Relaxing on a reclining chair in an air-conditioned movie house with popcorn has for long been the affordable indulgence of an average family.
But, not any more if one prefers to watch the movie in a city multiplex. In the swanky and ritzy world of multiplexes, everything is as costly as it seems where even the everyday popcorn costs as much as a movie ticket or even more. Why, even a bottle of mineral water with a maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs. 20 is sold for double that price.
One can either buy them at the astronomical price or starve for the duration of the movie, for, nothing, even a bottle of water is allowed from outside. Left with no other alternative, parents are forced into the indignity of smuggling in eatables in the guise of snacks to feed their toddlers.
While some moviegoers seethe and occasionally argue with the vendor, it seems there is hardly anything they can do about prices except in the case of items that come with MRP. “There is no regulatory mechanism when it comes to pricing of unpacked food and beverages like popcorn. Since only packaged items come under the purview of Packaged Commodities Act, there is no legal remedy available for consumers in such cases. But in case of MRP violations they can approach us for compensation and refund,” said Cherian K. Kuriakose, president, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.
Rajesh Vijayendran, a High Court lawyer said that on MRP violations consumers can fall back on the provisions of deficiency of services and unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection Act. But even that is not without loopholes.
Though seized of the matter, the Legal Metrology Department can hardly do anything about unpackaged items. “But, we will definitely look into instances of charging items above the MRP,” said B.S. Ajithkumar, Assistant Controller (General), Legal Metrology, Ernakulam.
Dejo Kappen, managing trustee of the Centre for Consumer Education, flayed the government for turning a blind eye to the fleecing of public in places like multiplexes and amusement parks, where also visitors are not allowed food from outside and are forced to buy it at exorbitant prices.
“People often let it go, as they don’t want to spoil their outings with families,” he said.