With businesses reopening their doors after months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are beginning to get used to seeing businesses include surcharges in addition to regular prices of products or business they render. If you’re like most people, you may be curious to know if these extra fees are legal. This article explains when and what could make a surcharge legal or illegal.
Why Are Businesses Including Surcharges In Their Prices?
- To curtail the spread of the virus as the economy reopens, many businesses are making efforts to put in place reasonable safety measures to protect their staff and customers from the risk of exposure. Some of the businesses are now passing those increased expenses along to the customer via a “COVID-19 surcharge.”
Whether you’re shopping at a local grocery store or visiting a dentist, it appears every retail and service business is considering or already adding COVID-19 surcharges. The extra fee, according to most people who’ve expressed their displeasure over the trend online, often appears as a line item.
- The trend has received scathing criticisms from individuals who believe it is wrong for businesses to transfer the extra cost of maintaining a safe environment to customers. According to a research by American Express into credit card surcharges, 85% of customers say they would rather take their businesses elsewhere. The wise thing to do these days when doing business is to ask in advance if there is a surcharge, and then go ahead if it is worth it to you.
Are Coronavirus Surcharges Legal?
It is probably legal for businesses to include a surcharge given that the customer is aware of the additional fee. This is understandable in light of the COVID-19 which has triggered serious financial burdens on businesses.
Businesses owe both their employees and customers a duty of care including the responsibility to protect them from the risk of contracting coronavirus while on their premises. One of the ways to achieve this is by ensuring that they provide a safe and healthy environment.
- That said, businesses are incurring lots of costs to meet up the conditions given by the Center for Disease Control for reopening. Part of the measures that must be put in place include taking temperature tests of customers before entering the building. This helps them determine if a customer is beginning to display symptoms of covid-19.
Also, they must make provision for hand sanitizer as well as access to soap and water in bathrooms and sink areas. In fact, some businesses are taking a step further to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while others are installing the plexiglass barriers or other barriers to distance customers. Businesses factor all these costs and then extend the burden to customers.
- However, the COVID-19 surcharges could be problematic. Imagine being laid off as a result of the pandemic only to be asked to pay surcharges for a service. The truth is, the coronavirus has brought about untold hardship among millions of Americans who lost their jobs following the lockdown order prompted by the pandemic. Therefore, not everyone would be able to afford the additional fee added to their bill.
Can You Avoid Paying A COVID-19 Surcharge?
- It’s not certain if a preferential treatment exists regarding the inclusion or exclusion of a coronavirus surcharge. Before you pay the extra fee, you may have to consider the necessity of the service. For example, you may not have any other option than to pay your dentist a surcharge if the additional fee is applicable to get their service.
However, you may decide not to eat out if a restaurant is asking you to pay the surcharge. Regardless, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for the purpose of the extra money if you see a COVID-19 surcharge on your bill.