/ Money

Service fees: have you been charged extra?

Have you been hit by an additional service charge related to the pandemic? Are services now more expensive than before? We want to hear your experiences.

Many businesses have incurred extra costs since the start of the pandemic: aside from having to close their doors for most of the past year, hairdressers, beauticians and restaurants have also had to invest in additional PPE measures.

We’re interested in finding out if those costs are being passed on to customers.

Increasing prices

Has your haircut or beauty treatment gone up in price?

For example, we’ve seen people tweeting about extra charges at their hairdressers – with fees ranging from £5 – £8 to cover the cost of PPE equipment.

If you’ve faced additional charges at a hair salon/barbers, let us know how much it was.

‘Covid recovery’ fees

You might also have been surprised by an expensive bill when eating out at a restaurant? In New York, restaurants are allowed to charge dining-in customers a 10% additional ‘Covid Recovery’ fee in a bid to get businesses back on track.

If you are to be charged a compulsory service fee, this should be made clear before you order.

Take a look at our guide to paying service charges

Have you been charged an additional service fee or experienced higher prices as a result of the pandemic? Are you happy to pay extra fees? 

Let us know in the comments.

Are you happy to pay extra fees to businesses recovering from the pandemic?
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This practice sounds like a misleading indication of price. Businesses should communicate the total price of the service, including all unavoidable fees and taxes, before a consumer takes a transactional decision to use the service. The contractual price due is the price that was communicated. Consumers should refuse to pay any fees that are over and above the contractual price and cite Regulation 5(4)(g) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

As long as the charges are shown upfront, before you choose to use the hairdresser for example, then you have the choice to go ahead, or not. I don’t see why a restaurant needs to have “covid recovery fee”, just put up the menu prices. Businesses can charge what they like; we can choose whether or not we want to purchase.

Malcolm, the danger of allowing businesses to show these charges upfront as separate charges, instead of increasing the total headline price, is that it’s a form of drip pricing. Consumers want to know the total price that they are going to pay for a service. Showing multiple charges instead of just one total price serves only to facilitate a misleading indication of price.

NFH, assuming the extra charges are temporary, and justified, I think it then fair to show them seoarately. You then know the actual cist of the service when times, eventually, return to normal.

Malcolm, even using the New York example, where restaurants are allowed to surcharge 10%, this has to be stated in the menu. So if they are going to reprint the menus to show this 10% surcharge, then why not reprint the menu to show total prices including the 10% surcharge? Of course, US restaurant menus misleadingly exclude sales tax and effectively-compulsory tips, but that’s another story.

If service providers are allowed to add surcharges to headline prices, then we end up with drip pricing, just like Ryanair, whereby unavoidable charges are added to the headline price, which serves only to facilitate a misleading indication of price.

I am not generally in favour of a list of surcharges (or extra charges) unless they represent discretionary purchases. However, in the case of Covid, where there may be exceptional but temporary costs to the business, such as PPE, that will be removed once restrictions are lifted, I do not think it unreasonable to show them.
But making a separate charge to reflect lost business in a restaurant over the lockdown is not something I would support. As I said above ”I don’t see why a restaurant needs to have “covid recovery fee”.

I am in favour of just one inclusive price. Competition should then moderate unfair increases. I went for a year without a haircut and I can do it again if they start playing silly games. The same for eating out.

It might seem unreasonable to say this, but the present circumstances are a good opportunity to rewind and reset the economics of lots of businesses to a sensible level according to what customers really need and can afford.

I want to be told the full price and am strongly opposed to surcharges.

Before the pandemic I usually paid £8 for a haircut but when hairdressers reopened I paid £20 including having my hair washed. It had been washed two hours before.

Em says:
14 June 2021

My dentist adds a £5 charge for Covid-related expenses. The dentist and assistant both wear a single use FFP3 face mask and need to spend additional time between patients, wiping down the chair and other surfaces. The cost of the face masks alone mean that they are not profiting from the additional charge. If they recovered those costs by increasing fees on procedures, then someone requiring two fillings would be paying more towards these fixed costs than someone needing just one.

Similarly, hairdressers and restaurants may have some additional fixed costs, but the standard of hygiene and care to allow for Covid precautions in these settings is much lower than a dentist’s. I don’t see waiters changing their face masks or disinfecting their hands between serving each customer. Maybe £1 per table max.

The fact that a restaurant can accommodate fewer tables because of social distancing has nothing to do with me, so I wouldn’t expect to pay more on food to make up for these phantom customers. I don’t think they will be putting their prices down when lockdown ends, so I would rather these charges are shown separately up front, it is clear why they are there and when they will end. they should not aim to make a profit from these overheads.

You take a close look at holiday companys’ school holiday prices for this Summer now that is where you will find a real rip-off. I for one have made the decision not to pay it, I am not baling them out for circumstances that have affected me as much as them.

It is largely about supply and demand. Prices are always higher in the peak season for that reason. Not using those companies is the choice we have.