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Consumer Rights: No charging over MRP

They call it 'free home delivery'. But are hotels and restaurants charging you more than the MRP for supplying packaged products like soft drinks, bottled water, chips at your doorsteps?

delhi Updated: Sep 07, 2009, 01:18 IST
Harish V. Nair
Harish V. Nair
Hindustan Times

They call it 'free home delivery'. But are hotels and restaurants charging you more than the MRP for supplying packaged products like soft drinks, bottled water, chips at your doorsteps?

Ankit Jain (26), a lawyer and resident of Patparganj, believes they are.

An outlet of Nirula’s at Mayur Vihar charged him Rs 35 for a 500 ml Coke bottle delivered at his home with burgers though its maximum retail price was Rs 15.

Similarly, lawyer Anupam Tripathi, residing in Preet Vihar, who had ordered a soft drink worth Rs 20 and was charged Rs 30.

But this might soon end. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has upheld orders of the district and state consumer forums in Ankit Jain’s case that home delivery service cannot be construed as a sale in restaurant where food is served and consumers cannot be charged more than MRP.

What does it mean

The commission held that customers can be charged more than MRP only in restaurants where they are provided added services such as air-condition, ambience, music, etc. However, the same cannot be applied in case of home delivery.

The Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India had rallied behind Nirula’s and moved the apex consumer court against the order of state consumer court asking the food chain to pay a fine of Rs 27,000 and refund the extra amount charged.

The national forum was not impressed with the argument that price quoted by hotels and restaurants are inclusive of services being offered with the product whether in the premises or home delivery.

The apex forum also rejected the hotel federation’s argument that the “customer is well aware of the price he will have to pay. It is up to the customer whether he wants to buy the product. Even if the price list is not available to the customer he is always quoted the price on the phone when he places the order”.

Jain had first moved the District Consumer Forum, which clearly ruled that customers cannot be charged extra for supply at door steps. Nirula’s had subsequently challenged it in the State Consumer Forum

Before the state commission, Nirula’s had said mere selling of products was not the “core activity” but customers are being charged extra for the “overall services rendered”.

Jain said, “Why should we pay extra when they are delivering at home and we do not use the air-condition, enjoy the ambience and music—the factors they generally cite to make us shell out extra?”

‘Fighting for rights gives me a high’

Ankit Jain, the lawyer who took on the eateries on the issue of charging over MRP in home delivery, was just a 24-year-old second year student at the Law Centre, Delhi University, when he won the first round against Nirula’s in 2005 at the district consumer forum.

“It gave me a high. I realized how one can utilize consumer courts to fight injustice we face daily. These forums are generally under-utilised by the public,” he said.

He then dragged cola giant Pepsi to court over selling partly filled bottles and the State Bank of India for misuse of debit card before it is delivered to a customer and won favourable orders.

Tale of Pepsi bottles

Jain had ordered two crates of Pepsi to serve at a party at his home. To his shock he found that some of them were only partly filled. He dragged the bottling plant and distributor to the court of controller of Legal Metrology for violation of Standards of Weights and Measures Act and they had to pay a fine of Rs 5,000.

Debit card fraud

Shambu Nath had never applied for a debit card. But State Bank of India, where he has an account, issued him one but delivered it in the hands of an unknown person who used the card to withdraw Rs 2.45 lakh from his savings account.

Jain, who represented Nath in the consumer court, got the bank hauled up for ‘deficiency of service’. The court asked the bank to deposit the money back in the account with a compensation of Rs 5,000.

ht epaper

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