District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC), Jodhpur: In the instant matter, wherein the consumers complained that while dining in the Foresta Café with the family, they had been compelled to buy bottled mineral water as the café did not provide any free regular drinking water facility; the Bench of Dr Shyam Sundar Lata (President) and Afsana Khan (Member), relying on Rupasi Multiplex v. Mautusi Chaudhuri, 2015 SCC OnLine NCDRC 2331, opined that restaurants and cafes have a legal and moral obligation to provide free regular drinking water to their patrons. The Commission found Foresta Café to be deficient in service and indulging in unfair trade practice for not providing the facility of free regular drinking water, thereby compelling its patrons to buy packaged mineral water at higher price from them.

Background: On 07-10-2019, when the complainants went to Foresta Café for dining, they asked the waiter to serve them regular drinking water; however, the waiter informed that the café does not serve regular water and they have to buy bottled mineral water.

Disappointed, the complainants dropped the idea of proper dining and instead ordered fast food dishes. While paying the bill, the complainants noted that the café had charged Rs 35 for the mineral water bottle instead of the printed MRP of Rs 20.

Aggrieved for being compelled to buy bottled mineral water and charging a price more than the printed MRP, the complainants approached the Commission alleging deficiency in services and unfair trade practices by Foresta Café.

Commission’s Assessment:

Perusing the facts of the matter, the Commission stated that as per Supreme Court’s decision in Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Assn. of India v. Union of India, (2018) 2 SCC 97, where it was held that neither the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 read with the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985, nor the Legal Metrology Act, 2009, would apply so as to prohibit the sale of mineral water in hotels and restaurants at prices which are above the MRP. Hence the Commission found that Foresta Café was not deficient in-service vis-a-vis selling the packaged mineral water bottle at a price higher than the printed MRP.

However, when it came to the allegation of compelling the complainants to buy the packaged drinking water, the Commission noted the complainants’ contention that due unavailability of free regular drinking water, and the fact that they had to purchase the packaged bottle, caused them immense physical and mental agony as they had to forego their desire to dine and had to settle for fast food options instead.

The Commission noted that Foresta Café did not rebut the afore-stated allegation. The Commission pointed out that hotels and restaurants and legally and morally obligated to provide free drinking water to their patrons. Taking note of NCDRC’s decision in Rupasi Multiplex (supra) wherein it was stated that-

If the drinking water is available for purchase from the Cafeteria of the cinema hall, that, in our view, would not be enough, considering the high cost of the drinking water sold in the cinema halls. Not everyone may be in a position to afford drinking water at such a huge price, which normally is many times more than the price at which such water is available in the market outside the cinema halls. Therefore, he will be compelled to pay an exorbitant price for a basic necessity such as drinking water”.

The Commission pointed out that Foresta Café violated its moral and legal obligation by not providing any facility for free drinking water, so that its patrons are forced to buy packaged water at a higher price. In the instant case, the complainants were thus compelled to buy the mineral water bottle which resulted in them settling for fast food options instead of their original dinner plans in the cafe. The Commission thus opined that Foresta Café’s actions clearly proved their deficiency in service and their indulgence in unfair trade practices.

The Commission thus directed Foresta Café to the pay compensation of Rs 20,000 for the mental and physical agony caused to the complainants and Rs 5000 towards cost of proceedings.

[Avinash Acharya v. Foresta Café, CC No. 71/2023, decided on 22-12-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For complainants– Anil Bhandari, Advocate

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