Aditya Birla Retail Slapped With Rs 8,000 Penalty For Charging Rs 9 For Plastic Bag!
Also, the company was censured by the forum for harassing customers.
How Did This Happen?
The City resident Kolan Srinivas Reddy, complaint to the consumer forum, saying that he had bought clothes from an Aditya Birla store in the city.
He has been charged by the store Rs 2,172 for the items bought.
This price also includes the price of the plastic carry bag which was Rs 9.
The complainant has sought a refund of Rs 9 for the plastic bag, who is also a law student.
What Did Consumer Forum Do?
Kolan said that he should not be charged for the bag.
Although the store has denied to do so. The complaint said that he was forced to pay for it despite his constant objections.
Giving more information on the subject, he said that the Aditya Birla group was also endorsing its brand on the carry bag, for which he was forcefully charged.
According to him, the company was exploiting “gullible customers for its personal gain by selling these carry bags.”
the forum asked the group to refund Rs 9 to the customer, in addition to the compensation claiming that this an undoubted glitch in Aditya Birla’s services. (reference)
Are Retailers Allowed To Charge For Carry Bags?
In the last few months, the humble carry bag became the center of an intense legal battle between consumers and retailers.
As it rises the fundamental question of whether retailers could charge for carry bags that are basically a medium of advertisement for the brand.
All these arguments are caused due to Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, which brought out by the union ministry of environment and Forests, to provide for a regulatory framework for the management of plastic waste generated in the country.
It also mandates to the shop keepers to provide only those plastic bags that were in conformity with the prescribed standards, the Rules said “No carry bags shall be made available free of cost by retailers to consumers,”.
The main reason behind this was to induce retailers to shift to the new standards for plastic, discourage consumers from using plastic bags, encourage them to bring their own bags and also finance plastic waste management of civic bodies.
What Is The Catch?
Although, they were given two pre-conditions for such sale of carry bags.
- It should be a plastic bag, because the rules clearly defined ‘Carry bags’ as bags made of plastic. Still, retailers began to exploit the rules and started charging even for paper and cloth bags, not mandated under the Rules.
- The civic body concerned had to first determine the minimum price of the carry bags, taking into consideration the material cost and the cost of waste management and issue a notification to that effect.
Municipal Authorities Not Fixing Price
It is still not clear how many local bodies complied with rules. But when the union ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change replaced in 2016, the 2011 Rules, it was observed that the municipal authorities had not fixed the cost of carry bags and the rules were silent on the mode of transfer of money collected by retailers ( from consumers) to the municipal authority.
So it made some changes to the rules to facilitate this and it asked retailers using plastic bags to pay a certain amount as plastic waste management fee at the time of registration and also put up notices at prominent places in the retail outlets, indicating that (plastic) bags would be provided only on payment.
Also, the rules said that the local body should utilize the amount paid by customers for the carry bag exclusively for the sustainability of the waste management system.
Do We Need To Pay For Carry Bag?
This did not work because when the government notified certain amendments to the 2016 Rules in March 2018, it dropped the rule on consumers having to pay for the carry bag. (reference)
The retailers who started to use non-plastic carry bags had no legal basis for asking consumers to pay for them.
And for those who sold plastic bags could not do so, unless mandated by a notification from the civic authority. And after March 2018, they had absolutely no case for selling even the plastic bags.
Still, many large retailers continue to charge consumers for their carry bags which boldly advertise their brand, in turn making purchasers to pay for their brand promotion.