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The government has set up the National Anti-Profiteering Authority amid reports that some companies, particularly restaurants, are not passing on the benefit of the goods and services tax (GST) rate cuts to consumers. B N Sharma, additional secretary in the department of revenue, was on Tuesday appointed chairman of the authority.
Now, guidelines on what exactly constitutes profiteering are awaited. The authority will exist for a period of two years from the date Sharma takes charge.
The authority is mandated to ensure that the benefits of input credit and the reduction in GST rates on specified goods or services are passed on to the consumers by way of a commensurate reduction in prices.
The government also named four senior officials as technical members of the authority.
“With the chairman and technical members now having been appointed, the authority becomes functional thereby reassuring consumers of the government’s commitment that GST would result in lower prices of goods and services,” a statement from the finance ministry said.
The statement said Sharma was expected to give direction to the authority in boosting the confidence of consumers that the GST is a “Good and Simple Tax” in the overall national interest.
The GST Council has been engaged in rationalising and reducing the GST rates on a wide spectrum of goods and services. In its latest meeting in November, it had cut rates on over 200 items. As many as 176 items saw the rate cut from 28 per cent to 18 per cent. This now leaves only 50 items which attract the highest GST rate of 28 per cent.
Also, the tax rate on restaurants, barring those in star hotels, was cut to five per cent from 18 per cent, but their input tax credit was removed.
Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).
Consumers who are aggrieved that there has been no commensurate reduction in prices may apply for relief to the screening committee in the state concerned. After forming a prima facie view on the substance of the application, the matter would be referred to a standing committee at the Centre. The standing committee will, in turn, ask the Director General of Safeguards to carry out a detailed investigation which will give its findings to the authority.
The screening committee is expected to look into complaints of local nature while the standing committee would ordinarily enquire into cases of mass impact with all-India ramifications.
Most complaints on profiteering with screening committees and the standing committee relate to restaurants and the real estate sector.
Once the authority confirms there is justification to apply anti-profiteering measures, it has the authority to order the business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed, along with interest at the rate of 18 per cent, to the consumers of the goods or services. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the consumers, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund.
The authority also has the power to impose penalty on the defaulting business or even order the cancellation of its registration under the GST.