Consumer rights groups while criticizing canteen owners for increasing the price of lunch packets by Rs 10 have fired a letter to the Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) calling for a meeting with all relevant stakeholders to establish the required standards and controls.

The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection, Ranjith Withanage pointed out that in the majority of the areas such as Colombo and rural areas like Hatton, it was virtually impossible to purchase a proper, standardized mid-day meal. The Movement noted that certain lunch packets had two types of vegetables and in the case where there was fish or meat, the size and weight of the pieces differed from packet to packet.

“Restaurant or canteen owners may increase the price of a packet but may reduce the amount of rice it contains”, Withanage added.
He said that canteen owners should present their demands to the relevant Governmental authorities including the Chairman of the CAA and the Minister of Finance and request a discussion with them.

Withanage charged that what was taking place practically was that the rice mafia was being aided and the burden was being imposed on the consumer.

According to the law, the Chairman of the CAA can convene such a meeting with the presence of the trade unions and also consumers and discuss and advise accordingly.

Through this process, guidelines on standards and costing can be arrived at. If the established criteria are not being complied with, a gazette can be issued, making it legally applicable.

“We vehemently condemn the price increase. Canteen owners should tell the responsible authorities their problems such as not being able to complete the construction of their kitchens or that they have had to take loans or that they are running at a loss, if that is the case.

“They can tell the Government that in reality they buy rice at a certain price, a high one and therefore they cannot sell a lunch packet at a lesser price but instead only at a higher one with a profit margin. The CAA can engage them in a process of costing and decide on the quantities of food available in a packet and their weights,” Withanage said.