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Extra fees facing Aussies this long weekend: ‘Confusing’

Public holiday surcharges as high as 20 per cent are likely to hit diners this long weekend.

Aussies planning to go out this Australia Day public holiday are being warned to watch out for hidden surcharges.

Restaurants and cafes across the country are likely to impose surcharges to their prices across the long weekend.

Public holiday surcharge sign and people eating out in Sydney.
Diners are being warned about public holiday and weekend surcharges this long weekend. (Source: X/Getty)

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While the standard 10 to 15 per cent surcharge has typically been the norm, one consumer campaigner said some businesses were now imposing surcharges as high as 20 per cent on diners.

“It might be a different surcharge on Saturday and then on Sunday, or 15 per cent throughout the weekend,” Fifty Up Club’s Christopher Zinn told 2GB. “It's incredibly confusing and bewildering.”

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Can businesses legally add a surcharge?

Yes, it is legal for businesses to impose surcharges on weekends and public holidays, as long as the customer knows about it.

For many businesses, it costs them more money to open on weekends and public holidays due to penalty rates paid to staff. Some businesses choose to add a surcharge to prices to cover these additional costs.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the one rule is that businesses can’t hide the surcharges on the menu.

“If they charge such a surcharge, they must include these words on the menu: A surcharge of [percentage] applies on [day or days],” the ACCC said.

Is there a limit on surcharges?

There is no limit on what the surcharge can be. Businesses are free to set their own public holiday surcharge rates.

Zinn said some businesses were charging 20 per cent surcharges but this was more “rare”.

“I see some businesses complain that, even at 15 per cent or 10 per cent - which is more average - they lose money,” Zinn said.

“One might say, ‘Why open if you lose money?’ But again, I suppose there is the expectation now from consumers that there is 24/7 service all the time and if you don’t stay open then your business might suffer more broadly.”

One Canberra business owner who wrote in claimed “no surcharge [was] too high” given businesses had to pay 150 per cent more in wages on Sundays and public holidays.

Zinn said it was “fair enough” for businesses to charge surcharges but said customers should also question them.

“I think it’s fair enough as consumers that we do continue to question whether that is fair and it is prominent and we are prepared to pay it,” he said.

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