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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Qatar eateries banned from charging customers minimum fees

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Restaurants, coffee shops and hotels in Qatar have been given 30 days to comply to a new government directive that prohibits them from charging customers a minimum fee to eat at their venues.

Currently, some places around town, such as those that offer shisha, screen sports tournaments or have musical entertainment, require minimum orders to manage the flow of customers at their venues.

The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) said such charges violate Article 10 of the Consumer Protection Law (No. 8 of 2008).

That provision prohibits requiring customers to purchase certain quantities, among other things.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a statement, the ministry added that such charges are harmful because they:

  • Cause financial loss to consumers;
  • Promote the bad habit of overspending;
  • Run counter to Islam’s call for moderation; and
  • Could lead to over-eating and over-drinking to meet the minimum charge, thus hurting a consumer’s health.

The decision to do away with minimum charges has already won widespread support online, with many thanking the MEC on Twitter for protecting the community.

However, others expressed confusion about whether the new decision applies only to dine-in customers.

Restaurants that deliver also often require a minimum charge, but this does not appear to have been banned.

Implementation

Within the next month, any eatery that requires a minimum order will need to inform their staff of the change. Managers should also revise menus, advertisements and signs about any minimum fees.

Once the grace period is over at the end of next month, the MEC will begin carrying out inspections and take legal action against erring outlets.

In the meantime, customers are being urged not to accept any minimum fees and to report outlets that flout the new rules by calling the MEC’s hotline at 16001, emailing info@mec.gov.qa or contacting the ministry on social media.

The latest directive follows several other consumer protection-related efforts taken by the ministry in recent months.

Last week, the MEC imposed new rules on gold and jewelry shops to provide more information to consumers about the value of their goods.

And last month, the ministry mandated a new refund policy that should make it easier for consumers to return/exchange goods at stores.

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