The state legal metrology department has registered 286 complaints where Mumbaiites have alleged that they have been overcharged for products in 2012-13.
Many of them say they have been paying more than the maximum retail price (MRP) for a packet of milk, a soft drink or mineral water.
“Retailers are charging customers Rs1 to Rs3 above the MRP for milk and Rs5 more for soft drinks and bottled water,” said an official from the legal metrology department, requesting anonymity. “We only take action if the complainant has given us details such as the name of the shop, its address and the offence,” the official added.
Under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009, offenders can be made to pay a fee of up to Rs. 5,000 for the first offence and can be prosecuted and imprisoned up to six months for the second.
Retailers allegedly charge more for soft drinks and bottled water kept in refrigerators, saying they have to pay more for electricity. The legal metrology department officials said this is illegal and retailers cannot charge more than the MRP.
However, consumer activists said if government authorities are aware of the problem they should conduct surprise checks rather than wait for complaints.
“If 35 lakh litres of milk is traded in Mumbai daily and 70% (24 lakh) of it is overcharged by Rs1, consumers are fleeced for an estimated Rs. 24 lakh daily,” said Shirish Deshpande, chairperson, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
“We conduct regular checks on our own to crack down on such miscreants,” said Ashok Dongare, controller, legal metrology department. Hindustan Times had run a campaign in May 2011 about consumers being charged more than the MRP mentioned on products following which state officials conducted surprise checks and prosecuted the offenders.