Various complaints have been received from consumers that restaurants and hotels charge 'service charge' in the range of 5-20%, in lieu of tips and consumers are forced to pay irrespective of the kind of service they receive. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 explains that a trade practice which uses any deceptive practice or unfair method for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, should be treated as an unfair trade practice and consumers have a right to file a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum established under the Act against such unfair trade practices.
The Hotel Association of India when asked for clarification by the department of Consumer Affairs, Central Government on the issue, replied that the service charge is completely discretionary and if a customer is dissatisfied with the dining experience he/she can have it waived off.
Thus, it is deemed to be accepted voluntarily.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has instructed the State Governments to sensitize companies, hotels and restaurants functioning in the states regarding aforementioned provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 apart from advising Hotels/Restaurants to disseminate information through display at the appropriate place in the hotels/restaurants that payment of 'service charges" are discretionary/ voluntary and if a consumer is dissatisfied with the services he/she can choose not to pay it.