County’s Consumer Protection Department Clarifies “COVID-19 Fees” At Local Businesses
The Westchester County Consumer Protection Department has been notified that retail businesses in our County have been adding COVID-19 related fees to bills, so the Department believes it’s important to clarify the County law in this area for both businesses and consumers. Pursuant to the Westchester Consumer Protection Code, businesses can add these fees, but consumers must be clearly notified about the fees at the point of sale while they are involved in making a decision during a consumer transaction, not at the last minute when they get the bill. It is a violation of the consumer protection code: “To sell or offer for sale any consumer goods or services at a greater price than the price displayed or advertised therefor.” Consumers need to know that there are no “COVID-19” or “Pandemic” tax or fees that has been placed on goods and services, so these fees are being added by the stores and restaurants on their own. Further, consumers should never be charged a price above posted prices (outside of sales tax). If there is two tier pricing (Cash vs. Credit), both prices must be clearly posted. If consumers believe they were not provided adequate notice of these fees, they can file a complaint on the Consumer Protection Department’s webpage: https://consumer.westchestergov.com or call the Department at (914) 995-2155 with questions.