In the winter of 1991, Member of Parliament S.S. Ahluwalia had introduced an interesting private member's bill in the Rajya Sabha called 'The Consumer Goods (Publication of Price with Advertisement) Bill'. It sought to make it mandatory for all advertisements to carry the price of goods or services being advertised.
Governments do not usually encourage the passage of private members' bills. However, if the government finds merit in a private Bill, it comes up with its own Bill at a later date. Unfortunately in this case, the government did not take this initiative forward.
Since price is an extremely important factor determining choice, such printing of prices in advertisements not only helps consumers compare prices and take an informed decision, but also satisfies their right to information. In addition, such price display also promotes competition, thereby bringing down prices. The price information, however, should be accurate and complete and not false or misleading.
Take the pricing of cinema tickets in multiplexes, for example. They vary on the basis of the day (weekday or weekend), the timing (morning or evening shows), the location of the multiplex and the competition. Again, the ticket costs may vary from auditorium to auditorium in the same multiplex and between old and new releases. That's not all — in some cases the prices can also be movie-specific. For a highly publicised, 'star-studded' movie, the ticket rates may go up by as much as 25-35 per cent.
Given this scenario, the least that the multiplex owners can do is to display the cost of the ticket at the counter. Says N.T. Joseph, a reader: In the absence of such a display, you are clueless about the price of the ticket when you are in the queue until you reach the counter. At that point, to back out because the price of the ticket is beyond your reach can be very embarrassing. You therefore end up buying the over-priced ticket and the rest of the day is ruined because you feel cheated.
I strongly feel that we have a right to know in advance how much we are going to pay to see a movie and the right to skip the show if the ticket is over priced. Non-display of the ticket price denies consumers this right to back out, he says. Will cinema halls and multiplexes please take note?
Unfortunately in India, consumers have to fight for such price display, while around the world, many countries have mandated price transparency and display through regulations.
In Ireland, for example, the Retail Prices (Food in Catering Establishments) Display Order, 1984, stipulate that all restaurants, hotels, pubs and cafes display a comprehensive price list right at the entrance. Any extra charges that apply such as service charges are also required to be displayed. That way, no surprises await consumers when they are seated.
There are similar orders for price display for hair dresses and barbershops, bars and night-clubs and also advertising for concert and theatre tickets. Can we have similar policies mandating price transparency and price display please?
Vikram Manjunath: whenever you buy cinema tickets online, you are charged an additional amount described as 'Convenient charge. On four tickets last week, I had to pay Rs 66.18 extra. Is this justified?
Answer: It is certainly not justified. Whenever you buy goods or book tickets online, you actually get a discount. So, it is strange that you pay more when you buy movie tickets online! And what convenience? Even after booking online, you still need to go and pick up your ticket at the box office.
Get together with friends and start an online campaign against it. I am sure that will be withdrawn.
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