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Good Question: Are COVID-19 surcharges legal?

Brennan Somers
Updated: July 15, 2020 04:47 AM
Created: July 15, 2020 04:39 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Our Good Question comes from a viewer named Steve.

Steve asked: I was wondering if it was legal for businesses in New York State to charge an additional Coronavirus tax to your purchase or service provided?

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That tax Steve is referring to is better known as a COVID-19 surcharge. It’s just part of the fallout from the health crisis hitting your wallet.

Some stores say they have no choice but to charge customers more to cover the extra costs of doing business during the pandemic, whether that’s due to lack of supplies like PPE or rising prices on food.

Restaurants, salons and dentists are among those adding these surcharges to bills but not without any backlash.

"I think a lot of businesses are going to run into hot water with their customers when they add these surcharges,” Ted Rossman from Bankrate.com said. “A lot of times it's a surprise, it feels like a gotcha."

So, is this legal?

Gregory Frank, a partner at Frank LLP Class Action Litigators, spoke to TODAY. According to the New York City-based attorney, these charges are legal.

"Generally, restaurants are allowed to structure their pricing however they like," Frank said. "The important question is whether the restaurants are disclosing to consumers what they are paying before they pay it, so they can make their own informed choices."

If you have a question you would like answered, send an e-mail to GoodQuestion@whec.com.


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