Indian ticketing and entertainment giant BookMyShow has been ordered to cap internet handling fees on ticket sales at Rs 6 ($0.08/£0.06/€0.07) after falling foul of authorities.

BookMyShow and PVR Cinemas have been fined for levying “unfair” internet handling charges, which are almost one-third of the ticket price, by the Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

The Commission stated in its order: “It is unfair and illegal to indiscriminately pass on the costs to the customers in the form of ‘internet handling charges’ without unbundling the charges imposed on the customers, especially when the fact that the merchants cannot pass on MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) to its customers.”

In capping the charge at Rs 6 it dubbed previous charges of Rs 41.78 per two tickets as “unfair” and “illegal” under the Consumer Protection Act.

Complainant Vijay Gopal, who is a Right to Information (RTI) activist and president of ‘Forum Against Corruption,’ had filed a case against the online ticket booking portals in 2019 alleging they were exploiting consumers by levying an extra fee in the form of “internet handling charges.”

He said: “The court seemed to have allowed BookMyShow to collect Rs 6, which is strange as the BookMyShow had not claimed any government authorisation from Telangana or Government of India during the court proceedings.

“Their supporting documents, affidavits, etc. did not have any such information, allowing collection of any Internet Handling fee, which has been established as Unfair Trade Practice and has been illegal as per section 6A of the IT Act, 2000 of India.”

The commission has ordered the companies each to pay a penalty of Rs 5,000 towards the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the court.

They will also have to pay Rs 25,000 as compensation and an additional Rs 1,000 towards litigation costs to Gopal.

BookMyShow has denied the allegations of being “unfair” and has asked the Commission to adjourn the processing as a case relating to the same issue is pending in the Bombay High Court. It responded by explaining there was no legal embargo from the court on it carrying it forward. PVR had also sought the Commission to dismiss the case against it as “there is no cause of action”, which was dismissed by the court.

“BookMyShow is examining the order from the Consumer Forum and will follow the due process of law. BookMyShow has always and will continue to abide by the law of the land and will respond at the appropriate forum, wherever required,” a BookMyShow spokesperson told The News Minute.

Gopal said in response to the court’s decision that it is “unfortunate” that the court has levied a penalty of only Rs 5,000 for what he termed as BookMyShow’s “20 years of wrongful gains.”