Print post-GST rates on items or go to jail, government warns traders

The government on Friday warned manufacturer, importer and sellers of pre-packaged goods of penalties ranging from fines of up to Rs 1 lakh or prison terms up to a year for repeat offence of not printing the post-GST rates on product labels. The consumer affairs ministry has come out with the new norm for affixing the revised maximum retail price (MRP) on the old stocks, which were manufactured and packed before July 1.

As per the Legal Metrology Act, the first such offence may attract fine up to Rs 25,000 and for second offence the fine may be up to Rs 50,000. The state governments are empowered to enforce this. Consumer affairs ministry sources said the direction for pasting additional stickers on unsold packaged items has been issued as per the provisions in the law. However, officials admitted that they can’t recall a single case where a manufacturer, importer or seller has been sent to jail for such offence.

The warning came a couple of days after some big companies had said that printing or stamping any price other than the MRP on packets is illegal, and this is going to be a logistical nightmare since they have huge inventory.

“We don’t want inspector raj, but they must follow what is legally correct. The companies are not going to release all the unsold items in one go. They can put the new prices in batches and that’s why we have given time till September 30 to exhaust their stocks. After September 30, no one will be allowed to sell pre-packaged items with such two MRPs. The industry must understand that we have issued the direction for the benefit of consumers. They need to inform consumers how much less or more they are paying,” food minister Ram Vilas Paswan told TOI.

Officials said the companies are taking advantage of input credits under GST, which has brought down their manufacturing cost and hence they must pass on the benefits to consumers. “They must pass on that benefit to buyers,” said an official. Rule 33 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules says the Centre can permit manufacturers or packers for sale of the packages for a reasonable period by “relaxing one or more provisions of the rules” with corrective measures.

The consumer affairs ministry has also set up a committee to address consumer grievances on GST. The National Consumer Helpline is also addressing the concerns of consumers regarding GST. Paswan said more than 700 queries have been received by the consumer helplines.

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