Hotels and restaurants can not levy service charge automatically or by default on food bills, ruled the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) on Monday. The CCPA added that consumers can lodge complaints on National Consumer Helpline number 1915 against hotels/restaurants charging service charges.
Amid rising complaints, the CCPA has issued guidelines for preventing unfair trade practices and violations of consumer rights with regard to levying of service charge.
As per the guidelines, “No hotels or restaurants shall add service charge automatically or by default in the bill.”
There should not be any collection of service charge by any other name, it added.
No hotel or restaurant can force a consumer to pay a service charge. They have to clearly inform the consumer that the service charge is voluntary, optional and at the consumer’s discretion.
“No restriction on entry or provision of services based on a collection of service charge shall be imposed on consumers,” the guideline said.
Further, service charge cannot be collected by adding it along with the food bill and levying GST on the total amount.
If any consumer finds that a hotel or restaurant is levying a service charge in violation of the guidelines, s/he can request the concerned establishment to remove it from the bill amount.
Consumers can also lodge a complaint on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), which works as an alternate dispute redressal mechanism at the pre-litigation level, by calling 1915 or through the NCH mobile app.
They can also file complaints with the Consumer Commission.