The outlets which will be selling packaged drinking water and cold drinks at rates more than the maximum retail price (MRP), including at airports, restaurants, multiplexes, could attract penalty and even jail terms.
Union Minister of Food and Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan, tweeted about receiving various complaints on different prices charged for packaged water in different places. Many grievances about companies that printed prices higher than the MRPs at places like hotels and airports were lodged.
The Ministry has demanded justification from such companies for their offences. “Mineral water bottle will be available at the same rate at airports, hotels and malls,” he tweeted. It has been directed that the selling price should be standardised across airports, hotels, malls, and any other retail outlets.
एयरपोर्ट, होटल व माल सभी जगह एक रेट में मिलेगी मिनरल वाटर बोतल।
Penalties for Offenders: In his statement of October 2016, during World’s Standard Day, Minister had urged consumers to lodge a complain if packaged drinking water is sold above MRP at any location including hotels, cinemas and airports. The minister further commented with reference to common consumer experiences at such locations, where packaged water was often sold at 10-20% higher than MRP. In fact, some cases of no MRP mentioned on the bottle, have also been reported.
Section 36 of Legal Metrology Act states, anyone involved in the sales, distribution or delivery of any pre-packaged commodity that does not conform to the declarations on the package is punishable by law with a fine of up to Rs. 25,000 for the first offence. The fine for the second offence can go up to Rs. 50,000. Further, subsequent offences will be penalised with fines up to Rs one lakh, or one-year imprisonment, or both.
Despite the law taking effect in 2009, there is relatively lesser awareness about the provisions of this law to protect consumers from getting charged above MRP. Moreover, various hotel and restaurant associations had previously challenged the High Court order of the Legal Metrology Act into the Supreme Court, only to have their plea dismissed eventually.
Even though several rulings from the Delhi High Court and Consumer Courts have been imposed, there are still instances of offences being reported occurring in multiplexes and airports.
Paswan stated, “Consumers need to be more aware and file complaints. If there is no complaint, how can we take action?” To emphasize the point further, Paswan also pointed out the Rs five lakh fine imposed on a multiplex in 2016, by Apex Consumer Commission, NCDRC (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission).
Appeal to Consumers to report Offences
Officials from Consumer Affairs Ministry have urged people to register grievances as more options are available to lodge complaints. They have further advised consumers to maintain receipts of their purchases, as proof for filing a complaint. The government has assured strict action against offenders.
The Logical Indian urges all our community members to report such offences to enable a change in the system. We have been trying to spread this awareness for a long time now, and hope this time people will seriously seek for action. The government can only help when aware consumers take action and stand up against offences. Silence, ignorance or lack of interest in complaining, would only encourage offenders to continue abusing and exploiting the consumers.