What can you do if a hotel, restaurant adds service charge to your food bill?

New Delhi: The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) on Monday (July 4, 2022) said that hotels or restaurants can not add service charges automatically or by default to the food bills. The Authority issued guidelines for preventing unfair trade practices and violation of consumer rights with regard to levying of service charge in hotels and restaurants and said no hotel or restaurant can “force” a consumer to pay service charge. The guidelines issued by CCPA also stipulated that the hotels and restaurants shall clearly inform the consumer that service charge is “voluntary, optional and at consumer’s discretion”. 

“No restriction on entry or provision of services based on collection of service charge shall be imposed on consumers. Service charge shall not be collected by adding it along with the food bill and levying GST on the total amount,” the CCPA, which was established on July 24, 2020, to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class, said. 

The guidelines come amid a number of complaints being registered in the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) by consumers with regard to levying of service charges.

The issues raised by consumers included restaurants making service charges compulsory and adding them to the bill by default, suppressing that paying such charges is optional and voluntary, and embarrassing consumers in case they resist paying service charges, the CCPA said.

Restaurants and hotels generally add a service charge of 10 per cent on the food bills.

What can you do if a hotel, restaurant adds service charge to your food bill?

If any consumer finds that a hotel or a restaurant is levying service charges in violation of the above-stated guidelines, he/she can request the concerned hotel or restaurant to remove the service charge from the bill amount. If they don’t do so, the consumer can lodge a complaint on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) by calling 1915 or through the NCH mobile app. NCH, notably, works as an alternate dispute redressal mechanism at the pre-litigation level.

The consumer can also file a complaint against unfair trade practices with the Consumer Commission through e-daakhil portal www.e-daakhil.nic.in. 

The person can also submit a complaint to the District Collector of the concerned district for investigation and subsequent proceeding by the CCPA. The complaint may also be sent to the CCPA by e-mail at com-ccpa@nic.in.

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