The government may have slashed Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates of 178 products last week, but entities are finding some dubious ways of not passing on this benefit to you, the consumer. Have a look at what restaurants are doing after GST rates were slashed. It has come to light that some restaurants, including some big names, have increased their prices post the reduction in rates thereby not passing on the benefits to customers. The likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks have got queries from tax officials seeking details about menu prices before and after the latest reduction in prices.
So, other than having a failed argument with the management, is there something you can do if you notice that the restaurant that you have eaten at is overcharging you in the name of GST? Before we tell you what you can do, here is what the new rates are for restaurants:
New GST rates and rationale of the food joints
On November 15, GST on 178 goods was lowered to 18 percent from 28 percent as part of rationalisation approved by the GST Council. It was slashed to 5 percent from 18 percent for all standalone restaurants irrespective of whether they were air-conditioned or otherwise, without input tax credit. Also, a flat 5% slab was imposed on takeaways and deliveries.
If you notice any discrepancies in the prices on the menu, here is what you can do:
What you can do
There are various avenues available for consumers to register their complaints against such GST-related frauds. To register a complaint you can approach the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) or the Department of Consumer Affairs.
1) CBEC GST portal:
Visit the portal at https://cbec-gst.gov.in/
When you scroll down you will come across the CBEC Mitra Helpdesk
There select the option, Raise Web Ticket
You will be taken to different window, where on the left-hand side you will have to choose Tax Fraud/Avoidance
You will be taken to a page where you will have to enter details like your full name, email address, and report. In the report box, mention details of the restaurant like its name, address, and the nature of the complaint.
Once you do this, a representative will first contact the restaurant to check the details with them and then email you the information.
CBEC: You can email your grievance at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, mention your name, phone number, name of the restaurant, its location, and the nature of the complaint. Although you don’t have to attach the pre and post GST bills along with the mail, do keep the pre-GST bill handy. According to the CBEC helpline number, they will first contact the restaurant to check the details with them and then email you the information.
Department of Consumer Affairs: Here, too, you need to keep the post-GST bill with you, you will need it the complaint gets escalated. In the email, mention your name, contact details, city, and your complaint where provide details like restaurant name, their contact details, address, and email. The consumer forum will contact the restaurant and once they get a response, they will email it to you. The helpline desk representative told us that you can also send an email to the restaurant marking the consumer helpline email ID. If (in both cases) the restaurant does not respond within seven days or if you are not satisfied with the response, then you will have to approach a consumer court and register a complaint. This the only route you can use if you are going through the Department, the toll free number, 1800114000, will only give you advise on what you can do.
3) Toll free number of CBEC
You can call the toll free number of CBEC at 18001200232 and where you will be connected to the Fraud department.
You can also flag your grievances on the official Twitter handles of GST (askGST_Goi) and the Finance Ministry (@FinMinIndia).
The way forward
Ever since the GST regime has come into force, establishments have been trying to find ways to trick the system. It was found out that those who did not have GSTN were charging customers GST, and some were found to be charging GST over and above the maximum retail price (MRP), which is illegal. Just today, it was reported that after restaurants, now the government is going after fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies for not passing on the benefits of lower rates to consumers. The government has said companies not passing on benefits could attract anti-profiteering action. The cabinet last week approved the creation of the National Anti-profiteering Authority, which will be tasked with ensuring that the benefits of GST, where applicable, are passed on to consumers. While the government is doing its part to stop unscrupulous entities, you should also do your part.