While it is expected that the recently established National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) would rein in errant businesses engaged in profiteering under GST, the consumer at the receiving end, however, may not find it easy to lodge a complaint due to the cumbersome nature of the form released by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). FE had recently reported there have been a few complaints lodged at the state-level screening committees before the NAA was set up. The application form can be filed by anyone but requires granular details of all the pre-GST taxes levied on the product concerned. It asks for the HSN code of the product, actual pre- and post-GST price, along with MRP. Further, the form also requires information about comparative price at which other suppliers are selling the product. The consumer would also be required to fill in the field for “post-GST reduction in amount of tax per unit.”
“The government systems are cumbersome and usually always put consumers off from pursuing any matter. The complicated anti-profiteering form is no surprise considering our consumer grievance redressal system is mired in similar issues,” Manav Bajaj, CEO of Consumer Sathi, an online portal that provides assistance to aggrieved consumers in logding complaints to the designated authorities. Bajaj said that while Consumer Sathi has taken up cases of profiteering on behalf of consumers against fast food chain McDonanld’s and Haldiram, which is alleged to have charged 18% GST even after the reduced rate of 5% came into effect on November 15. The Cabinet cleared the appointments for the five-member NAA last week. It’s expected that the authority may ask restaurants to explain the cost structure and the reasons for not lowering prices despite a reduction in GST to 5% from 12%/18% earlier.
The anti-profiteering clause in the GST law provides an institutional mechanism to ensure that the full benefits of input tax credits and reduced GST rates on supply of goods or services flow to the consumers. This institutional framework comprises the NAA, a standing committee, screening committees in every state and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the CBEC. A consumers who feel the benefit of commensurate reduction in prices is not being passed on when they purchase any goods or services, can apply for relief to the screening committee in the particular state. However, in case the incident of profiteering relates to an item of mass impact with ‘all-India’ ramification, the application may be directly made to the standing committee. After forming a prima facie view that there is an element of profiteering, the standing committee shall refer the matter for detailed investigation to the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC, which will report its findings to the NAA.