The National Consumer Disputes Redressal commission (NCDRC) has ordered a multiplex to pay a customer Rs. 11000 as it had not allowed the customer to carry his water bottle (Rs. 20) inside the cinema hall and had not made a provision for free, clean drinking water inside the cinema hall premises. This is a landmark verdict. The theatre had cited security reasons for not allowing the consumer to take the water bottle inside.
However, anyone who is familiar with the way things are done in such businesses knows that the theatres do not allow the customers to take water bottle inside so that the customers can buy water bottle from the cinema threatre itself, the price of which are exorbitantly high.
The bench comprising of Justice V K Jain and Dr B C Gupta said “If a cinema hall, while prohibiting carrying of drinking water inside the hall, fails to make potable drinking water available to the cine-goers, it will be an act of deficiency in rendering service to them, they having paid a substantial amount for watching the movie in a comfortable and satisfying environment”.
“If such a deficiency is shown, the consumer forum would be fully justified in awarding suitable compensation to the complainant,” the NCDRC bench said. This verdict serves as a warning to all multiplexes in the country.
This case was filed against Rupasi multiplex by three Agartala residents. The three Agartala residents complained that the cinema hall while restricting the consumer to take water bottle inside made no provision for drinking water inside the multiplex. The only way for the consumers to get drinking water was to buy very highly priced water bottles from the cafeteria.
The NCDRC was not happy with the arrangements. It noted that merely making drinking water available on payment at the multiplex cafeteria was not enough. “If 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 drinking water sold in cinema halls,” the NCDRC bench said.
“Not everyone may be in a position to afford drinking water at such huge price, which normally is many times more than the price at which such water is available in the market outside the cinema halls,” it said.
“The restriction on carrying drinking water inside the cinema hall, where free potable drinking water is not provided to the cinema-goers and they are made to purchase it at a price which is substantially higher than the prevailing market price, would, in our opinion, constitute unfair trade practice within the meaning of Section 2 (r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986,” the NCDRC said.
The NCDRC found Rupasi Multiplex guilty of deficiency in service and said, “The order of the state commission directing payment of compensation quantified at Rs 10,000 to the complainant along with cost of litigation quantified at Rs 1,000 cannot be faulted with and the same is upheld.”
It asked the multiplex to pay the amount to the complainants – Mautusi Chaudhuri, Kamal Chaudhuri and Sikha Chaudhuri – by September 10.