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Your Stories Q&A: Can restaurants add automatic gratuity to the check?

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – You ask, we answer!

A viewer named Dario, reached out the Your Stories Team to ask:

Can restaurants add an automatic gratuity to your bill?

Dario specifically mentioned a 15% tip added for a party of two. He wanted to know if this is legal in New York State.

To get the answer, the YS Team went to New York State’s Division of Consumer Protection.

A spokesperson told us there are no state laws that prohibit a restaurant from adding gratuity or tip to the bill. However, according to the Division of Consumer Protection, you shouldn’t be surprised by the restaurant policy when getting the check.

“…It is incumbent upon any restaurant including an automatic gratuity charge to provide in advance, clear and conspicuous notice that an automatic gratuity charge will be levied, and all terms associated with the automatic charge. If consumers are not provided advanced notice the consumers may have a claim under the NYS Deceptive Acts & Practices law,” The Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection wrote in an email.

The Consumer Protection Division said deceptive acts or practices are outlined in General Business Law §349.

What should people do if they feel restaurants are not giving proper notice?

As noted, there is no NYS law that prohibits an automatic gratuity from being assessed. However, if a consumer is aggrieved, they are encouraged to engage the New York State Division of Consumer Protection’s voluntary mediation services.  The Division works to mediate and resolve complaints between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection,” The Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection wrote in an email.

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