If you have been overcharged by stalls selling bottled water and soft drinks at railway platforms, and are afraid such cases will increase as Mumbai heats up, there may be some good news.
The legal metrology organisation (LMO) initiated a crackdown on such retailers at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) on Thursday, and registered cases against five vendors for overcharging consumers. As many as 71 bottles of soft drinks and bottled water were seized.
The stall vendors on platform numbers 1, 2 and 3 were caught charging Rs 1 to Rs 5 more than the maximum retail price (MRP) for soft drinks and bottled water. Overcharging is a common complaint on railway stations, especially by long-distance commuters at all city termini.
“We could only raid five stalls because of insufficient man power, or we would have gotten more cases. The stall vendors work in connivance with each other. Hence, when we raided one stall, others were immediately alerted,” said an LMO official on condition of anonymity, as he is not allowed to speak to the media.
The LMO has also issued a letter to the divisional railway manager (DRM), Mumbai division, of the Central Railway (CR) and the railway protection force (RPF), asking them to take appropriate action against the culprits.
Railway officials, however, questioned the LMO’s authority to conduct such raids on railway premises.
“The LMO should work in their jurisdiction. If at all they wish to take any action in railway premises, they should first seek permission from the authorities concerned. Did they have permission to conduct these raids in railway premises?,”said a senior railway official, requesting anonymity.
Consumer activists slammed the railways for ignoring consumers’ interests.
“The railways is doing little to control the overcharging at railway termini, otherwise the problem could have been controlled much earlier. It should at least cooperate with other government departments to serve people, instead of making a fuss about jurisdiction,” said said Subhadha Chaukar, member, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP).
Narendra Patil, chief public relation officer, CR, (CPRO) refused to comment on the matter.
“It’s because of the railway staffers’ lethargy that stall owners find it so easy to fleece consumers at railway stations,” Chaukar said.
Thanks to dept, errant shopkeepers pay the price
The Legal Metrology Organisation (LMO), which is under the food, civil supplies and consumer protection department, is a statutory body that is authorised to take action for consumer grievances regarding overcharging for packed products and wrongly weighed or measured loose commodities, such as food grain.
In the first week of March, it had announced stringent penalties for those charging more than the maximum retail price (MRP) on packed products from consumers.
The department said erring shopkeepers will be taken to court, which means a fine of up to Rs 25,000 for a first offence, Rs 50 000 for the second offence and both penalty and jail of up to 1 year if booked for a third time. Up till then, officials charged the shopkeepers only compounded fees up to Rs 2,000, under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules.
The stall vendors at LTT have been booked under section 18 (2) of the legal metrology act, which states 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.