Hyderabad restaurant pays Rs 20,000 as fine for overcharging Rs 20 mineral water bottles

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The manager tried to justify the overcharging as ‘general practice’ and later in the forum, the authority tried to pass it as ‘ambience tax’.

It’s not unusual for us paying few extra bucks for mineral water bottles, be it at train stations or restaurants. But is this not-so-unusual thing fair? No, it’s not; even though many shopkeepers across India have made it a norm. It, however, must be informed that anyone who buys a bottle more than its MRP can sue the seller, as it is fundamentally a violation of ‘fair trade practice’.

Yes, one person from Hyderabad decided to raise his voice against the so-called norm and dragged a popular eatery to court. Result? Well, the hotel was asked to pay the customer Rs 20,000 for overcharging. The Sarvi Hotel located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad was fined after it charged the customer Rs 40 for a bottle of mineral water instead of the MRP of Rs 20.

Irked by having to pay double price, the man, Ch. Kondaiah, a resident of Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh asked why the eatery was charging beyond the MRP. The manager of the hotel had told him that charging over the MRP was the general practice, The Hindu reported.

Kondaiah approached the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-II to stop the unfair practice.

In their defence, the hotel management quoted the ‘Principles of Hospitality Law’ and said that a customer is duty bound to “pay the charges so perused by him in the menu card, and the customer is stopped from claiming that he was overcharged”. However, the court strongly ruled that authorities have full discretion to fix rates for any indigenous product but have no authority to charge extra for any “packaged goods”. “The opposite party is entitled to fix any rate and maintain a menu card with the price list for the food products prepared by them …. but in no way they have any authority to charge a rate above the MRP rate for packaged goods,” it said in its ruling.

The court also highlighted that charging over the MRP violated the Legal Metrology (packaged commodities) Rules 2011, and asked the hotel to pay the sum “towards damages for making illegal enrichment by charging excess amount from complainant/customers.”

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