The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 18 , 2014
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Capital’s hot price debate over cold drink

A professor from Deoghar was stalked till his hotel and threatened with dire consequences for challenging the inflated price of a bottle of soft drink at a Ranchi shop

A scribe in the capital, who was charged Rs 4 extra on the MRP, chose to remain silent because he had his little daughter in tow during the cool sip

These are not stray incidents, but a retail practice so common in Jharkhand, especially Ranchi, that one forgets that fleecing is a crime and punishable under Indian laws.

Some shops break the price rule with such impunity that they do not even hesitate to issue receipts to customers. A famous eatery chain at Albert Ekka Chowk is also among them.

Sanskrit professor Keshav Kumar was appalled when the guy at Main Road’s Aparna Cold Drinks charged him Rs 12 for a 200ml drink, which is priced at Rs 10, on Sunday.

“I asked him what the extra money was for and he snapped at me, saying it was the cooling fee that a customer must pay. When I refused to pay more than Rs 10, he called up his brother and the two threatened my son and me. We were stalked till the hotel and abused again,” the visitor from Deoghar said.

The situation turned so ugly that a petrified hotel manager requested Kumar to pack up and leave on Monday morning. Not to be bullied thus, the professor approached city SP Anoop Birtharay and on his advice filed a complaint with Chutia police.

Chutia OC Krishna Murari said the matter was resolved after shop owner Manoj Kumar apologised for the “mistake” of his younger brothers.

Not everyone is as plucky. Or, even as lucky.

Homemaker Binita Gupta purchased a 200ml bottle of soft drink from a Kantatoli shop recently and was charged Rs 12 while the MRP printed was Rs 8. “My angry protests only drew sneers and jeers from the shopowner who said I should have asked the price before gulping down the drink. Other customers did not raise their voice. I felt so humiliated,” she recalled.

Subdivisional magistrate Amit Kumar said the practice of charging more than the printed MRP was illegal. “Offenders can be booked under Sections 420 (cheating) and 120 (conspiracy with common intention) of the IPC.”

But, not many would want to go to a police station like Keshav Kumar, let alone do rounds of the court, for a few bucks. So, is there a helpline where one can register grievances?

The SDM replied in the negative.

Lawyer Panchdev Singh said people could petition the consumer forum since the unscrupulous practice was also a punishable offence under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. “However, for this a person must have valid receipts. Evidence is essential,” he added.

Officer-in-charge of Kotwali police station Arwind Kumar Sinha maintained that while the consumer forum was the right place to look for speedy justice, a criminal case could also be registered against rogue shopkeepers based on a customer’s valid complaint.

Should the administration float a helpline to end fleecing? Tell