Observing that restaurants can’t take a service charge roughly from customers, the Kolkata Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission directed a restaurant to refund the amount imposed as a service charge.
A Bench comprising President Swapan Kumar Mahanty and member Ashok Kumar Ganguly held that imposing a service charge on a restaurant bill is totally voluntary and not mandatory as per the guidelines for Fair Trade Practice issued by the Central government.
The charge is not mandatory as per the guidelines of Fair Trade Practice issued by the Central government. "The OPs must have been aware of the guidelines of Fair Trade Practice relating to charging of service charge from consumers by hotels/restaurants issued by Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, inter alia stipulating that service charge on hotel and restaurant bills is totally voluntary and not mandatory” said by commission.
Therefore, the Commission held that the act of the restaurant insisting on payment of service charge by the complainant was illegal, malafide and contrary to law.
It was the case of the complainant that in late 2018, he and a couple of friends had dinner at Yauatcha Kolkata. Even as he voiced his reservations against paying the bill which included the service charge, the manager told him that it is mandatory at their restaurant, the report stated.
To avoid a confrontation, the complainant paid the money but later served the restaurant a legal notice, citing existing provisions and government guidelines and asking for an apology and Rs 25,000 as compensation. When the same was not attended to, the complainant filed the instant consumer case against the restaurant for "illegally pocketing service charge", the report added.
The Bench noted that though notice was served, no written statement in reply was filed by the restaurant.
Accordingly, the restaurant was directed to refund the service charge in full as well as pay Rs 13,000 as compensation and litigation charges to the complainant within 30 days.
The Bench finally reasoned that the restaurant's conduct was against the directions of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, observing that the complainant is a consumer as per the former.