Service charge

Paying service charges in restaurants is voluntary, according to the government; calls restaurant body meeting on June 2: The Tribune India

Tribune press service

Vibha Sharma

New Delhi, May 23

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) convened a meeting with the National Restaurant Association of India on June 2 to discuss the issue related to service charges levied by restaurants, reiterating its existing guidelines on restaurants “forcing” such charges on consumers. consumers.

Officials said the move followed media reports and grievances registered by consumers on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH).

Consumer Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh wrote to the National Restaurant Association of India, saying consumers are being forced to pay service charges, “often set at arbitrarily high rates by restaurants.”

“Consumers are also being misled about the legality of these charges and harassed by restaurants when they ask to remove these charges from the bill amount.

“Given that this issue affects consumers as a whole on a daily basis and has significant consumer rights ramifications, the department has found it necessary to examine it more closely and in detail,” he wrote.

Consumer complaints such as restaurants making service charges mandatory, adding service charges to the bill under the guise of other fees or charges, stripping consumers that paying service charges is optional and voluntary, and embarrassing consumers if they resist paying the service fee will be raised at the meeting

Officials said guidelines issued in April 2017 on charging service fees make it clear that a customer’s entrance into a restaurant cannot by itself be construed as consent to pay a service fee.

“Any restriction of entry imposed on the consumer by requiring them to pay a service charge as a conditional percentage for placing an order amounts to a ‘restrictive business practice’ under consumer protection law,” according to to the directives which also mention that placing an order by a customer constitutes acceptance of this one to pay the prices displayed on the menu card as well as the applicable taxes.

“Therefore, charging for anything other than the above without the express consent of the customer would amount to an unfair commercial practice as defined by law,” they added.