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NEW DELHI : Food aggregator Zomato’s order rejection policy has irked some restaurant owners that are viewing it as an unfair practice especially as the restaurant industry faces uncertainties amid a surge in covid-linked restrictions.

On Saturday, restauranteur Riyaaz Amlani took to social media platform Twitter to highlight the aggregator’s revised "order acceptance terms", which Zomato said were sent out to select few restaurants over the last few months. Zomato said these were sent out to restaurants with a higher order rejection rate. Amlani, MD and CEO at Impresario Handmade Restaurants, who was speaking on behalf of a small restaurant owner specifically highlighted two clauses of the policy pertaining to rejection of an order by a restaurant that will make the restaurant liable to compensate customers for the order, and in fact, repeated rejections could result in suspension of the said restaurant's online ordering service from Zomato.

“For each order rejected by the restaurant, the restaurant will be liable to compensate the customer an amount equivalent to 25% of the order value or a minimum of Rs25, whichever is higher but will not exceed 200," Amlani highlighted the clause—part of the policy update. “Additionally, if one any given day, the orders rejected by the restaurant exceeds 3% of the orders and more than 1 order is rejected, the online ordering services of the restaurant will be suspended the Zomato the next day," Zomato's policy stated.

In its response, Zomato said the update was sent only to restaurants that have four times higher rejection rate than the platform and has been in practice for the last eight months. “This has been a practice for the last eight months and is not something new. This policy has helped reduce rejection rate by roughly 50% already, which is a big win for our customers and our restaurant partners," the food aggregator said in response to Amlani’s tweet. “For the handful of restaurants that get this email, this policy doesn’t usually apply for more than 2-3 months…," it said.

“It is important to note that in all these rejected order cases, we pass on all the collected refunds to our customers. If an order is rejected after 5 minutes, we issue additional compensation (funded by us) as a token of apology to our customers for the inconvenience," Zomato said in its response.

It added that it is always open for dialogue. “In the past, we have made changes to Gold (now Pro), have rolled back and revised policies based on restaurant feedback and have given the restaurant industry several examples to demonstrate that we are all part of the same team."

Amlani told Mint that the rules are an “unjust practice". “They cannot use this opportunity when restaurant business is down," he said.

The issue comes as the restaurant industry is hurting given the surge in covid cases and the resultant lockdowns that are bound to stall recovery for the sector. Delivery services have been a lifeline for the industry as dine-in sales remain muted. As a result, the industry’s dependence on aggregators is even more crucial.

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