Provisions to be made under Consumer Protection Act for crackdown in such cases
After controversies erupted over exorbitant prices charged by five-star hotels for cheap food items like bananas and eggs, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has decided to act. Terming it as an unfair trade practice, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday said the Ministry will seek clarification from the five- star hotels in this regard.
The Minister asserted that provisions will also be made while framing rules and regulations under the recently enacted Consumer Protection Act to crack down on such cases. Paswan was referring to a viral video in which actor Rahul Bose was seen complaining about five-star hotel JW Marriott, Chandigarh, for billing two bananas for Rs 442.
Another complaint of charging Rs 1,700 for two boiled eggs by a 5-star hotel in Mumbai has also gone viral.
In the egg incident, a customer, Kartik Dhar, was charged Rs 1,700 for two boiled eggs at the Four Seasons Hotel. The user, who is an author of All The Queen’s Men, captioned the picture, “2 eggs for Rs 1,700 at Four Seasons. Rahul Bose Bhai, Andolan Kare?”
Addressing a Press conference, Paswan said there are complaints and reports in social media about overcharging by some five-star hotels for items like bananas and eggs. The Minister wondered how five-star hotels could charge Rs 442 for two bananas and Rs 1,700 for two eggs when these items were sold in the open market at very cheap rates. “How much they (hotels) will charge for services,” he asked.
Speaking on the sidelines after the Minister’s Press conference, Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava said, “Prima facie, it is an unfair trade practice. As the Minister has directed, we will seek explanations from these hotels.” He further said action would be taken against hotels if they are found indulging in such unfair practices.
The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) had justified the high bills. Defending JW Marriott, FHRAI stated that the hotel did not do anything “illegal” and asserted it did the right thing by charging 18 per cent GST on food and beverages served on the hotel premises.
The FHRAI had argued that unlike a retail store where bananas could be purchased at market price, a hotel offers service, quality, plate, cutlery, accompaniment, sanitised fruit, ambience and luxury, and not just the commodity alone.
The Minister also said that the Government will make rules to check such practices under the Consumer Protection Act that was recently passed by Parliament. Paswan assured that the Centre will within three months frame rules and set up an authority to implement the newly enacted Consumer Protection Act.