A pre-packaged product cannot have two MRPs : The Tribune India

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A pre-packaged product cannot have two MRPs

A pre-packaged product cannot have two MRPs

Photo for representational purpose only. - iStock file photo



Pushpa Girimaji

Last month, I purchased a bottle of water at an airport for which I was charged Rs40. When I protested and said it costs only Rs10, the shopkeeper showed me the MRP on the package — it was Rs40! He said because of the high rents for shops at the airport, he was allowed to sell water at that rate. This is so unfair — they don’t allow us to carry water from home or outside the airport, and at the airport, we are fleeced. Where can I complain?

This is illegal and a violation of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules. Please complain to the Department of Legal Metrology in your state. You must know that in order to curb such practices, the Consumer Affairs Department prohibited such dual pricing of packed goods through an amendment to the Packaged Commodities (PC) Rules. As per the amendment, notified on June 23, 2017, Rule 18 (2A) says: “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.” This came into effect from January 1, 2018. So, obviously, the retailer was selling water at a differential price, in violation of the PC Rules. You can find the contact details of legal metrology departments of all states and union territories on the website of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

You must know that Rule 6 of the PC Rules makes display of the maximum retail price mandatory on all pre-packed goods. Rule 18 (2) also prohibits the sale of such goods at a price higher than the MRP. Yet, retailers at airports, malls and multiplexes were charging more than the MRP in violation of the rules. This not only invited legal action from the Department of Legal Metrology, but also led to many consumers seeking redress against such overpricing before the consumer courts. Following these developments, the manufacturers started declaring two different prices on their packages — those sold at airports, cinema halls, malls and other such places had a much higher MRP printed on it. So that way, retailers at these places could not be hauled up for selling at a price higher than the MRP.

Obviously, this irritated consumers and many started questioning 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 dual pricing was not prohibited by law. The concept of dual pricing is judicially upheld and legislatively recognised, the commission held, while setting aside the compensation given to the consumer by the District Commission in one such case (FA No 299 of 2014, decided on July 21, 2017).

However, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held a different view in Big Cinemas and Another Vs Manoj Kumar. Here the District Commission had directed the opposite parties to refund the excess amount of Rs14 charged on a bottle of Aquafina and pay Rs5,000 as compensation and Rs1,500 as costs to the consumer. The MRP on the bottle of water was Rs30 at the cinema hall, while outside it was Rs16.

The National Commission upheld the order of the District Commission and ordered the petitioners to pay a fine of Rs5 lakh to the legal aid account of the commission. Referring to such dual pricing, the apex consumer court said there cannot be two MRPs, unless permitted under the law. It also urged the Legal Metrology Department at the Centre to investigate and take action against such dual pricing (RP No 2038 of 2015, decided on February 1, 2016).

Following the order, the Legal Metrology Department wrote to all states on the issue, but obviously, without the backing of the law, they could not take any action. So the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs amended the PC Rules to prohibit such dual pricing of identical commodities.

Can I seek redress before the consumer court?

While the Legal Metrology Department will take action as per the Legal Metrology Act, you can seek compensation for overcharging you with a dual price in violation of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules.


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