A prepackaged product cannot have two MRPs: The Tribune India

Pushpa Girimaji

Last month I bought a bottle of water at an airport for which I was charged Rs40. When I protested and said it only cost 10 rupees, the shopkeeper showed me the MRP on the packaging – it was 40 rupees! He said that due to high airport store rents, he was allowed to sell water at that rate. It’s so unfair – they don’t allow us to carry water from home or outside the airport, and at the airport we are cheated. Where can I complain?

This is illegal and constitutes a violation of the rules of legal metrology (packaged goods). Please file a complaint with your state Department of Legal Metrology. You should be aware that in order to curb such practices, the Department of Consumer Affairs has prohibited this double pricing of packaged goods through an amendment to the Packaged Goods (PC) Rules. In accordance with the amendment, notified June 23, 2017, Rule 18(2A) states: “Except as otherwise provided by another law, no manufacturer, packer or importer shall declare different maximum retail prices for an identical prepackaged product engaging in restrictive business practices or unfair business practices.” This came into effect on January 1, 2018. So obviously the retailer was selling water at a differential price, in violation of PC rules. You can find contact details for legal metrology services in all states and union territories on the Union Department of Consumer Affairs website.

You should be aware that Rule 6 of the PC Rules makes it mandatory to display the maximum retail price on all prepackaged goods. Rule 18(2) also prohibits the sale of such goods at a price above the MRP. Yet retailers at airports, malls and multiplexes were charging more than MRP in violation of the rules. This not only prompted legal action by the Department of Legal Metrology, but also led many consumers to seek redress against these excessive prices in consumer courts. Following these developments, manufacturers began declaring two different prices on their packages – those sold at airports, movie theatres, shopping malls and similar venues had a much higher MRP printed on them. This way, retailers in these locations could not be tricked into selling above the MRP.

Obviously, this irritated consumers and many began to question this dual pricing policy. In Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Vs Siddharth Manchanda (FA 299 of 2014), the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Dehradun held that such double pricing was not prohibited by law. The concept of dual pricing is legally confirmed and recognized by law, the commission said, while nullifying the compensation awarded to the consumer by the district commission in such a case (FA No. 299 of 2014, decided on July 21, 2017 ).

However, the National Consumer Dispute Redress Commission took a different view in Big Cinemas and Another Vs Manoj Kumar. Here, the District Commission had ordered the opposing parties to refund the excess amount of Rs 14 charged on a bottle of Aquafina and to pay Rs 5,000 as compensation and Rs 1,500 as costs to the consumer. The MRP on the water bottle was Rs30 in the cinema hall, while outside it was Rs16.

The National Commission upheld the District Commission’s order and ordered the petitioners to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh to the commission’s legal aid account. Referring to this dual pricing, the Supreme Consumer Court said that there cannot be two MRPs unless permitted by law. It also invited the Centre’s Legal Metrology Service to investigate and act against this double price (RP n° 2038 of 2015, decided on February 1, 2016).

Following the order, the Legal Metrology Service wrote to all the states about it, but obviously, without the backing of the law, they could do nothing. Thus, the Union Consumer Affairs Department amended PC rules to prohibit such double pricing of identical products.

Can I seek redress in consumer court?

While the Legal Metrology Service will take action in accordance with the Legal Metrology Act, you may seek compensation for charging you double price in violation of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Goods) rules.

Comments are closed.