You go to a restaurant, order your food, then pay your bill, but then you see a new fee tacked on your receipt. It says “healthcare surcharge.”
That’s what a KHON2 viewer saw when she recently dined out at a Hawaii restaurant.
“I haven’t heard of this type of fee before being charged to consumers in Hawaii,” said state office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Stephen Levins.
In the situation KHON2 News was looking at, the local restaurant had placed a 3 percent surcharge on customer bills.The restaurant’s owner says that surcharge was to help pay for his workers healthcare plans. He says the fee was displayed on the menu and on the receipt.
So can all businesses just add on this type of fee?
“It really depends on the circumstances and we just have to take a look,”said Levins.”For instance if they are advertising a fee that doesn’t exist, a phantom fee it may not be allowable. If it’s a legitimate fee it maybe.”
The DCCA says if the consumer knows what he’s paying for and the fee is going to exactly what is stated then it could be fine, but if any of that fee is going elsewhere or consumers are misled there can be a penalties.
“If we see something that appears to be unfair or deceptive trade practice we’re going to take a careful look at it,” said Levins. Businesses that violate consumer rights can face penalties ranging from $500 to $10,000 per violation. “The preferred practice for most merchants in the state of Hawaii is to just have the entire cost stated up front,” said Levins.