The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of a National Anti Profiteering Authority under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This would ensure that the benefit of the GST reaches consumers.
The move comes days after the GST brackets were changed for at least 178 items. There are currently 50 items that attract the highest tax rate of 28 per cent under GST. The rates of many other items have been cut to 5 per cent.
"The National Anti-Profiteering Authority is an assurance to consumers of India. If any consumer feels that the benefit of tax rate cut is not being passed on, then he can complaint to the authority," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters following the meeting.
A five-member committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, comprising Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, CBEC Chairman Vanaja Sarna and chief secretaries from two states, has been entrusted to finalise the chairman and members of the authority.
The authority will have a sunset date of two years from the date on which the chairman assumes charge. The chairman and the four members of the authority have to be less than 62 years.
As per the structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism in the GST regime, complaints of local nature will be first sent to the state-level 'screening committee', while those of national level will be marked for the 'Standing Committee'.
If the complaints have merit, the respective committees would refer the cases for further investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS). The DG Safeguards would generally take about three months to complete the investigation and send the report to the anti-profiteering authority.
If the authority finds that a company has not passed on GST benefits, it will either direct the entity to pass on the benefits to consumers or if the beneficiary cannot be identified will ask the company to transfer the amount to the 'consumer welfare fund' within a specified timeline.
The authority will have the power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower taxes under the GST regime, but it would probably be the last step against any violator.
According to the anti-profiteering rules, the authority will suggest return of the undue profit earned from not passing on the reduction in incidence of tax to consumers along with an 18 per cent interest, as also impose penalty.