CCPA writes to Chief Secretaries and District Collectors to arrange wide publicity of the guidelines along with implementation
The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has directed district collectors to ensure enforcement of Guidelines issued with regard to service tax by hotels and restaurants. Upon receiving related complaints, the district collector may conduct an investigation pertaining to the violation of the guidelines and submit the report to the Authority within 15 days.
CCPA has written to Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs and District Collectors across India to arrange wide publicity of the guidelines along with its immediate implementation for the protection of consumer interest. The letter gives clear direction that levying of service charge is in violation of the guidelines and constitutes unfair trade practice wherein affects the rights of consumers as a class, and cognizance of such complaints must be taken on priority.
A number of consumers have registered their complaints on the National Consumer Helpline with regard to the levying of service charges. From 01.04.2021 to 20.06.2022, 537 complaints were lodged by consumers on levying of service charges. The major grievances include hotels/restaurants making service charges compulsory, embarrassing consumers in case they resist paying service charges, adding service charges by some other name and suppressing consumers that paying service charges is optional and voluntary.
From 05.07.2022 to 08.07.2022 i.e., after the guidelines were issued by CCPA, 85 complaints have been registered on NCH. The top 5 cities of service charge complaints are New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Ghaziabad with 18, 15, 11, 4 and 3 complaints respectively.
Delhi reports the highest complaints against levying of service charges, within 4 days of issuing guidelines, a total of 85 complaints were registered with the National Consumer Helpline
Smt. Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA has clarified that the guidelines are not advisory in nature and are fully enforceable by law. The guidelines have been issued under Section 18(2)(l) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which empowers the CCPA to issue necessary guidelines to prevent unfair trade practices and protect consumers’ interests.
If any consumer finds that a hotel or restaurant is levying service charges in violation of the guidelines, a consumer may make a request to the concerned hotel or restaurant to remove the service charge from the bill amount. Or the consumer may lodge a complaint on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), which works as an alternate dispute redressal mechanism at the pre-litigation level by calling 1915 or through the NCH mobile app.
The consumer can also file a complaint against unfair trade practices with the Consumer Commission. The Complaint can also be filed electronically through the e-daakhil portal www.edaakhil.nic.in for its speedy and effective redressal. In addition, the consumer may submit a complaint to the District Collector of the concerned district for investigation and subsequent proceeding by the CCPA. The complaint may also be sent to the CCPA by e-mail at [email protected].
The difference between the new guidelines issued by CCPA and the previous guidelines by the Department of Consumer Affairs is that, in the intervening period, the erstwhile Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was replaced with the Consumer Protection Act 2019, which came into effect in July 2020. It created a new statutory body i.e., the Central Consumer Protection Authority, which has been empowered by the Parliament to take cognisance of unfair trade practices. Therefore, any violation of the guidelines will be viewed seriously and appropriate action will be taken against unfair trade practices and violating the rights of consumers.
Disclaimer : This is an official press release by PIB.