Hyderabad: Restaurants in Hyderabad have been accused of collecting exorbitant service charges from consumers. A Twitter user’s complaint on excessive service charges levied by restaurants without customers’ knowledge has whipped up a storm.

It began with businessman Mohammed Sabuwala’s tweet, which said that the newly inaugurated United Kitchens of India restaurant in Karkhana was charging extra money in the name of service charges. “Another case of earning extra bucks in form of service charges without informing the consumer! When my wife asked for a refund they shamelessly denied and she had to fight for it!,” said his tweet, referring to Sabuwala’s visit to the joint on December 28.

Attached to his tweet is a photo of the bill, which showed how the restaurant had charged an additional Rs 127 in the name of ‘Optional service Charge’. Speaking to NewsMeter about the incident, Mohammed Sabuwala said, “Upon confronting, firstly the waiter denied to refund and later wanted to give a credit note of sorts, but my wife stood her ground and asked for a refund as she had paid in cash. After about 10 minutes of not leaving the premise, the restaurant manager noticed that the whole restaurant might turn against them and they suddenly decided to refund. The questions really here is, why would you slap these extra charges without even informing the customer?”

The consumer said that this is not the first time he had faced such issues. “Same issues had happened with Soda Bottleopenerwala as well. Firstly, there is no detailed information in any of restaurants on these optional charges and every time the customer pays the bills, they never really checks. It is okay for anyone to collect optional charges but they should be completely voluntary and the customer should be made well aware of. Imagine the plight of Hyderabadis who hardly checks their bill and they end up paying so much extra money to these restaurants,” said Mohammed, who had registered a complaint with Consumer Helpline following the incident.

Sai Teja, an activist with Forum Against Corruption, also tweeted in support. “Good Job, Questioning will definitely solve the problem. and You have Proved that, we urge citizens not to remain calm when they come across such kind of unfair trade practise,” he said.

An official associated with Telangana State Consumer Redressal Cell said, “Imposing service charges on customers without prior knowledge is illegal. Consumers can give these service charges only if they want. It is optional, like a tip. Usually, restaurants are supposed to mention that they levy service charges in big boards or the menu.”

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

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