Quebec restaurants charging illegal 'COVID fees' as province reopens

Some restaurants have introduced a "frais COVID," or a "COVID surcharge" on their tabs, causing uproar from patrons across La Belle Province.

Quebec has moved forward with allowing bars, restaurants, and virtually all other businesses to reopen their doors. Though some in the province have noticed that prices at their local eats have gone up a few dollars.

Some restaurants have introduced a "frais COVID," or a "COVID surcharge" on their tabs, causing uproar from patrons across La Belle Province.

According to an investigation by TVA Nouvelles, some restaurants are using the surcharge as a way to cover for their employees' health, in an effort to protect their staff and customers.

The fee is not mandatory, so long as the restaurant does not inform you of the fee upon entry. Additionally, customers can complain to the Consumer Protection Office of Quebec.

The fee goes directly against article 224c of the Consumer Protection Act, which states that businesses cannot demand prices higher than what's advertised, meaning restaurants must legally tell customers of its existence before ordering.

"The merchant must be absolutely transparent in announcing his prices," Charles Tanguay of the Office de la protection du consommateur told TVA Nouvelles. "If you go to the hair salon and you get a haircut and you are told after the cut that there will be an additional $ 5 or $ 10 for COVID, that is illegal."

One restaurant owner, Linda Girolamo of Napoletana Pizzeria, says she withdrew the $4 fee after customers complained. “It's a temporary situation, we didn't want to put the fees on the take-out or the delivery, it was only for the dining room. In return we gave a kit, it was not a tax. We give the bottle of water, if you don't drink it, take it home. But it went wrong," Girolamo told TVA.