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County’s Consumer Protection Department Clarifies “Covid-19 Fees” At Local Businesses

The Westchester County Consumer Protection Department has been notified that retail businesses in Westchester County have been adding COVID-19 related fees to bills, so the Department believes it’s important to clarify the County law in this area for both businesses and consumers.

County Executive George Latimer said: “We have an entire department here in Westchester dedicated to making sure you aren’t getting ripped off. I am proud of the work our Consumer Protection team does and particularly appreciate their work during this time of great uncertainty as the County moves towards reopening.”

Pursuant to the Westchester Consumer Protection Code, businesses can add these fees, but consumers must be clearly notified about the fees at the point of sale while they are involved in making a decision during a consumer transaction, not at the last minute when they get the bill. It is a violation of the consumer protection code: “To sell or offer for sale any consumer goods or services at a greater price than the price displayed or advertised therefor.”

Consumer Protection Department Director Jim Maisano stated: “We request that business should post signage in retail stores that are clearly visible to consumers upon their entrance into store and while shopping or ordering. If a retailer is passing along these fees, consumers have the right to know about those fees and costs before making their purchases. These fees should be set forth on price lists at retail stores and on menus at restaurants.

Consumers need to know that there are no “COVID-19” or “Pandemic” tax or fees that has been placed on goods and services by Westchester County, so these fees are being added by the stores and restaurants on their own.  Further, Consumers should never be charged a price above posted prices (outside of sales tax). If there is two tier pricing (Cash vs. Credit), both prices must be clearly posted.

If consumers believe they were not provided adequate notice of these fees, they can file a complaint on the Consumer Protection Department’s webpage: https://consumer.westchestergov.com or call the Department at 914-995-2155 should  you have any questions.

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