Attorney explains if ‘COVID-19 surcharge’ is legal

Explaining COVID-19 surcharges

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Some businesses in the United States are adding a charge to your bill, calling it the COVID-19 surcharge.

But is that legal to do?

“Is it legal for a restaurant or business to pass on the additional cost that it has to take on because of COVID? Yes, it probably is,” said Laura Clubb, an attorney.

Clubb said the COVID-19 pandemic can put a strain on businesses who might need more support.

“You know have someone come in and install the plexiglass barriers or other barriers to distant customers. If that’s the case then of course then we assume they are going to pass those cost to customers,” she said.

But Clubb said calling it the COVID-19 surcharge could be problematic.

“I’m not sure about naming it a COVID-19 surcharge, that probably raises more questions than answers,” said Clubb.

She said during times of crisis you do have to watch for price gouging.

“What we have to look for are situations where people are in dire need of necessities and those necessities, the prices are being unreasonably inflated," said Clubb.

She said going out to eat is not a necessity.

“If you do not want to go to a restaurant or you don’t want to pay the surcharge, you just don’t go. You’re not going to be hurt in away by that,” said Clubb.

But she said passing on a legitimate cost to customers is okay.

“We want these small businesses to stay around and stay in business and if it cost us an extra two or three bucks to help them stay open, I think most people are going to be accepting of that,” she said.

Clubb said if you see a COVID-19 surcharge on your bill don’t hesitate to ask why.

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