Allegations include compulsorily charging for catering on trains

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has decided to probe the Indian Railways and its catering and online ticketing arm — Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) — for using unfair trade practices while providing various services.

The services under scrutiny include those related to online booking of tickets, premium charges for calls made to Indian Railways’ call centre, and compulsorily charging for providing food in trains such as the Rajdhani Express, instead of giving passengers an option to not have food.

The CCI has admitted that in the railway passenger services segment, the dominance of Indian Railways is undisputable “due to the statutory and regulatory framework”.

However, it added that the Commission has also considered material relating to alleged abusive conduct by the Railways and IRCTC. It would also study a complaint about IRCTC being the sole online platform to provide services.

CCI stated: “The allegations of …compulsorily charging for catering facility in Rajdhani and other trains …limiting and restricting technical and scientific development in relation to booking of e-tickets using the IRCTC platform, service charge on e-tickets being non-refundable even if the passenger needed to cancel the ticket; e-wallet scheme with unreasonable conditions appear to be some of the conduct mentioned in the information, which prima facie appears to be abusive in contravention of the provisions of Section 4 of the Act.”

“In view of the foregoing discussion, the Commission is of the opinion that prima facie, a case of contravention of the provisions of the Act is made out against IR and IRCTC,” it stated.

(This article was published on March 13, 2014)
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