Booking movie tickets online through an application on your mobile phone or a website on your computer has only come as a boon to many frequent cinema goers. However, ever wondered if the “Internet Handling Charges” that we pay are legally chargeable?
An RTI query with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals that the platforms providing movie ticket booking services do not have any authority to levy handling fees on customers and that they are in violation of the RBI’s Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) regulations. Online film ticketing majors are fleecing movie buffs by charging them a whopping Rs. 35.20 on each ticket booked online through their websites and apps.
According to an activist Mr. Devaranjan,
“As per norms, these companies do not have the authority to levy internet handling fees on customers. This is a clear violation of RBI’s Merchant Discount Rate(MDR) regulations.”
“They are collecting this amount in the name of an ‘Internet Handling Fee’, violating the norms of the Reserve Bank of India,” said some other activists.
The MDR is a payment gateway fee paid by merchants to the bank for accepting payments via debit or credit cards. As per the RBI, this fee has to be paid to banks by merchants for internet-based online transactions.
“However, this fee is being collected from consumers by online ticket booking portals. Many online ticketing companies like BookMyShow collect illegal fees from the customers,” Devaranjan added.
For example, a movie ticket which costs Rs. 152.55 ends up costing Rs. 187.95 when booked through the portal BookMyShow. The firm collects Rs. 35.40 for every ticket booked through its app and website. So if one wants to book three tickets for the same movie, he/she will have to pay Rs. 106.20 extra.
Another activist, Mr. Sunderrajan, said that almost all companies that sell tickets online are fleecing their customers. He asserted that the authorities must take necessary action to curb this practice which has been undertaken by online ticketing companies.
BookMyShow gives all theatres featured on their portal an option to levy the payment gateway fee on the customer in the form of internet handling fees, when in fact, the theatres are supposed to pay that amount to the bank for each debit/credit card transaction.
Forum Against Corruption moved a consumer court in Hyderabad against BookMyShow and PVR, as well as the Department of Information Technology under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The case is expected to be heard on March 23.
Those who wish to complain about deficiencies in customer service against such RBI regulated entities can do so here. To report a violation by a merchant, one will have to approach the bank that was used by the merchant to make the transaction, but in most cases, the information is often not made available to the customer making the payment.
If the bank takes no action within 30 days or if the bank’s answer is not satisfactory, the consumer can approach the office of the Banking Ombudsman. In the meantime, these firms can keep levying their internet handling fees on the consumer as the RBI has no regulations in place to penalise a merchant violating the MDR charges regulations.
The above information is shared by activists who had filed an RTI in this case and Book My Show, other online portals and PVR are yet to come up with their official response in this matter.