AG Ferguson issues guidance for third-party restaurant delivery services

Monday, December 7, 2020

Third-party delivery services that hide fees, list restaurants without their permission are likely violating the Consumer Protection Act

OLYMPIA — In response to concerns raised by consumer complaints and news reports, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued guidance today for third-party restaurant delivery services. The guidance is aimed at helping the companies avoid violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

The Attorney General’s Office has received approximately 45 complaints about third-party restaurant delivery services in 2020. The complaints cover a variety of issues.

Complaints and news reports highlight serious concerns for both restaurants and individual consumers. When a third-party service implies it is authorized to deliver for a restaurant, it could damage the restaurant’s reputation if the service performs poorly or charges unfair fees.

Consumers complained to the Attorney General’s Office that their bills were higher than expected due to membership or delivery fees. Consumers also complained that the menus posted on the websites of third-party restaurant delivery services did not match the actual restaurant menus.

“As the pandemic continues, many Washingtonians are increasingly using third-party delivery services to access their favorite restaurants,” Ferguson said. 
“These companies need to be clear and honest with consumers about their fees, and their relationships with restaurants.”

The guidance, available here, highlights conduct that likely violates the Washington Consumer Protection Act, including:
  • Charging consumers any fee without clearly and conspicuously disclosing the fee before the consumer places an order.
  • Listing a restaurant or business without their permission.
  • Establishing or listing false phone numbers, websites, or other contact information for a restaurant or business.
  • Misrepresenting to consumers the source of the food or products delivered.
  • Misrepresenting safety precautions.
In November, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a new emergency proclamation capping delivery fees for third-party delivery platforms at 15 percent of the price of the order, and total fees at 18 percent. The proclamation went into effect Nov. 25. Violating that proclamation would also violate the Consumer Protection Act.

To file a complaint about third-party delivery services, or other consumer issues, click here.


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