New government regulations prohibit the levying of service fees by hotels and restaurants  

According to a decision by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) on Monday, hotels and restaurants are not permitted to add a service charge automatically or by default to meal bills. The CCPA also stated that customers can complain about hotels and restaurants that impose service fees by calling the National Consumer Helpline at (800) 1915.

The CCPA has released recommendations for combating unfair business practises and abuses of consumer rights with relation to the imposition of service charges in response to an increase in complaints, according to news agency PTI.

The CCPA has issued five major guidelines regarding the levy of service charge by restaurants and hotels, which has for long been a contentious issue and has periodically triggered complaints from consumers. The guidelines say:

No hotels or restaurants are allowed to automatically or by default include a service charge in the bill, according to the rules.

It further said that service charges should not be collected under any other names.

No hotel or eatery has the right to demand a service fee from a customer. They must expressly tell the customer that the service charge is optional, voluntary, and up to them to decide whether to pay it.

The policy stated that consumers would not be subject to any access restrictions or service provision limitations based on the collection of service fees.

Additionally, the service fee cannot be collected by including it in the meal bill and adding GST to the final total.

Any customer can ask the relevant institution to deduct the service fee from the bill amount if they discover that a hotel or restaurant is charging one in contravention of the rules.

The CCPA has issued guidelines under Section 18 (2) (I) of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

The guidelines are in addition to the Centre’s 2017 guidelines which prohibit the levy of service charge on consumers by hotels and restaurants, and terms the charging for anything other than “the prices displayed on the menu card along with the applicable taxes” without “express consent” of the customer as “unfair trade practices”.

Call 1915 or use the NCH mobile app to file a complaint with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), which serves as an alternative dispute resolution method prior to litigation.

Additionally, they are able to complain to the Consumer Commission.