New Delhi, January 3: A strong disagreement has sprung between industry and government body after the Department of Consumer Affairs reiterated on Monday that paying service charge is optional for customers.
Meanwhile National Restaurant Association of India in reply has said the statement will affect around 8.5 million employees associated with the food service industry. Riyaaz Amlani, President of NRAI criticised the government’s move and said that customers who are not willing to pay service charges are free to not choose the service.
He said: If this kind of statement is made without application of mind it will be extremely detrimental to the employees. It is not just the owner but all the employees who are associated with a restaurant including the dishwasher, the caretaker, the toilet cleaner, all depend on service charge. How can you take away their livelihood without application.
Currently, restaurants and eatries 5- 20 % service charge over the bill from the customers. The DCA on Monday issued a statement saying that customers dissatisfied with service at any hotel or restaurant can opt for the service charge not being levied, as this is optional or discretionary.
Amlani in a relpy said, “It is a matter of policy for a restaurant to decide if service charge is to be levied or not.” He further said information regarding service charge is clearly mentioned by restaurants on their menu cards so customers are well aware of this charge before availing the services and can use their discretion of not using the facility offered by the restaurant.
The decision was taken in lieu of complaints received from consumers that they were “forced to pay irrespective of the kind of service provided”, the department said.
“This decision is a double-edged sword. If the same becomes voluntary then the salaries will have to be renegotiated and the whole industry would go into a tizzy,” Shivam Bhaskar, owner of Number 31 said.
A clarification was sought from the Hotel Association of India which replied that the “service charge is completely discretionary and should a customer be dissatisfied with the dining experience they can have it waived off”, as per the department.
The department has asked the state governments to advise hotels and restaurants to disseminate information, such as through displays, that “the service charges are discretionary or voluntary” and to sensitise the companies, hotels and restaurants regarding provisions of the Act.