Sometime ago, I was surprised to see several outlets at the Hyderabad airport sporting large placards declaring that they sell only at the maximum retail price (MRP) stated on the package.
I thought that it was probably a reaction to consumer resistance to buying at these shops on the ground that they were generally overpriced.
It was only recently that I came to know the truth.
According to the department of legal metrology, the outlets had tried to subvert the rules governing packed goods (that mandate that you cannot sell at a price higher than the MRP) by removing the original packaging and pricing the goods much higher than the MRP marked on the original package.
Following their prosecution, retailers had quickly put up these boards.
This is yet another example of how trades try to undermine or sabotage even a simple rule on MRP, meant to protect consumer interests.
I do not know how many of you remember this, but initially, under the Packaged Commodities Rules, the manufacturers had to declare the maximum retail price, exclusive of local taxes. As this led to overcharging in the guise of local taxes (which in many cases the retailers did not even pay), the government amended the rules, forcing the industry to specify the MRP inclusive of all taxes.
But here again, in many sectors, the industry gives retail trade such a wide margin of profit that unless a consumer is aware of it and bargains hard, she/he will end up paying the exaggerated MRP printed on the package.
As a solution to this problem, consumer groups argued for declaration of the ex-factory price along with the MRP. The manufacturers however did not agree, despite several rounds of meetings called by the union ministry of consumer affairs on the issue.
So what do you do? Always check the MRP and try and buy at a price below it. If you are buying expensive household goods, bargain harder. If you are purchasing housing construction/renovation-related goods such as paints, floor tiles, try to bring down the price by about 40-50%.
Pradeep Kumar Khanna: Recently, I purchased a branded mattress from Kirti Nagar, Delhi. But when the mattress was delivered, I noticed a sticker showing the MRP as Rs. 9486, while the retailer had charged Rs. 13,685. I have asked the store to refund the excess amount several times, but they are not responding. What do I do?
From the images that you have sent me of the price tag on the mattress, I see a consumer care/complaint telephone number. Please call this number and lodge a complaint with the company. Hopefully, the company will prevail upon the retailer to return the money.
You should also complain to the Legal Metrology Department of the Delhi government. They will prosecute the shopkeeper.
Rule 18 (2) of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules says, “No retail dealer or other person including manufacturer, packer, importer and wholesale dealer shall make any sale of any commodity in packed form at a price exceeding the retail sale price thereof.” Under the rules, he will be fined Rs. 2000 (Not much for the offence though.)
You can also go to the consumer court and get back the excess amount charged, besides compensation for the harassment caused to you and cost of litigation. In Hotel Nyay Mandir vs Ishwar Lal Jinabhai Desai (RP NO 550 of 2006, decided on 14-12-2010) the consumer court not only directed the offender to refund the excess amount charged, but also pay a compensation of Rs. 5000, cost of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,50,000 to the Consumer Welfare Fund.