Lack of awareness amongst customers enables restaurants to charge for service
Restaurants in Bengaluru continue to charge for services they provide to their customers. They do not inform customers about service charges and directly add those to the bills. The guidelines issued by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) states, “restaurants and hotels are levying service charge in the bill by default, without informing consumers that paying such charge is voluntary and optional.” ”
Koushik Chatterjee, a regular customer of Bangalore eateries said, “I am unaware of the law. Therefore, I never asked them to remove service charges.” He also mentioned that restaurants have not informed him regarding this, so he has always paid the amount.
Rahul Agarwal, another customer in Church Street said, “The amount payable on account of service charge is minimal so even if we notice we just let it go, we do not bother to ask the manager to remove service charges from the bill.”
Consumers do notice service charges added to their bill, but they do not ask to remove it because they are not informed by restaurants that they have the option to opt-out of service charges. Moreover, this results in the customers not realizing that service charges are around 7.5 percent of their bill. “The casual attitude of consumers towards service charges actually enables restaurants to directly add charges into the bill,” said PriyankaY, advocate and expert in consumer rights.
Vivek, Assistant Manager in a Restobar on Church Street said, ” If customers ask to remove the charges, we do remove them but we first add them to the bill and remove only if they ask to do so.” However, another customer added, “When we ask restaurants to not put service charges, managers say that all customers are uniformly charged and none of them have asked to remove, which is why they will not remove it.”
“I was charged 7.5 percent service charges twice, once in my food bill and again separately in my bar bill at a restaurant in Koramangala. When I asked them to remove it, they refused to do so,” said Samyukta, another customer. However, Priyanaka said, “customers have the liberty to decide the amount of service charges they want to pay, even if restaurants have display boards stating they bill service charges.”
Assistant Manager of a restaurant on Church Street confirmed, “Yes, we do charge service charges from customers and we know the guidelines as well, but none of the customers have ever asked us to remove it from the bill, so we still charge our customers.”
Priyanka concluded, “No law in India allows restaurants to charge for services they offer to their customers. It is solely up to customers to decide whether they want to opt for service charges or not.”