Hotel can’t sell bottled water at higher price: Consumer forum

The Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has quashed an appeal by a chain of hotels and a manufacturer of bottled water,who had challenged a local consumer court’s order restraining them from charging extra for 1-litre bottles.

Written by AADITI JATHAR LAKADE | Pune | Published: February 22, 2012 2:32 am

The Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has quashed an appeal by a chain of hotels and a manufacturer of bottled water,who had challenged a local consumer court’s order restraining them from charging extra for 1-litre bottles. This may come as a relief to consumers who have been shelling out extra for bottled water — usually available at Rs 15 per litre — at malls,multiplexes and hotels.

The case dates back to January 23,2009,when Prahlad Narhar Padalikar from Alibaug was travelling on business with his friend Amit Nare. They stopped at Kamat Hotel near Karnal bird sanctuary at Chinchvan in Raigad district on Mumbai-Goa Highway and purchased a one-litre bottle of Oxyrich along with snacks and paid Rs 25 for the bottle. However,Padalikar later realised that the same brand of bottled water was available for Rs 15 elsewhere,with no difference in quality or quantity.

Padalikar moved the Raigad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum against Vitthal Kamat of Kamat Hotels and Rasiklal Dhariwal of Pune-based Dhariwal Industries Limited (the makers of Oxyrich) on January 29,2009,through his lawyer. The district forum,in its order,directed Kamat Hotels and Dhariwal Industries not to sell the brand at a price higher than elsewhere.

Kamat Hotels and Dhariwal Industries challenged this order in the state consumer forum. Kamat Hotels,represented by advocate U B Wavikar,contended that the bottle mentioned the MRP as Rs 25. Also,visitors to the hotel enjoy its ambience,which is maintained by the management,but guests are not charged extra. The hotel,however,categorically mentioned that the said price does not include any constituent for service rendered at their premises.

Dhariwal Industries through its lawyers Indrajeet Kulkarni and Milind Nakashe,submitted to the court that the particular Oxyrich water bottle was from the batch that is ‘specially packed for Kamat Hotel’ and also carries a tag stating the same. It added that ‘pricing’ cannot be a matter of consumer dispute. The company,however,could not come up with any distinguishable features in terms of quality,purity,quantity or any special treatment during manufacturing process which could justify higher pricing.

The state forum calculated the price of each bottle from the batch of 9,000 bottles supplied to Kamat Hotels and inferred that the price of each bottle was just Rs 10.75 after adding central VAT,cess,and equalized freight,as the basic price mentioned was Rs 57,045 including VAT.

“…It is a case of selling the bottle at much higher price,which is unconscionable conduct,just to exploit the consumer i.e. the complainant,who was required to buy Oxyrich water bottle of one litre from the hotel by paying Rs 10 more for each bottle than what he could have spent to purchase the same elsewhere,” the state forum bench of presiding member S R Khanzode and member Narendra Kawde observed in its order. The forum added,“The stamping ‘Specially packed for M/s. Kamat Hotel’ is equally misleading and misrepresenting…it appears to be a device,chosen to earn more profit.”

The court dismissed the appeals filed by Kamat Hotels and Dhariwal Industries earlier this month after finding them to be ‘devoid of substance’.

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