It may have been a big win for Hyderabad-based Vijay Gopal against INOX for unfair trade practices, but almost all the multiplexes in the city continue to sell products at exorbitant prices.
Recalling the incident, Vijay, an anti-corruption activist, says, “They asked me to leave the water bottle that I had bought in the same mall premises stating security reasons. They also gave me a token for keeping the bottle in the cloak area and asked me to collect it while going back home.”
However, he says, “The practice of not allowing customers to carry outside water bottles into the screening area is a restrictive trade practice where INOX creates a manipulative environment to push customers into buying water bottles at double their actual cost.”
It was in 2016 that Vijay Gopal had filed a petition with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) against INOX multiplex for the unfair trade practice of charging its customers more than the MRP within its premises.
Giving a judgement in favour of Vijay, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal (NCDR) Commission, New Delhi, directed the INOX Multiplex management at GVK One Mall to provide water bottles to its customers strictly at the prescribed maximum retail price only and also to provide ‘free’ purified water dispensers near the entrances/exits of screens and other convenient areas. As ordered by the District Forum, the complainant was also entitled to an amount of Rs 5,000 in compensation and Rs 1,000 in costs.
Interestingly, the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs had amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 effectively banning dual MRP from January 1, 2018. The government has now added the following clause under rule 18 which states, “Unless otherwise specifically provided under any other law, no manufacturer or packer or importer shall declare different maximum retail prices on an identical pre-packaged commodity by adopting restrictive trade practices or unfair trade practices as defined under clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”
In spite of all the warnings however, the practice is still prevalent. This is not the first time that Vijay Gopal, the complainant in this case, has approached the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. Last year, he filed a complaint against two movie theatres, Tarakarama Theatre and Venkataramana Theatre at Kachiguda in Hyderabad for selling food products above MRP.
Warnings go in vain
Despite rules being stipulated for cinema halls, particularly multiplexes not to sell a product exceeding its MRP, a majority of them still sell water, cold drinks and popcorn at exorbitant prices to the people. Each of the popcorn buckets costs between Rs 250 and Rs 300 in a small container.
“It has become a habit for me to buy popcorn and cold drinks when I go to watch movies at multiplexes. But for many, the price tags can be a deterrent. Last week, the price of a large drink at PVR was over Rs 200 plus taxes. It is sad that even after repeated consumer pleas and government directives, these multiplexes are raking in money like this,” says Joy Mukherjee, a manager with an MNC.
Ecohing the same thoughts, Bhargava Rama Sharma, a software professional who recently visited AMB Cinemas, says, “I spent Rs 350 on popcorn and Rs 50 for a water bottle which we get for Rs 20 outside. I was shocked to see the prices when I visited AMB mall recently. But there is no control on the price of food items in most of the multiplexes.”
More than MRP
Last year too, the Legal Metrology Department conducted special raids after receiving several complaints from the people about cinema halls charging more than MRP. Shah Ghouse in Hyderabad was also fined `10,000 by the Legal Metrology Department for charging more than the MRP for a soft drink. Same was the case with The Sarvi Hotel at Banjara Hills which was fined `20,000 after it charged a customer `40 for bottled water that had an MRP of `20....