The decision to start a helpline for consumers to register complaints against shopkeepers fleecing them has backfired, as half of complaints lodged in the recent past proved to be bogus upon verification, said the officials of the District Legal Metrology Department (LMD).
LMD officials have the authority to book and take legal action against shopkeepers, if found charging customers above the maximum retail price (MRP) of the product. They said 16 of the 35 complaints they received in the last six months were registered out of personal or professional grievances. Investigation into the remaining eight complaints is underway.
The department started the helpline in 2010 with an intention to empower consumers to take on errant shopkeepers, who fleece them either by overcharging or downsizing the quantity of the product.
“Upon receiving complaints, our patrolling teams personally visit the shops to verify the claims made by the complainants. We order for the same product the person had mentioned in his complaints to check whether the problem exists. But in the last six months, only 11 out 35 complaints turned out to be genuine,” said LMD Assistant Controller H S Chate.
He added that many a time, a customer and a shopkeeper may not share a cordial relationship and just to harass the latter, the customers implicates the shopkeeper by registering a false complaint on the helpline.
Chate said that every year the department collected the major share of its revenue from the bogus packaged commodities. In the last six months, the department has earned Rs 56.60 lakh in fines from 24 cases of bogus packaging. “Packaging in the absence of consumers often leads to distortion of quality or quantity.
We impose heavy fines on shopkeepers who indulge in such malpractices such as erasing or rewriting the original price of the product,” he said. Chate informed that most of the bogus packaging incidents were observed at the shops located along the highways.
He, however, expressed his inability to take action against hotels and restaurants located on the highways that sold the food items above their MRP. “A Delhi High Court directive has relieved hotels from checks and investigations, stating that they are service providers and therefore can’t come under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009.” said Chate.