Court quenches consumer complaint

The State Consumer Redressal Commission pulled up Kamat Hotels for overpricing bottled water and scamming buyers

The State Consumer Redressal Commission upheld a District Forum order preventing Oxyrich, which retails at Rs 15 from being sold at Rs 25 at Kamat Hotels, a restaurant chain across the state that was overpricing customers.

This picture has been used for representational purposes only

On January 23, 2009, businessman Pralhad Padalikar, the original complainant in the case, stopped at a Kamat Hotel near Karnala Bird Sanctuary on the Mumbai-Goa Highway, along with his friend Amit Nare and his driver. Here they purchased some snacks and tea and a bottle of Oxyrich drinking water, which he noticed mentioned the maximum retail price as Rs 25.

A frequent traveller, Padalikar noticed that the same bottle was sold for Rs 15 in other places. It was brought to the court's attention that this was a ploy on the part of the manufacturer and the restaurant that distributed it, both of which made an appeal.

A label on the bottle that read 'Specially packed for Kamat Hotels' justified the reason for this mark up in price however, a bench comprising of judges S R Khanzode and the Narendra Kawde observed that the 'ambience' provided by a dhaba like Kamat was not enough to make it a 'hotel', which under certain conditions, is allowed to charge extra for the services it provides.

They contended that sales tax had been paid on the price and that the pricing was not the subject of a consumer dispute and was hence outside the court's purview. Dismissing the appeal, the court observed that apart from the labelling difference and the price, there was no difference in quality between the water and called the appellants' conduct 'unconscionable'.

The court further observed that the label was "misleading and misrepresenting since it has no nexus with either quality, quantity, purity or service or any other special warranties... and was adopting unfair trade practice to exploit the consumer."

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