embarrassing consumers in case they resist paying service charges, adding service charges under another name, and removing consumers that payment of service charges service is optional and voluntary,” he added.
The guidelines have been published under section 18(2)(l) of the Consumer Protection Act 2019.
“The difference between the new guidance issued by the CCPA and previous guidance from the Department of Consumer Affairs is that, in the meantime, the old Consumer Protection Act 1986 has been replaced by the Consumer Protection Act 2019. of Consumers, which came into force in July 2020,” the statement read.
The statement further said: “It has created a new statutory body, namely the Central Consumer Protection Authority, which has been empowered by Parliament to take cognizance of unfair commercial practices. Therefore, any violation of the guidelines will be considered seriously and appropriate action will be taken for unfair business practice and violation of consumer rights.