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Service charges in restaurants not mandatory: Government

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NEW DELHI: The government on Monday said that restaurants billing ‘service charges’ in addition to taxes is optional and the consumer has discretion to pay ‘service charge’ or not.

The Department of Consumer Affairs in a notification asked the states to “advise the Hotels and Restaurants to disseminate information through display at the appropriate place in the hotels and restaurants that the “service charges” are discretionary and voluntary and a consumer dissatisfied with the services can have it waived off”.

The move came in the wake of a number of complaints that hotels and restaurants are following the practice of charging “service charge” in the range of 5-20 per cent, in lieu of tips, which a consumer is forced to pay irrespective of the kind of service provided to him.

Following the complaints the department of Consumer Affairs called for clarification from the Hotel Association of India, which have replied that the service charge is completely discretionary and should a customer be dissatisfied with the dining experience he or she can have it waived off. Therefore, it is deemed to be accepted voluntarily.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides that a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or the supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or deceptive practice, is to be treated as an unfair trade practice and that a consumer can make a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum established under the Act against such unfair trade practices.

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Videocon Case: SEBI issues notice to ICICI Bank, CEO Chanda Kochhar

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ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar

Mumbai, May 25: Private lender ICICI Bank on Friday said that Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has sought responses from the company and its MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar on alleged non-compliance of the “erstwhile ‘Listing Agreement’ and the ‘Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015′”.

According to a BSE filing, SEBI sought the reply via a notice issued to the private lender and its MD and CEO on May 24.

As per the securities market regulator’s LODR regulations, all listed entities are mandated to immediately disclose relevant and important information to stock exchanges.

“The MD and CEO and the bank received a notice from SEBI on May 24, 2018… requiring responses on matters relating to alleged non-compliance with certain provisions of the erstwhile ‘Listing Agreement’ and the SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015′,” the filing said.

“The notice has been issued based on information furnished by the bank or its MD and CEO to diverse queries made by SEBI concerning dealings between the bank and Videocon Group and certain dealings allegedly between Videocon Group and Nupower, an entity in which Deepak Kochhar spouse of MD and CEO has economic interests.”

The bank said that appropriate responses would be submitted to SEBI in accordance with regulation.

The SEBI notice comes more than a month after nepotism and conflict of interest allegations were levelled against Kochhar. It has been alleged that Kochhar had wrongfully granted a loan to Videocon Group and that her husband’s company — NuPower Renewables — received a loan from the Videocon Group’s Chariman Venugopal Dhoot on a quid pro quo basis.

Chanda Kochhar on May 7 had said that private lender works under and abides by all regulatory norms and that it has been fully cooperating with regulatory and investigative agencies.

On March 29, ICICI Bank Chairman M.K. Sharma had said that reports alleging nepotism by Kochhar were unfounded and malicious in nature.

Saying that ICICI Bank’s exposure to the Videocon Group (Videocon Industries and 12 of its subsidiaries or associates as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation programme and for the group’s oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs 40,000 crore was less than 10 per cent.

Sharma had asserted that no individual bank employee has the ability to influence decisions of the credit committee.

He clarified that none of “the investors of NuPower Renewables are borrowers of ICICI Bank” and that Kochhar did not chair the committee that had lent to Videocon.

In addition, Sharma said at the press briefing that Kochhar has been making all her disclosures in accordance with the regulatory guidelines under the Companies Act and the Banking Act.

Sharma revealed that the bank has ‘satisfactorily’ replied to the questions of all the regulators, which he described as an ongoing process between “a regulated entity like a bank and the regulators and other government departments”.

In 2012, a consortium of 20 banks and financial institutions sanctioned credit facilities to the Videocon Group for a debt consolidation programme and for its oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating to approximately Rs 40,000 crore.

IANS

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Equity indices rise as oil prices fall

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Mumbai, May 25: A fall in global crude oil prices and value buying lifted the key Indian equity indices on Friday.

As per the exchanges’ data, robust buying support was seen in oil and gas, auto and banking stocks.

However, geopolitical uncertainties after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the planned talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un capped gains.

At 3.30 p.m., the wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) provisionally closed at 10,605.15 points, up 91.30 points or 0.87 per cent from the previous close of 10,513.85 points.

Similarly, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, which had opened at 34,753.47 points, closed at 34,924.87 points (3.30 p.m.) — up 261.76 points or 0.76 per cent — from its previous session’s close of 34,663.11 points.

The Sensex touched a high of 35,017.93 and a low of 34,700.52 points. The BSE market breadth was bullish with 1,635 advances and 1,001 declines.

The major gainers on the BSE were ONGC, Tata Steel, Yes Bank, IndusInd Bank and Adani Ports while Coal India, ITC, State Bank of India (SBI), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and ICICI Bank were the major losers.

On the NSE, the top gainers were IndianOil, Indiabulls Housing Finance and Hindalco Industries. The major losers were Bharti Infratel, Tech Mahindra and Coal India.

IANS

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Samsung must pay Apple $539mn in patent lawsuit: US court

Under the US patent law, infringement of a design patent can result in a plaintiff receiving total profits made through the product.

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San Francisco, May 25 (IANS) A US court has finally asked Samsung to pay $539 million to Apple for copying patented iPhone designs, after the two giants got entangled in a legal battle in 2011.

According to a report in Fortune late Thursday, Samsung was found liable in the initial verdict in 2012 and was initially asked to pay over $1 billion to Apple but the amount was later reduced in further court hearings.

Under the US patent law, infringement of a design patent can result in a plaintiff receiving total profits made through the product.

Samsung’s lawyers appealed the case, bringing down the compensation of $1 billion to $400 million in 2015 at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

This time, a jury in a northern California US district court in San Jose deliberated for five days to decide the fresh penalty in a case that alleged that Samsung’s Android handsets used design elements stolen from the iPhone maker.

“We’re grateful to the jury for their service and pleased they agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products,” Apple said in a statement.

“This case has always been about more than money. Apple ignited the smartphone revolution with iPhone and it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design. It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple,” the statement said.

Samsung, however, was displeased with the verdict.

“Today’s decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favoor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages,” Samsung said in its statement.

“We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers,” reported The Registrar, quoting the statement from the South Korean giant.

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