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Angry diner accuses restaurant of ‘sneaky’ charge on meal bill

The customer was confused by the bill but the Sydney restaurant said her allegations were untruthful and has explained the reason for the charge.

A fuming Aussie diner who copped an additional payment on top of her afternoon meal with a friend has accused the restaurant of applying a "sneaky tax", prompting management to clarify the confusion.

The diner said she unknowingly paid the additional charge when she got her bill at Barbetta, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Paddington, and only realised later when she went to split the bill with her mate that the prices didn't match the menu.

"They added GST on top of the menu pricing, what the f**k?" she wrote online. "Example, [the] lasagna is $36 on the menu [but I was] charged $39.60."

Left, the online menu indicates the two pasta dishes are $36 and $37. Right, the bill with the 'sneaky' payment indicates the dishes are $39.60 and $40.70 respectively.
The diner blasted the 'sneaky' payment on her bill, comparing it to the prices on the online menu. Source: Barbetta and Reddit

The diner believed the additional charges on the menu items were for GST, as the 10 per cent extra on each item purchased matched with the listed GST amount.

"Never seen this tactic before but only realised after I got home," she wrote. "To be fair the food was quite nice, but the sneaky tax doesn't feel good."

Barbetta respond to 'untruthful' allegations

Yahoo News Australia spoke to management at Barbetta who called the allegations "untruthful" and explained the additional cost was a 10 per cent Sunday surcharge despite what may have been implied by the receipt. They said the menu clearly indicates a Sunday and public holiday surcharge applies.

The outside of Barbetta with diners eating inside.
Barbetta management said the additional charge is a Sunday surcharge. Source: Google Maps

Many restaurants and cafés impose surcharges on certain days — usually weekends and public holidays — and the practice is legal as long as it is displayed to customers and and does not mislead them, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The diner claims online she saw no notice indicating this surcharge and believes the bill is confusing with amounts added to the menu prices and then a GST component listed below.

Surcharges are usually marked under the itemised list as a whole amount contributing to the total bill, rather than a charge individually added onto each food and drink item purchased.

Consumer expert weighs in on customer confusion

Consumer expert Gary Mortimer told Yahoo News Australia it was a different method of applying a surcharge to a customer's receipt and this may have caused confusion, but no foul play took place in this instance.

"It's not uncommon for businesses to apply a service surcharge on public holidays or Sundays, legally they need to identify it on signage," he said. "How that particular business has calculated that 10 per cent is slightly different from the others might but the total remains the same, it's the same amount at the end."

The words '10 per cent surcharge applies on Sunday' on a red menu.
Barbetta said the 10 per cent Sunday surcharge is clearly stated on their menus. Source: Supplied

What the law says

The law states prices and surcharges need to be conveyed clearly to customers.

"Restaurants and cafés are free to set surcharges, but they must provide consumers with a prominent single total price for goods and services, where they are able to be quantified at that time. This can be as simple as a separate menu or price column for the surcharge days," the ACCC website states.

"However, the menu must include the words 'a surcharge of [percentage] applies on [specified days]' and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu."

"If the menu does not have prices listed, these words must be displayed in a way that is conspicuous and visible to a reader. These measures apply to pricing for both food and beverages."

Hospitality venues have no limit on the surcharge percentage it imposes, however, the customers can report to the ACCC if they believe the amount is unreasonable.

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Yahoo Australia