On Friday, The Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission penalised online aggregator BookMyShow and theatre chain PVR Cinemas for levying ‘internet handling charges’ on consumers. The consumer court has termed the charges, which are almost one-third of the ticket price, as “unfair.”
Hyderabad resident Vijay Gopal, who is a Right to Information (RTI) activist and is also the president of the ‘Forum Against Corruption,’ had moved the consumer rights court back in 2019 against the ticket booking platforms for levying extra charges without explicit authorisation.
A penalty of Rs 5,000 has been levied on both BookMyShow and PVR Cinemas, to be paid towards the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the court. They also have to pay an amount of Rs 25,000 as compensation and an additional Rs 1,000 towards litigation costs to the complainant, Vijay Gopal.
The Hyderabad district consumer disputes redressal commission has directed both PVR and Bookmyshow ordered them to restrain from collecting a fee of more than Rs 6. This Rs 6 cap has been imposed as per rule in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh along with other applicable facilitation charges as laid down by section 6A of the IT Act 2000.
The Commission in its order said, “It is unfair and illegal to indiscriminately pass on the costs to the customers in the form of “internet handling charges” without unbundling the charges imposed on the customers, especially when the fact that the merchants cannot pass on MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) to its customers…”
To the Commission, BookMyShow denied the allegations of being “unfair” and told the Commission that since a case relating to the issue is pending in the Bombay High Court, asked for the proceedings be adjourned. To this, the Commission said there was no legal embargo from the court on it carrying it forward. Similarly, PVR had also sought the Commission to dismiss the case against it as “there is no cause of action”, which was dismissed by the court.
“BookMyShow is examining the order from the Consumer Forum and will follow the due process of law. BookMyShow has always and will continue to abide by the law of the land and will respond at the appropriate forum, wherever required,” a BookMyShow spokesperson told TNM.
Reacting to the court’s decision, Vijay Gopal said that while he appreciated the order, he termed it “unfortunate” that the court has levied a penalty of Rs 5,000 for what he termed as BookMyShow’s “20 years of wrongful gains.” He added that the collection of internet handling charges is in itself against the law.
“Also, the court seemed to have allowed BookMyShow to collect Rs 6, which is strange as the BookMyShow had not claimed any government authorisation from Telangana or Government of India during the court proceedings. Their supporting documents, affidavits, etc. did not have any such information, allowing of collection of any Internet Handling fee, which has been established as Unfair Trade Practice and has been illegal as per section 6A of the IT Act, 2000 of India,” he said.