Guwahatians Irked Over Shopping Malls Charging Extra Money For Carry Bags: G Plus Poll

Saturday, 24 October 2020


Guwahatians Irked Over Shopping Malls Charging Extra Money For Carry Bags: G Plus Poll

Saumya Mishra | September 07, 2019 12:26 hrs

Are shopping malls charging extra money from consumers for carry bags? Have you faced such a situation?

Yes: 95%

No: 5%

Total votes: 3.5 K

Shopping malls and established retail chain shops charging extra money for carry bags from customers after purchase of merchandise, has been a topic of debate since the past few months now. 

Even though shopping malls and retail outlets continued to charge extra for the carry bag, the issue gained a lot of traction after a consumer filed a complaint at a consumer court in Chandigarh after being charged Rs 3 for a paper bag by Bata India Ltd. The court ordered the company to pay Rs 9,000 as fine to the customer. 

Legal experts say that the retailers should not charge money for the carry bag if they have their brand’s logo or advertising on it.  

G Plus conducted a poll asking the readers if they have been charged extra money to pay for carry bags at retail stores and shopping malls. A total of 3,500 participants took part in the poll. Out of this, a clear majority of 95 per cent said that they have been charged extra for the carry bag while 5 per cent said that they didn’t have to pay any extra money for the carry bag by retailers.  
A majority of the participants were irked by the retail shops asking consumers to cough up extra money for carry bags.  
“Actually, we the people of Assam are very much aware about false self-esteem. To raise voice over genuine issues we feel ashamed and mall owners take advantage of our weakness,” said Rupak Choudhury, a Guwahati resident.  

Another participant  Hrishikesh Baishya mentioned, “Almost all malls are charging for carry bags. Vishal charges Rs 15 for one carry bag made of some nylon type materials. Big Bazaar too charges Rs 10. This should be made free to all customers irrespective of the bill amount.”

A few also argued that if the retailers are advertising their brand then they shouldn’t charge extra.  

“If they are advertising their brand by putting their name on the bags, then why should one pay for it?” asked a city resident. 

Another respondent mentioned that he once asked a retail outlet about the extra charge and they replied that since the bag did not have any advertisement, it is chargeable. 

“If the brand name isn't advertised on the bag it's legal to charge for the bag. That's what they have to say,” said Arshad Basit.  

A few people also mentioned that they have even raised this concern with the authorities but to no avail.  

“I have asked the mall authorities about it, but they say that they have been advised by the management,” said a Guwahati resident.   

On the other hand, a few respondents also advocated for consumers to be mindful of the environmental impact of generating so much excess waste and urged people to carry their own jute or cloth bags while shopping to avoid the hassle.  

“Amidst this hue and cry, why don't we stop and ponder for a while? Do we really need more plastic bags to choke our mother earth? What if we could carry our bags from home? The problem will be solved with multiple benefits to our environment and to our pockets,” said Suman Agarwal.

In the same vein, Ruptrishna Borooah  mentioned, “The malls should in fact charge more money so that people stop buying or asking for carry bags. This was to make people habituated in carrying their own bags to reduce pollution. Hope people understand that bit.”

