The Department of Consumer Affairs (DOCA) has warned restaurants against levying extortionate service charges from customers. According to Moneycontrol, the central department has said that whether or not to pay the service charge is entirely at the discretion of the consumer and is voluntary.
DOCA said on 23 May that it has received information that restaurants and eateries are still compulsorily charging service charges from customers, although it is completely voluntary. The department has said that the consumer is not legally bound for this. According to Rohit Kumar Singh, Consumer Affairs Secretary, restaurants and eateries charge customers by default for service charges. The Consumer Affairs Ministry had also recently said that customers are being forced to pay service charges at higher rates fixed by restaurants.
National Restaurant Association meeting
Taking suo motu cognizance of this issue being raised by common people on social media, DOCA has called a meeting of the National Restaurant Association on June 2. In this meeting, issues like various complaints of customers, adding other charges and service charges in the bill of restaurants, not informing the customers about the service charge being voluntary and optional, and shaming the customers who do not pay the service charge will be discussed in this meeting.
Instructions have been issued 5 years ago
In 2017, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs issued a directive saying that the column containing the service charge should be kept blank and the payment should be left to the discretion of the consumer. The then Minister of Food and Consumer Affairs, Late Ram Vilas Paswan had said that this is a completely voluntary fee and not mandatory at all. According to the guidelines issued, if the consumer feels that unfair trade is being done to him, then he can take his complaint to the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
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