Personal Finance

You can no longer be duped by sellers

Parvatha Vardhini C | Updated on June 23, 2019 Published on June 23, 2019

The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 lays down rules for packaging and selling of commodities

Ever felt short-changed after a purchase? You are not alone. Charging more than the maximum retail price (MRP), selling less weight than what is claimed, packaging in non-standard weights, missing mandatory information on the labels, use of altered weights — are all ways in which many consumers could be cheated in their day-to-day transactions. But if you know the law, you cannot be hoodwinked. The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 lays down rules for packaging and selling of commodities.

Rules for packaged goods

As per the Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011 under the Legal Metrology Act, obliterating, smudging or altering the retail sale price indicated by manufacturer/packer/importer on the package or label is not allowed (making alterations due to change in GST rates is allowed as an exception ). Besides, discount should be on the MRP and not included in it. Similarly, selling products above the MRP is also illegal (except when packaged water or juice is served in hotels as part of a composite billing/service — as per a Supreme Court ruling in December 2017).

Being taken for a ride related to the quantity, size or weight of products you buy? From November 1, 2012, standard sizes for several products, such as biscuits, baby food, bread, butter, coffee, tea, water, soft drink, salt, edible oils, cereals, rice, flour, soaps, cement and paints have been enforced. For instance, laundry soap can be packaged only in multiples of 25g, 50g, 75g, 100g, 125g, 150g and, thereafter, in multiples of 50g.

Thus, for consumers, this ensures comparability of prices of similar products. Also, thanks to this, companies cannot resort to reducing the grammage to compensate for cost escalations, without customers realising it. Only products up to ₹10 can come in non-standard sizes. Besides, products have to declare weight net of the packaging on their cover (and not the overall weight). Thus, for instance, when you buy sweets in a mithai shop, the weight of the box should not be counted. Only when it comes to soaps, creams and lotions are companies allowed to use the words “when packed” next to the weight as their weight could vary due to environmental factors. But even then, an unbridled variation is not allowed.

Error limits for all products are prescribed. For instance, if an item has a declared quantity of 500 to 1000 g or ml, the maximum permissible excess or deficiency is only 15g or ml. The Act also regulates advertisements related to packaged commodities, mandating mentioning of the net quantity along with the price.

Penalties

Not only does the law lay down the standards for packaging, it also provides penalties for non-compliance. Accordingly, manufacturing, packing or selling and distribution of any pre-packaged commodity which does not conform to the rules laid down in the Act will attract a fine ranging from ₹25,000-₹1 lakh, depending on whether the offence is committed for the first, second or the third time. Along with this, there will an imprisonment of one year if the offence is committed for a third time. An error in the net quantity mentioned will also attract similar fines and imprisonment.

Apart from offences related to packaging, the Act also provides for fine/imprisonment or both for use of non-standard weights/measures as well as for altering any weight or measure to deceive a buyer. You could be a victim of this when buying unpacked goods. To detect frauds, government-approved testing centres to verify the weights and measures made in the country as well as the imported ones are operational. To fix the responsibility on companies that violate the provisions, the Act calls for nomination of a separate director to deal with matters relating to the Act and to be made responsible for transgressions.

Grievance redressal

So, if you have a grievance, you can first approach the shopkeeper/seller or manufacturer. For pre-packaged goods, manufacturers are mandated to mention a toll-free consumer care/ helpline number. If the issue does not get resolved at this level, the District Legal Metrological Officer or the Controller of Legal Metrology appointed under the Act in each State can be approached. Beyond this, the consumer forums at the district/state/national level could help resolve the problem. At any stage, the National Consumer Helpline can be approached for information, advice or guidance at 1800-11-4000 (toll free number). SMS can also be sent to +918130009809 mentioning the name and city.

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