Restaurants are able to collect a 10% service charge only when they prominently display the fee to customers, according to the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB).
Pol Col Prateep Charoengul, deputy secretary-general and spokesman of the OCPB, on Tuesday responded to a question over whether a customer needs to pay for a service charge. He responded by saying the service charge is an extra charge that restaurants collect from customers which differs from tips that customers give when they are satisfied with the service.
The service charge is normally collected at no more than 10% of the total bill. It is an optional and not a mandatory charge that a restaurant can choose to include on the bill, Pol Col Prateep said. But to ensure the fair treatment of customers, all business operators must comply with customer protection laws by clearly displaying a notice saying that they collect a service charge.
"It is the right of customers to know all the charges they will get from a restaurant before they decide to dine in the restaurant or not," he said.
If restaurant owners fail to comply, customers can refuse to pay the service charge, Pol Col Prateep said.
Customers can file a complaint with the Department of Internal Trade (DIT) or call its 1166 hotline if a restaurant collects a service charge of over 10% or does not display a notification that they will collect such a charge, Pol Col Prateep said.
The service charge issue has recently gained public attention after former senator Jermsak Pinthong, who is also a special lecturer from the Faculty of Economics at Thammasat University, questioned the necessity for a customer to pay a service charge in a restaurant.
In a Facebook post, he said after discussing with six legal experts, he found that customers have the right to refuse to pay the service charge. Restaurants, he said, have no right to force customers to pay a service charge.
In a restaurant, there are no special services other than serving food to customers, he said. But restaurants charge 10% for their service while some other restaurants in Bangkok collect a 15%-20% charge.