The practice of restaurants and cafes adding surcharges to their menus for weekend trade.
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Can restaurants legally charge more on weekends and public holidays?
I was at my local cafe recently on a weekend and was shocked to discover on the menu that there was a 10 per cent surcharge on ALL prices for weekends and public holidays.
It wasn’t a public holiday, it was just a normal weekend! Surely this isn’t legal?
The short answer is that it is legal – as long as the customer knows about it.
Most of us know that for most businesses, it costs more money to reopen on weekends and public holidays due to the increased wages that must be paid to staff.
Businesses can legally handle these costs in a number of ways: they can wear the costs on the chin and hope increased patronage will cover them, they can charge a surcharge on their normal prices, or they can just increase their margins every day to cover for it.
Fundamentally a business can charge whatever they like – provided the consumer is well aware of the upfront costs before entering into a “transaction” (even on something as minor as buying a coffee).
According to the Australian consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, there is one specific rule: businesses can’t sneakily hide their surcharge on the menu.
“ Restaurants and cafes adding surcharges to their menus on certain days do not need to provide you a separate menu or price list or have a separate price column with the surcharge included,” the ACCC says.
“However, the menu must include the words ‘a surcharge of (percentage) applies on (the specified day or days)” and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu”.
There is no limit to what the percentage of the surcharge may be. (Source: Channel 9 News ‘Money Matters’ By Stuart Marsh – Friday, 17 June 2022).
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