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Paying hefty service tax? Join the MGP campaign

Consumers who are forced to pay hefty service charges at restaurants despite the Centre’s directive against it, can now participate in an online campaign initiated by Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), the consumer body that is collecting food bills from across the state.

mumbai Updated: Jan 17, 2017 13:43 IST
Prajakta Kunal Rane
mumbai

Consumers can now send pictures of their restaurant bills through WhatsApp on 9987555665 before January 23. (HT File)

Consumers who are forced to pay hefty service charges at restaurants despite the Centre’s directive against it, can now participate in an online campaign initiated by Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), the consumer body that is collecting food bills from across the state.

Consumers can now send pictures of their restaurant bills through WhatsApp on 9987555665 before January 23. These bills will be studied by the MGP to understand how service charges and tax is calculated and collected by hotels and restaurants across the state.

This bills will be submitted to ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, department of consumer affairs in the MGP’s petition to remove service charges from food bills.

In December, the Union ministry had issued an advisory to all state governments saying that charging service charges in the range of 5%-20% in the food bill is an unfair trade practice. The advisory said that the service charge should be at the customer’s discretion and they can also ask for the waiver if they are dissatisfied with the service.

But irrespective of the advisory, majority of hoteliers in the state continue to charge the said tax. In fact, their associations have even challenged the Centre saying that those who don’t want to pay the charges need not come to their restaurants.

“It is mentioned in the advisory that collecting service charges is an unfair trade practice, which means it is illegal. It should be left to the individual as to how much he or she wants to pay for the service or if at all they should pay,” said Shirish Deshpande, MGP chairman.

On the contrary, hoteliers are demanding withdrawal of the advisory. “Services charges have been levied for many years and it is mentioned on the menu card that the service charges will be applicable. We demand that the Union government withdraw this advisory as it is leading to a lot of confusion,” said Dilip Datwani, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India.

The campaign

Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) has started a week-long mobile and online campaign to collect complaints about service charges in food bills.

The campaign started on Monday and will continue till January 23, 2017.

Consumers have been asked to send in restaurant bills through WhatsApp on 9987555665

The consumer body will study the pattern of collecting and calculating the service charges and tax.

This will be submitted to ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, department of consumer affairs to remove the element from food bill

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