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Don’t pay service charge at restaurants if you aren’t satisfied

Now you can refuse to pay service charge at restaurants if you are not satisfied with the experience. This is a good news for food lovers across the country!

No hotel or restaurant can force its patrons to pay service charges that are “totally voluntary” and not mandatory, the Centre said on Friday in guidelines issued to state governments for implementation.

In the wake of a number of complaints from consumers that they are being forced to pay service charge in the range of 5-20 percent, in lieu of tips, irrespective of the kind of service provided to them, the government has said that a consumer can now refuse to pay the service charge if he/she is not satisfied with their dining experience.

The government had last week asked to remove the service charge voluntary component levied by hotels. In January, the government had asked all the restaurants and hotels to put up notices stating ‘service charge is voluntary’.

However, a senior official made it clear that penalties or stringent action against errant restaurants was not possible at the moment as current laws do not have such provision. The official said that customers could move consumer courts if restaurants force them to pay a service charge.

The Centre was drafting a new Consumer Protection Bill that will have provisions for action against those violating the provisions of the Act. The guidelines make it clear that service charge, tip or gratuity is a “separate transaction between the customer and the staff of the hotel or restaurant, which is entered into, at the customer’s discretion.”

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