‘Madam would you like to take a bag?’ Was a weird question asked to me at the shopping mall recently. I retorted back ‘of course I need bags to carry my belongings’. Sushant diligently obeyed my order and stuffed my belongings in two big bags and one small bag and handed me the bill.
I could not believe my eyes when I read that I was charged Rs. 19/- for buying bags. ‘When did I buy bags, Sushant?’ The floor manager seeing the ruckus I had created intervened and told me that it was a directive from Government of India to charge customers for using bags. It was a new initiative to dissuade people from using plastic bags and hence the malls where charging for plastic bags in the range of Rs. 7/- to Rs. 3/-. Ashamed with my lack of knowledge, I stormed out of the mall after paying money for the plastic bags.
On my way home I questioned myself, was I really unaware that malls were charging such exorbitant rates for using plastic bags or were the rules bended as per their convenience?
My research led me to the Notification given by Ministry of Environment and Forests dated February 4, 2011. The notification says:
“No carry bags shall be made available free of cost by retailers to consumers. The concerned municipal authority may by notification determine the minimum price for carry bags depending upon their quality and size which covers their material and waste management costs in order to encourage their re-use so as to minimize plastic waste generation.”
And amongst other things laid down in the notification, the notification also says that the plastic bags so charged shall either be white in colour or made using only those pigments and colorants’ which are in conformity with Indian Standard.
The municipal authorities ought to fix the prices for selling bags which they have not done so far. Hence there is deficiency in service on part of municipality.
Malls generally advertise their name on the bags sold which is contrary to the rule laid down in the notification that the bags should be white in colour or made from pigments and colorants in conformity with Indian Standard. Also generally the cost of bags is included in the items sold by the malls. So why are they suddenly charging extra money for the bags? And can they not use paper or cloth bags instead of penalizing the customers.
Considering that the Malls are taking undue advantage of the notification and are filing their booty by collecting extra money from the consumers, a group of 23 people have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Mumbai. Hearing of the case is scheduled for March 30, 2012. We will keep you updated on outcome of the case.
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