How many times have you walked into a theatre, purchased a bottle of water, and realised that you were charged over and above the Maximum Retail Price (MRP)? And yet, how many times have you raised your voice?
Most of us shrug it off and just buy the bottle.
Arasaradi S Sumesh too could have simply paid the extra amount he was charged by a restaurant in Madurai. However, he chose to take up the matter.
After battling it out in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF), the restaurant had to pay him Rs 15,000 as fine and Rs 50,000 as punitive damages.
Facts as we know them
In April 2016, Arasaradi S Sumesh purchased a 200-milli litre bottle of flavoured milk from the Pechiamman Milk Depot Restaurant, in Palanganatham. While the MRP mentioned on the bottle was Rs 22, he was asked to pay Rs 25.
In his petition, Sumesh claimed that the MRP on the bottle was not printed, and instead, a small sticker with the revised amount was stuck on it.
The non-printing of the MRP amounted to an unfair trade practice and was highlighted in the petition.
The restaurant, in its written reply, mentioned that since they had a well-equipped setup with all modern amenities, the extra charge levied was towards the maintenance and the service that they were providing their customers.
The Forum did not accept this argument and held that the restaurant was indeed indulging in unfair trade practices.
What is MRP?
Maximum Retail Price or MRP is the highest price at which a product can be sold in India. This includes the cost of production, transportation, profit and all applicable taxes. So, as consumers, please be aware that no product can be sold to you above the MRP mentioned on the said product.
Also, ensure that the MRP is printed on the product. If not, that is also a violation and will amount to an unfair trade practice.
What is an unfair trade practice?
An unfair trade practice refers to malpractice of a trader that is unethical or fraudulent, causing an inconvenience or grievance to the consumer. These are defined under Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
According to the definition, it is a trade practice carried out for the promotion of the sale. It is the distribution or utilisation of any goods or services by adopting a deceptive method or practice.
What to do if you are overcharged
If you are being sold a bottle of water or a packet of chips above the MRP, make sure that you report the same through one of the following methods:
1. Call the helpline
As an immediate step, you can dial 1800-11-4000 or 1800-11-14404.
You can reach this helpline on all days except National holidays from 9.30 am-5.30 pm. You can also send an SMS to 81300 09809.
2. Lodge a complaint online
Log on to this website and fill out all the details in the registration form. An OTP (one-time password) will be sent to your registered e-mail/phone number.
Once you are logged in, you will be able to register your grievance. Be thorough while adding the details.
Things to remember
Once you have submitted your complaint, you will be assigned an electronically generated number. This will help you to track the status of the complaint.
You can make multiple complaints once you have logged into the portal in both English and Hindi.
Where to file a complaint?
Depending on the value of the claim, you can approach any of the following Forums:
• The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF) if the value of the claim is up to Rs 20 lakh.
• The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) if the value of the claim exceeds Rs 20 lakh but within Rs 1 Crore.
• The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) if the value of the claim exceeds Rs 1 Crore.
You may choose not to fight for a few rupees, but the point is to establish and ensure ethical business practices. By raising our voices and asserting our rights, establishments and shopkeepers will think twice before indulging in such practices. So, in the spirit of the consumer forums, Jago Grahak Jago!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)