Seven in every 10 complaints about consumer rights are regarding higher prices than the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) charged on soft drinks and water bottles in most of Dhaka’s cafes and restaurants.
The MRP for a 500ml water bottle and most bottled soft drinks costs Tk15, but most restaurants charge customers higher than the MRP.
Out of the total 16,814 complaints received related to consumer rights over the last two years, 70% were because the prices charged were higher than the MRP for soft drinks and water bottles, according to data collected by the Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection (DNCRP).
“As the younger community are becoming more aware, they are filing complaints increasingly about the issue of owners charging prices higher than MRP for coke and water bottles,” said DNCRP Deputy Director Monjur Mohammad Shahriar.
Are complaints another way of scamming?
According to restaurant owners, the customers are making it a habit of filing complaints so that they can recover money from the directorate. Instead of asking the restaurants to charge them less for water and coke bottles, they are directly filing complaints to DNCRP in hopes of receiving more money.
The complainants are making a business out of it, said the owners.
Farabi and his friends went to Banani’s Oitijjho Biryani House where a bottle of soft drink that usually cost Tk16 was charged Tk20. Riasat complained to DNCRP about the higher price. After investigating the allegation, the restaurant owner was fined Tk3,000.
According to DNCRP law, the complainant receives 25% of the fine upon payment. Riasat received his due share of the fine as his allegation was proven.
When asked, manager of Oitijjho Biryani, Morshed Alam said: “We buy it at Tk14 from wholesalers, and there are other costs to run the restaurant as well. That is why we used to charge higher. But we do not charge higher prices anymore.”
Journalist Arafat Munna is another such consumer who filed a complaint against Pizza Garden, a restaurant in Moghbazar, for keeping Tk20 for soft drinks instead of an MRP of Tk15. Upon a hearing, the directorate fined the restaurant with Tk20,000 and Arafat received Tk5,000 of it.
Nowadays, the consumers are constantly filing complaints in case of a violation of rights, mainly because of the hassle-free provisions for filing complaints online.
DNCRP to punish any offender for various consumer rights violations
According to DNCRP data, most of the complaints from customers were regarding quality of consumer goods, their expiration dates and higher prices.
Deputy Director Shahriar said: “We are implementing strict measures to ensure that the young people are not taking this as fun. For that reason, we have installed a system where one person cannot make multiple complaints against the same issue.”
“However, many restaurant owners are complaining that young people are abusing the system, although we are yet to receive any evidence on the issue,” he added.
When asked on the pattern of other complaints, DNCRP officials said that it differs – from sale of banned piranha fish, sale of expired goods, sale of products in higher prices than MRP to food manufacturing in unhealthy environment, mixing colours in foods, etc.
“We expect to bring all kinds of products and services under our jurisdiction where we can punish any offender for all kinds of consumer rights violations,” said Shahriar.