HYDERABAD: Restaurants often charge more than the maximum retail price (MRP) on water bottles which customers tend to ignore. However, a reminder that it is in fact an ‘unfair trade practice’ was made when Sarvi Hotel was asked to pay a customer ₹20,000 by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-II for charging him ₹40 for a bottle of mineral water instead of the MRP of ₹20.
The ruling was made on January 5, after 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 at Banjara Hills. Mr. Kondaiah told the forum that he had lunch there on 27 July, 2015, and was charged double the amount on a water bottle which had an MRP of ₹20.
Pay for ambience
In his complant, 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 defence 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 ambience 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.
Violation of law
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.
Pointing out that charging over the MRP violated the Legal Metrology (packaged commodities) Rules 2011, the forum directed Sarvi to pay ₹20,000 to Mr. Kondaiah “towards damages for making illegal enrichment by charging excess amount from complainant/customers,” and to pay him the ₹20 collected in excess and another ₹5,000 in costs.