Online aggregator BookMyShow (BMS) and theatre chain PVR Cinemas have been penalised by the Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission for levying ‘internet handling charges’ on consumers. The court called these charges unfair.
According to Vijay Gopal, who had filed the case against BookMyShow and PVR Cinemas stated the court order called out BookMyShow for indulging in illegal and unfair trade practice. The court noted collecting an extra charge termed as handling fee is illegal, unless the government had allowed the institutions to do so.
The order also stated that it is the merchant which is PVR that has to pay to the service provider BMS, and not the consumer.
In addition, the Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ordered BMS to shell out Rs 5,000 penalty for this action. And Gopal has been awarded Rs 25,000 compensation and legal charges of Rs 1,000. BMS will have to comply with this order within 45 days.
The IT department of Telegana has also stated that it does not service providers to charge service charges. However, BMS in their website stated the state governments like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana allows Rs 6 per ticket plus applicable facilitation charges for Internet handling charges.
According to a report by The News Minute, the Commission in its order said, “...this Forum is constrained to hold that the additional amount of Rs.41.78/- per two tickets under the head "Internet Handling Charges"...amounts to unfair trade practice as defined under Sec.2(1)of the Consumer Protection Act.
A BookMyShow spokesperson was quoted saying, "BookMyShow is examining the order from the Consumer Forum and will follow the due process of law. BookMyShow has always and will continue to abide by the law of the land and will respond at the appropriate forum, wherever required.”
In 2019, Gopal, an Right to Information (RTI) activist and president of ‘Forum Against Corruption,’ had approached Reserve Bank of India (RBI) about the handling charges. RBI had categorically stated levying an extra 'internet handling fee' against each ticket, is a violation of the RBI's Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) regulations that were issued by the regulator on December 6, 2017.
As per the regulations, the merchant is supposed to pay an amount to the bank against every transaction made by customers using a credit or debit card as per MDR regulations.