The fight against service charges in restaurants intensified as the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) said on Wednesday that new government guidelines had no legal value and had created unnecessary confusion among consumers, leading to disruption of the proper functioning of hotels and restaurants. .
The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, has issued guidelines to prevent unfair commercial practices and the violation of consumer rights with regard to hotels and restaurants charging service, stating that the consumer may file a complaint with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) against such practices.
The NRAI, which represents more than five lakh restaurants in the country, said in a statement that through these guidelines, there is an attempt to launch a campaign against the practice of the restaurant industry without any legal basis.
According to the NRAI, the government cannot make a change to a service charge levy by setting guidelines.
“By the very nature of things, the guidelines are for guidance only and in the event that such a change is necessary, there must be either a new law or an amendment to existing laws,” he said. declared.
“It is also pertinent to state that additional fees are levied by many other industries, including some government agencies. However, the guidelines are only issued for the restaurant industry,” the body pointed out. hospitality industry.
He said the service charge is part of the owner’s discretion and decision regarding the total price to be paid by a customer in connection with the sale or service of a product.
“The customer is informed of the price and its components before he places an order for the product. Once the customer has placed the order after being informed of the terms and conditions, a binding contract comes into force”, has said the NRAI.
No authority can interfere with the binding nature of a valid contract until it is shown and proven to be inadmissible or contrary to any unfair trade practice, the industry body argued.
Guidelines issued by the CCPA state that hotels or restaurants should not add a service charge automatically or by default to the food bill.
“No collection of service charges should be made under any other name. No hotel or restaurant should force a consumer to pay a service charge and should clearly inform the consumer that the service charge is voluntary/optional and at the discretion of the consumer,” the new guidelines state. .
The CCPA said the consumer can ask the hotel or restaurant concerned to remove the service charge from the amount of the invoice. The consumer can also file a complaint against unfair commercial practices with the Consumer Commission.
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