The government, on 2 January, stated that restaurants' billing 'service charges' in addition to taxes are optional. This will give an option to the customer - whether he wants to pay service charge or not.
The Department of Consumer Affairs in a notification asked the states to "advise the Hotels and Restaurants to disseminate information through display at the appropriate place in the hotels and restaurants that the "service charges" are discretionary and voluntary and a consumer dissatisfied with the services can have it waived off".
The government reached this decision after receiving a number of complaints that the hotels and restaurants are charging as much as 20% service charge and the customer is forced to pay.
After the complaints, Consumer Affairs called for clarification from the Hotel Association of India, which have replied that the service charge is completely discretionary. If the customer is unhappy with the service, he/she can have it waived off.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provides that a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or the supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or deceptive practice, is to be treated as an unfair trade practice and that a consumer can make a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum established under the Act against such unfair trade practices.