Written By – Radhika
Recently, Kolkata Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ordered a restaurant to return the service charge it received from a customer along with a compensation amount and held that restaurants cannot forcibly impose service charge on a customer.
The summary of the case states that the complainant and his friends had dinner at Yauatcha Kolkata in late 2018. Even as he voiced his reservations against paying the bill which included the service charge, the manager told him that it is mandatory at their restaurant. To avoid a conflict, the complainant paid the money but afterwards presented the restaurant with a legal notice citing existing regulations and government norms and requesting an apology and 25,000 in compensation.
When the issue was not answered by restaurant, the complainant launched the consumer case against the restaurant for “illegally pocketing service charge.”
A Bench comprising of president Swapan Kumar Mahanty and member Ashok Kumar Ganguly determined that the restaurant’s conduct violated the Consumer Protection Act and Ministry of Consumer Affairs directives, noting that the complainant is a consumer under the former and thereby ruled that stipulating service charge on a restaurant bill is totally voluntary and not mandatory as per the guidelines for Fair Trade Practice issued by the Central government and also ordered the restaurant to return the service charge in full, as well as pay the complainant $13,000 in compensation and legal costs, within 30 days.