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 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, Prateep said. But all business operators must clearly display 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, he said.
Customers can file a complaint with the Department of Internal Trade 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, he said.
The issue has recently gained public attention after Jermsak Pinthong, former senator and special lecturer at Thammasat University, questioned the need 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.