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  • Calvert Gonsalves, Goa

    A Carry Bag cannot be charged for. It was one of the wisest moves of the Government to ban plastic bags in the interest of environment. The Plastic Waste Management & Handling Rules 2011 were amended on notified that On 18th March 2016 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & climate Change. Rule 15 – “Explicit pricing of carry bags” – The registered shopkeepers shall display at prominent place that plastic bags are given on payment. However this rule 15 was omitted by another notification dated 27th March 2018. Hence there was no question of even giving plastic bags on payment to customers. However this confusion is used to their benefit by a large majority of shopkeepers & malls all over the country. They charge for “Carry Bags” in general to carry item/s bought from them. Under the guise of protecting environment, the humble carry bag is forced charged upon their customers at the cash counter. Posing to be planet & environment conscious does not give them shelter & liberty to take advantage of the ban on plastic is using this deceptive, unethical & unfair was to make surplus profits. They cannot impose their self-beneficial policies upon its customers. The customer simply cannot be made to pay for a carry bag after making the purchase. In fact the customer has to be provided a free carry bag to carry away the goods purchased. The Consumer Courts in Chandigarh have rightfully issued marching orders to outlets like “Bata, Lifestyle, Big Bazar” etc. to pay fines and refund the money charged for the carry bags and to discontinue this policy of selling carry bags. It’s like a case when one goes out to eat at a restaurant & the waiter tells you “You need to get your own plate to eat the food you ordered”. The prime question that arises here is “How will the consumer carry the bought goods? Is one to carry it in bare hands?” Carry bags are overhead expenses of the shops / malls which has to be provided free of cost with goods purchased. Apart from charging for the carry bag, a logo & name / advertisement of the shop is many times printed on the bags thus using the customer as its advertising agent not just free of cost but by also conning him/her by charging them for it. This act amounts to deficiency in service, breach of trust and unfair trade practice. There are various blunt arguments & opinions by many in this regard. So let me go deeper into this issue as my social responsibility. The shops / malls are placed in this robust regime having imposed themselves upon us as the “Goliaths”/Greedy Traders. We the consumers are “Little David”. These Goliaths are shameless having the skins of Rhinoceroses. Consumer Rights are worthless if not enforced. But we all know what happened to Goliath. I have already filed the first complaint at the South Goa District Consumer Forum Court in Margao – Goa. The Competition Act 2002 contains both, the Competition law & Consumer protection provisions. Both, the Competition Act 2002 & The Consumer Protection Act 1986 compliment each other. It polices & protects the consumers’ economic wellbeing & prevents the consumer from making illegal enrichments by charging extortion money for a carry bag. It protects the gullible consumer from the abusive & dominant position of the trader / shop / shopping mall. The Consumer protection Act 1986 & The Competition Act 2002 are built upon the premise that “Consumers are the weaker party to transactions”. The Competition Act 2002 is in addition to & not derogatory or in conflict with other acts. Hence it can be read into in the case of the humble carry bag. “Section 4” of the Competition Act 2002 describes - “Prohibition of abuse of dominant position” - Section 19(4)(f) of the said act defines “The commission shall, while inquiring whether an enterprise enjoys a dominant position or not under section 4, have due regard to all or any of the following factors”. Which in this case qualifies sub section - a) Market share of enterprise. b) Size and resources of the enterprise. d) Economic power of the enterprise including Commercial advantage over competitors. e) Vertical Integration of the enterprises or sale or service of such enterprises. f) Dependence of consumers on the enterprises. The above convincingly qualifies that the shops / malls enjoys a dominant position & that the consumer is the “Weaker Party”. The Shops / Malls are therefore using their “Dominant position” which is further defined as “A Position of Strength” enjoyed by an enterprise to dictate. Here, “undue influence” is applied by using the Dominant position with regard to supply of Goods & Services by charging for carry bags that needs to be given to their customers free of cost. The prime question is “How is one expected to carry the purchased goods? Is one to carry it in their bare hands?”. These shops / malls may have got away with it so far since most people are either ignorant of the law or will simply not take the trouble of disputing & litigating in protest of being wrongly & unfairly charged a meager amount of Rs 5, 10, 15 etc. Going further, Section 16 (1)(2)(2a) of “The Indian Contract Act 1872” – Undue influence” defined –(1) “A contract is said to be induced by “undue influence” where the relationship subsisting between the parties are such that one of the parties is in a position to dominate the will of the other and uses that position to obtain an unfair advantage over the other”. (2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing principle, a person is deemed to be in a position to dominate the will of the other – (a) where he holds a real or apparent authority over the other, or where he stands in a fiduciary relation to the other; It is therefore very clear that the shops / shopping malls who are the Dominant party are using their dominant position by applying “Undue influence” over the “Weaker Party” (consumers/ customers) & deriving an unfair advantage over them by forcing them to buy the humble carry bag which should be provided free of cost. This is not just unfair trade practice but also concealing of facts, breach of trust & over charging. Alternatively, even if the shops / malls put boards outside & inside its premises with information - “Carry bags will be charged / will be given on payment basis” or / and “Customers will have to get their own carry bags”. This does not hold good because they as the Dominant Party are abusing their dominant position by dictating in framing their own rules in not providing carry bag/s & charging for them. This is against consumerism and amounts to unfair trade practice. A carry bag is an essential item & part of the sale of various products sold by the shops / traders / shopping malls. In Goa, outlets like Vishal Mega Mart, Big Bazar, Magson’s & Borkars Super Stores have exploited the easy going & tolerant nature of Goans who unlike others in rest of India do not question or dispute of overcharging when it comes to a few rupees. Nowhere is it stated or is there any rule / legal guideline/s that the seller / retailer should not deliver / hand over the purchased goods in a “Packed mode”. So how can this practice of charging for carry bags be allowed to continue? Huge luring discounts are given by these shops / malls to their customers. Whereas the same people are charging for a carry bag that is to be also used to carry away the same discounted purchased goods. Isn’t this rubbing salt into the wounds? In South Goa at Margao, I have lodged a complaint with the District Consumer Forum against Vishal Mega Mart for charging me Rs 14 for a carry bag. It is time that we all got up and fought for the enforcement of our consumer rights like those in Chandigarh & Chhattisgarh. Calvert Gonsalves Goa India