Consumer Connect: 'Noon Check-In And Check-Out In Hotels Is Unfair To Consumers,' Says Expert

Consumer Connect: 'Noon Check-In And Check-Out In Hotels Is Unfair To Consumers,' Says Expert

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

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, December 18, 2023, 12:46 PM IST
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Consumer Connect | FPJ

I wanted to attend a wedding reception in Vadodara on the evening of December 1. I had booked a train from Borivali, which arrived in Vadodara at 6.30am. After the reception, I had the booking at 10pm. I therefore booked a hotel online indicating my check-in at 7am on December 1 and check-out at 9pm the same day. However, I was informed that since check-in and check-out was at noon, I will have to make a booking from the noon of November 30 in order to check in at 7am on December 1 or, alternatively, I can check in at noon on December 1. Being helpless I did the booking from November 30 at noon although my check-in was 7am on December 1. My stay in the hotel was hardly 14 hours (from 7am to 9pm) but I was charged for two days! Is it not a case of overcharging? Is the policy of noon check-in and checkout fair? Why can’t hotels be made to charge customers for 24 hours from the time of actual check-in?

Manisha Puranik, Borivali

You have raised a question of wider consumer interest. It is not only you. There are several such instances where consumers are made to pay for the period they actually do not avail hotel services. Check-in and check-out at noon is the hotel industry’s long-standing practice. In fact over a period of time check-in time has moved down to 2pm and check-out time advanced to 11am or even 10am in some cases. Your case has brought to the fore how unorganised consumers are being exploited by the industry. Surely, prima facie it appears to be Unfair Trade Practice as defined under Consumer Protection Act (CPA, 2019). It also amounts to overcharging since you are charged for two days when you have hardly stayed in the hotel for 14 hours.

I therefore suggest that you take up this issue with Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) set up under CPA, 2019. This authority will investigate and examine whether such practice amounts to an Unfair Trade Practice or not as per CPA, 2019. It will also examine whether such practice is exploitative in nature and violates consumers’ rights. You will be happy to know if the CCPA comes to the conclusion that this constitutes unfair trade practice then the entire hotel industry can be permanently restrained from continuing with it. You may email CCPA at their id: ccpa-doca@gove.in. I assure you that the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) will also try to pursue this issue with the CCPA.

My father died in a car accident. He owned the car. He also had a valid motor insurance policy issued by a private insurance company. The car was not driven by my father but by our driver who also had a valid licence. The insurance policy was with a personal accident benefit with a condition that the owner driver holds a valid driver licence. However, the insurance company has repudiated the claim on the ground that my father was not holding a motor vehicle licence but a motorcycle licence. Actually, the person who was driving the car was holding the valid motor vehicle licence, which is a matter of record of the panchnama. I appealed before the insurance ombudsman. But the ombudsman has upheld the repudiation by the insurance company and dismissed my claim. What legal remedy do I have?

Anay Gogate, Tardeo

The condition of “owner driver” holding a valid licence is the crux of the matter. On perusal of the policy terms, the term “owner driver” has not been defined. In fact, at some places it is used as “Owner Driver” and at some place it is used as “Owner/Driver”. I did not find that the insurance company has made it clear anywhere that the owner must have a valid motor vehicle licence. Hence the contention of the company that the policy was issued for the owner who has to himself drive the car is untenable in the law in the absence any such categorical term in the policy document. It is quite clear that the insurance company is interpreting the term “Owner Driver” for its own benefit, which is clearly impermissible in law. There is a well known rule of interpretation of contract terms called ‘Contra proferentem’. This rule states that an ambiguous contract term, if open to two interpretations, the interpretation that benefits the drafter of the contract has to be rejected by the courts and the drafter cannot be allowed to have benefit of such interpretation. You should therefore challenge the award of the ombudsman before the appropriate district consumer commission.

(The author is the chairman of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat)

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