Dual pricing: Elante among 6 firms fined ₹20L
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed Elante Mall located in the Industrial Area, Chandigarh, to “immediately stop the running of food business in its premises”, until eateries in its food court obtains a licence under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Section 31 of the FSSA, 2006, creates an embargo to run food business except under a licence from the designated officer.
The commission has also penalised the mall and other parties ₹20 lakh for charging double the cost of a water bottle and soft drink.
CSJ Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, known by its brand name of Elante Mall, has a food court (Food Quest, run by Ayaan Foods) on its third floor.
Navneet Jindal of Sector 42 had filed a complaint against CSJ Infrastructure Pvt Ltd; Ayaan Foods; Akash Restaurants and Foods Pvt Ltd and Deluxe Dhaba, located at the food court; Kandhari Beverages Pvt Ltd (located in Fatehgarh Sahib) and Coca Cola India Pvt Ltd, Gurgaon.
On January 29, 2017, Jindal had gone to the food court and bought a soft drink bottle from Akash Restaurants. He was charged ₹60, despite the MRP in outside outlets being ₹32. He also bought a water bottle for ₹30 even as the MRP otherwise is ₹20.
Respondents in their common reply alleged that there was no violation. They claimed the eateries at the food court are restaurants, because of which dual prices are printed on the bottles. Elante Mall pleaded that no service was ever provided by the mall; hence, the appellant has no cause of action against it.
The state commission observed: “Counsel for respondent No.1 (Elante) admitted that no licence has been issued to any of the respondents to run food business within the premises of Elante mall… the respondents have not been able to show any licence, rather, they have admitted that they had not obtained such a licence.”
It added: “Thus, the food business is being run in an illegal and unauthorised manner. It amounts to undue enrichment through illegal and unauthorised means. Thus, the circumstances of the case require that the same be stopped with immediate effect.”
Further, it stated that the food court in question has been set up for facilitating customers of the shopping plaza, but not even a waiter is provided.
“The services rendered by different eateries in the food court of Elante Mall cannot be equated with the services rendered in the hotels or restaurants and as such the respondents cannot charge more than the price of MRP as mentioned on the soft drinks and water bottles, by way of dual charging,” it added.
The commission observed that the mall, being the owner, allowed its sub-lessees/tenants to continue these unfair trade practices and deficiencies in service, “therefore, the circumstances require that they be burden with exemplary costs.”
The commission, directed the respondents, in each case, to refund the excess amount received against purchase of the two bottles to Jindal. They are also to pay a compensation of ₹20,000 and litigation cost of ₹10,000 in each case.
Other than that, they have been asked to deposit ₹5 lakh in each case in the consumer legal aid account and ₹5 lakh in each case in the PGIMER’s poor patient welfare fund.
The parties were also directed to “immediately stop printing and publishing dual prices” on the goods sold in the mall and stop charging dual prices.
“Elante Mall shall immediately stop the running of food business in its premises with immediate effect except after obtaining a licence from designated officer cum authority, under FSSA 2006 and Regulations (ibid),” it said.
The mall’s response was awaited till the filing of this report .