cost of cold drinks

Krish Fernandes

It’s summer and time for beverage retailers to do some
brisk business. With the sun beating down harshly and
temperatures rising, the urge to quench one’s thirst
frequently is met with an aerated drink or two. While
this brings some relief from the heat, it hits the pocket
badly as consumers find retailers are quenching their
thirst for greed by adding an extra and illegal charge.

“On a long journey I was feeling really thirsty so I stopped
by a roadside shop and bought a cold drink bottle,” a person
from Panaji told TOI.”The shopkeeper charged me Rs 40
for the bottle whose cost was Rs 25. Since I was thirsty
and did not want to get into an argument with him, I paid
the amount,” he added.

Retailers are adding a “chilling charge” ranging between
Rs 2 and Rs 5 and sometimes even more to the maximum
retail price (MRP) of the beverage. This charge is illegal,
is not standard and varies depending on the location of the
outlet. Taking advantage of the circumstances, retailers in
remote locations are known to have even charged Rs 15 to
Rs 20 in addition to the MRP on larger quantity soft drink
bottles.

Caranzalem resident Mary Jayne Dias was recently charged
Rs 10 for a 200 ml bottle of a cola whose MRP was Rs 8.
The retailer cited “chilling” (or refrigeration) charge for the
extra cost. When she demanded a bill, the retailer refused
and told Dias that the overcharging practice was widespread
and she would be unable to do anything about it. Not willing
to taking things lying down, Dias complained to the legal
metrology department.

“I am yet to receive a reply from the department,” Dias told
TOI but added she had heard that the department had raided
the retailer.

“The extra charges are illegal. If they aren’t to be served
chilled, why are they called ‘cold drinks’?” Dias asked. Many
aerated drinks have the instruction ‘to be served chilled’
printed on the bottle.

Consumer rights group GOACAN coordinator Roland Martins
said the practice of charging for refrigeration amounted to
cheating. “Retailers selling at anything more than the MRP
can be booked under the packaged commodities rules,”
Martins said. Martins too urged consumers to file complaints
if they have been overcharged.

PS Shirodkar, asst controller, South Zone I of the legal metrology
department said, “Retailers cannot exceed the MRP printed on
the bottle.” He said the department had booked some hotels for
overcharging and was conducting surprise raids. Shirodkar
appealed to consumers to complain of any malpractice and
disclosed that the department can impose fines of up to
Rs 5,000 on retailers for overcharging customers.

Pepsico head of sales for Maharashtra and Goa Hemant
Badri said, “On any soft drink there is an MRP printed.”
He added that as per rules any product without value addition
has to be sold at printed MRP. “If a customer demands a bill,
then the retailer has to provide it,” Badri said.**

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