Compulsory service charges rejected

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THE Government has rejected calls for legislation which consumer groups believe could help to stop unscrupulous restaurant workers from tricking customers into tipping twice.

Baroness Denton, Under-Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs, said yesterday that the Government had ruled out forcing restaurants to make service and cover charges inclusive. She accepted that service charges sometimes caused confusion but the preferred course was to rely on the current voluntary code of practice, which would be reviewed to seek improvements.

The decision comes despite a committee set up by the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate restaurant charges recommending that prices should be all-inclusive.

Groups such as the Consumers' Association believe that some menu prices cause confusion because they do not include service charges, which vary from 8 to 15 per cent, and cover charges.

The association also found that at some restaurants the 'total amount' box on a customer's credit card slip was left empty for a tip to be added, despite the fact that a compulsory service charge had already been added.

Mike Gottlieb, vice-chairman of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain, said that the Government's decision was crazy. 'Restaurants . . . are losing business because confusion over tipping puts some people off.'

But Richard Shepherd, proprietor of Langan's restaurants, said: 'The question of service charges should be a matter for individual owners.'

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