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The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) said on Wednesday that the new government guidelines had no legal basis and had created unnecessary confusion among consumers, leading to disruption in the smooth running of restaurants.

“By the very nature of things, the guidelines are for guidance only and in the event that such a change is necessary, there must be either a new law or an amendment to existing laws,” the restaurant lobby says. .

“It is also pertinent to state that additional fees are levied by many other industries, including some government agencies. However, the guidelines are only issued for the restaurant industry,” the body adds. industry.

On Monday, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) said hotels or restaurants will not add a service charge automatically or by default to the food bill.

The guidelines were issued to prevent unfair business practices and the violation of consumer rights with respect to the collection of service charges by hotels and restaurants.

“No collection of service charges shall be made under any other name. No hotel or restaurant shall force a consumer to pay a service charge and shall clearly inform the consumer that the service charge is voluntary, optional and at the discretion of the consumer,” the guidelines state, adding that no restrictions on entry or provision of services based on the collection of service charges shall be imposed on consumers.

The service charge should not be collected by adding it to the food bill and charging GST on the total amount, per the rules.

“If a consumer finds that a hotel or restaurant is charging a service charge in violation of the guidelines, a consumer may ask the hotel or restaurant concerned to remove the service charge from the amount of the bill,” the rules say. .

In addition, the consumer can lodge a complaint with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), which functions as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism at the pre-litigation level by calling 1915 or via the NCH mobile app.

The consumer can also file a complaint for unfair commercial practice with the Consumer Commission. The consumer can also address a complaint to the collector of the borough concerned for investigation and subsequent prosecution by the CCPA.

A number of complaints have been registered with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) by consumers regarding the collection of service charges. Issues raised by consumers include restaurants making service charges mandatory and defaulting them to the bill, removing that payment of these charges is optional and voluntary, and embarrassing consumers in case they resist paying service charges. .

The government had previously expressed displeasure with restaurants allegedly making service charges mandatory, even though such charges are subject to the discretion of the customer.

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