WASHINGTON — It’s always annoying to pay more than you expect for something – especially after holiday shopping season, when every dollar counts.
That’s what a conversation online about what types of surcharges restaurants are allowed to add to your bill caught our attention.
Are Washington D.C. restaurants allowed to add surcharges to your bill?
The Office of The Attorney General of The District of Columbia under Karl Racine
Restaurants in The District and elsewhere are generally allowed to add surcharges to your bill, as long as they’re up-front about it. If you think that’s not the case, you’re encouraged to report it.
WHAT WE FOUND:
A spokesperson from the restaurant pointed out: what they’re doing isn’t uncommon these days. COVID-19, inflation, fuel costs: many factors driving prices up could mean restaurants and other businesses pass the cost along to customers.
The Better Business Bureau says though surcharges and so-called “hidden fees” can be annoying, they are generally legal.
A spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission tells Verify: the biggest concern is when consumers have no notice about – and are given no explanation for– fees.
We reached out to the Office of The Attorney General of The District of Columbia while Karl Racine was in office; a spokesperson wouldn’t comment on this particular restaurant, but did tell us:
“Businesses that charge undisclosed or misleading fees may be in violation of the District’s consumer protection laws," said the spokesperson in an email. "This includes situations where a restaurant does not prominently disclose a fee before the customer orders, or where it fails to accurately describe the purpose of the fee.”
In the case of Cuba Libre, a spokesperson for the restaurant shared these images showing the ways in which patrons are given a heads up about their surcharges, telling us, the three percent upcharge helps them make money despite the rising cost of doing business.
“Our hope is that many of these cost escalations are temporary, so we have not built them all into our menu prices,” shared the spokesperson in an email.
VERIFY is not the authority to decide on if Cuba Libra’s fees are in the clear, but the AG’s office says anyone with questions should contact their consumer protection hotline at 202-442-9828.