Consumer Connect: 'No Person Should Be Charged More Than MRP Of Commodity,' Says Expert

Consumer Connect: 'No Person Should Be Charged More Than MRP Of Commodity,' Says Expert

The questions are answered by Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande, Chairman – Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, January 22, 2024, 04:27 PM IST
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I recently travelled from Mandwa Port (Alibaug) to Gateway of India by ro-ro ferry service. We bought coffee, snacks and a sealed bottle of mineral water on board from Meemo's Cafe. The bottle showed MRP as ₹10 but we were charged ₹90. I have the bill for the same. Where do I complain? Will I get a refund for the excess amount collected? How can we stop such practices?

Anagha Achrekar, Dadar 

It is common knowledge that no person is allowed to charge more than the MRP printed on any packaged commodity. Such over-charging is an offence under the Legal Metrology Act & Packaged Commodities Rules. It also constitutes an unfair trade practice as defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. 

You have multiple options to complain. You can complain to the office of the Controller of Legal Metrology at their office in Fountain Telecom Building, seventh floor, Hutatma Chowk along with the bill/cash memo showing you are actually charged 90 and the proof of MRP price on the bottle being being ₹10. In such a case, the legal metrology department will take action against the said café as per law and he would be penalised. 

You can also file a complaint before the district consumer commission for overcharging you and claim a refund of overcharged amount. What is more interesting, you can also request the consumer commission to call for records of this café and to see in how many such cases and how many years this café has been over-charging the customers. The commission can then direct the café to refund such an overcharged amount for the last, say, three years and credit it to the Consumer Welfare Fund maintained by the Maharashtra government. 

You can also approach the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), New Delhi (email ID: ccpadoca@gov.in) to take cognizance of such unfair trade practices by this café and ask them to prevent the continuance of such unfair practices. 

I have filed a case in a district consumer commission in person against a hospital claiming compensation for their several acts of medical negligence, because of which I had to undergo another corrective surgery and other physical and mental hardships besides my leave without pay for more than two months. The fees I paid to the hospital are fully paid by the insurance company. I did not have to pay any amount to the hospital. The hospital has now raised the objection about the maintainability of my complaint in the consumer commission, saying I have not paid any fees and hence I am not a 'consumer'. Is this standard legal? 

Akshay Salgaonkar, Dahisar 

It is absolutely ridiculous for the hospital to take such a stand 1. The definition of the term 'consumer' under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) says, "Consumer means any person who buys the goods or hires the services for a consideration." The definition of 'service' says, "Service of any description which is made available to potential user but does not include rendering of free service." 

In your case, it may be true that you might not have directly paid any sum from your pocket to the hospital and that the insurance company has paid it to the hospital on your behalf. Hence, firstly, it is clear that the service of the hospital you hired/availed was paid for and technically was not "free service" as projected by the hospital. The consideration has been paid by the insurance company on your behalf. 

Secondly, you, too, have paid a premium to the insurance company for obtaining this policy. As such you are a consumer as defined under CPA. Thirdly and most importantly, the Supreme Court, in its landmark judgement in 'Indian Medical Association v/s VP Shantha & others' has very categorically observed in its conclusion (Point No 11) that "services rendered by a medical practitioner or hospital/nursing home cannot be regarded as service rendered free of charge, if the person availing the service has taken an insurance policy for medical care where under the charges for consultation, diagnosis and medical treatment are borne by the insurance company and such services would fall within the ambit of 'service' as defined under CPA". In view of such a categorical assertion by the Supreme Court, the objection raised by your opponent hospital will not be tenable in law. 

(Advocate Shirish V Deshpande is a chairman of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat)

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