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The Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office
has become aware of several restaurants in the county charging mandatory service fees and surcharges
without conspicuously disclosing them to customers before they place orders. The law requires restaurants
to clearly and conspicuously disclose any fees or surcharges added to a customer’s bill before customers
place their orders. Consumers are entitled to accurate price information to enable them to make informed
decisions about what to purchase.

California’s False Advertising Law, Business and Professions Code section 17500, prohibits making any
untrue or misleading statements or advertisements in connection with the sale of goods or services. Failing to
disclose material information, such as fees and surcharges, is considered misleading for purposes of the False
Advertising Law. In the context of restaurant services, all components of the charge for food, beverages,
and/or services must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer before the consumer places
their order.

Restaurants must prominently disclose all added fees or charges (such as a mandatory service charge,
inflation surcharge, required gratuity, or credit card processing fee) in such a way that the patron is fully
aware, prior to placing their order, of the entire price that will be charged. The necessary disclosure must be
sufficiently large or otherwise formatted (with typeface or color) to be readily seen and understood by all

Violations of the False Advertising Law can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or as civil violations, with
remedies including monetary penalties, permanent injunctions, and agency enforcement costs.
If you wish to report any undisclosed restaurant fees or surcharges, please complete the Consumer Complaint
Form located here:


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