It is illegal for restaurants and eateries to levy a service charge, the department of consumer affairs reiterated on Saturday. The department even advised the diners to approach the consumer courts if they are charged for service. In April, the department issued guideline prohibiting eateries from levying a service charge and, instead, left it to the discretion of the customers.
Avinash K Shrivastava, secretary, department of consumers affairs said that the service charge is something like a tip which is voluntary on the part of the consumer.
“We issued guidelines to this effect on service charges in April. The consumers should move a consumer court if they find violation. They can come to us also and we can guide them on how to go about against those violating the guidelines. Our role is of mediation and persuasion,” he told Hindustan Times.
“Under best practices, we have written in the advisory that a column should be left on the bill, and customer to decide how he wants to pay, it’s something hotel cannot decide. Guidelines to this effect were issued on April 23,” informed Shrivastava.
In disregard to the guidelines issued by the government two months back, many eateries, restaurants and other food joints continue to levy service charge on customers. The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) argued that restaurants charging service charge were not violating the law.
Prakul Kumar, secretary general, NRAI, told in a written statement, “Guidelines are not laws. The present statements by the government are causing unnecessary confusion in public, which is adversely affecting the smooth functioning of restaurants. It is once again reiterated that as of now levy of service charge by restaurants is legal and does not violate provisions of the law.