New Delhi, January 2, 2017

Next time you go to a restaurant and the bill includes service charge, you can choose not to pay it, according to the Consumer Affairs Department under the Food Ministry.

In an official statement on Monday, the Department, which had sought a clarification from the Hotel Association of India following a number of consumer complaints, said the Association had replied that the service charge was “completely discretionary and should a customer be dissatisfied with the dining experience he/she can have it waived off. Therefore, it is deemed to be accepted voluntarily”.

The Department has asked State governments to sensitise companies, hotels and restaurants regarding these provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and advise the hotels/restaurants to disseminate the information through display at appropriate places that the ‘service charges’ are discretionary/ voluntary.

The clarification followed complaints by consumers related to hotels and restaurants following the practice of including ‘service charge’ in the range of 5-20 per cent in lieu of tips, which a consumer was forced to pay, irrespective of the kind of service provided to him.

“The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides that a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or the supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or deceptive practice, is to be treated as an unfair trade practice and that a consumer can make a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum established under the Act against such unfair trade practices,” the release added.

[The Hindu Business Line]