Sources said that proposal on universal pricing for all packaged products is currently being evaluated by the law ministry.
New Delhi: After successfully checking dual pricing in bottled drinking water, the government plans to ban such a practice in “all” packaged products, from a packet of needle to air conditioners and also including bottled beverages.
The move will mean that a bottle of Coke or Pepsi and other packaged products of the same make will be priced universally across the country, irrespective of the place and time of sale. Wide variance in prices is found in the case of MRP-based water and beverages, with restaurants, malls etc. charging more for the same product on the garb of providing additional services.
This practise would end after the new rules are notified as different pricing for same brand would become illegal and punishable.
Sources said that proposal on universal pricing for all packaged products is currently being evaluated by the law ministry. If approved, it will be a major accomplishment of the NDA government in protection of consumer interests spearheaded by minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Sources said, Mr Paswan is very keen to get it implemented and he had a lot of deliberations within the ministry to find a way under the current provisions in the law as any amendment or new legislation would take time.
The consumer affairs ministry, which also fixes rules for the weight and measures departments of the states, has decided to change rules under the Legal Metrology Act. This law makes provisions for regulating weight, labels etc. of a packaged product.
Under the proposal, no company will be allowed to fix different prices (MRPs) in identical products in all “pre-packaged commodities”, sources said. Since dual maximum retail price (MRP) is considered an unfair trade practice under consumer protection law, the ministry has got power to bring this issue under legal metrology, the sources said.
“It has been found that many companies are printing different MRPs for their products — one sold in open market and another for big retail chains. Because the retail chains want to offer discount, they are forcing companies to print a higher MRP,” an official said. Because of bulk buying, companies are also agreeing to this ‘unfair’ request of the retailers.
At the insistence of the consumer affairs ministry, beverage giant Pepsi has already discontinued the practice of dual MRP and started selling its mineral water brand Aquafina at the same MRP everywhere — malls, cinema halls, railway stations, airports and restaurants.
Food and consumer affairs minister Paswan had said on April 14 that dual MRP is against law and Pepsi’s decision to sell its product at one price or MRP across the country would go a long way in ensuring that the practice is universally accepted by the industry.
He has been pushing for the same maximum retail price (MRP) for packed food and beverages to ensure consumers are not cheated on these products when they buy them outside the regular retail stores.
India’s cricket regulator BCCI has also informed the ministry that bottled water is being sold at the same MRP at stadia during cricket matches.
Paswan had asked consumers to register complaint whenever they come across any instance of dual MRP. Many consumer courts have also given direction time and again that packaged products should be sold at same price everywhere. But manufacturers have found an escape route in current regulations by introducing new pricing (MRP) and brands for sale in exclusive areas.
Last month, the consumer affairs department had sought explanation from companies selling packaged mineral water for having different MRPs of bottles for various places. It had directed that the sale price should be same at airports, hotels and malls.