Service charges billed by restaurants are optional and it is up to the customers to pay it, said the Department of Consumer Affairs. This has not been received well by Hotels and restaurant owners, who have expressed their dissatisfaction. However, the government’s clarification that service charge on food bill is not compulsory and a dissatisfied customer can choose to have it waived seem to have brought a smile on customers.
‘NOT A GOOD MOVE’
Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations Of India (FHRAI), the apex industry body, also said it will approach the Consumer Affairs Ministry over the matter. ‘It will lead to confusion and quarrels’, FHRAI chairman – Legal Matters Sub-Committee Pradeep Shetty said when asked for comments on the government’s statement on Service charge.
Union Consumer Affairs Ministry said service charge on a food bill is not compulsory and a customer can choose to have it waived if not satisfied with the experience.
The Centre has also asked States to ensure that hotels/ restaurants disseminate this information through displays in their premises.
THE BIG FIGHT
Shetty said ‘service is an individual charge and FHRAI has already told its members that it should be prominently displayed’. ‘We will approach the ministry on this’, he said.
NOT A FAIR MOVE
National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) President Riyaaz Amlani said: ‘As long as service charge is mentioned prominently in the menu, it cannot be termed as unfair or defective practice’.
IN THEIR DEFENSE
Service charge is an above-board practice and there are even judicial pronouncements to support that ‘service charge’ can be charged by hotels and restaurants, he added.
The ministry had stated that it had received a number of complaints from consumers that hotels and restaurants are following the practice of charging ‘service charge’ in the range of 5-20 per cent, in lieu of tips, which a consumer is forced to pay irrespective of the kind of service provided to him.