OCEAN TOWNSHIP - This Tuesday, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Vin Gopal aiming to protect New Jersey restaurants from rising takeout and delivery service fees charged by some third-party food delivery services similar to Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats. Under the bill, during the COVID-19 state of emergency, these service fees cannot exceed 20 percent of the price of the original order, or 10 percent of the price of the original order if the restaurant is using its own driver for the delivery.
Any contracts established prior to New Jersey’s declaration of a state of emergency due to COVID-19 would remain unchanged, but any contract for services including a service fee exceeding the 20 percent or 10 percent cap must be reaffirmed by the restaurant in question if it was established after the state of emergency was declared.
This bill would also implement an overall cap of 25 percent for any additional services that restaurants wish to purchase from such a third-party app, such as advertising opportunities or other product features.
Penalties for violating this law would fall under the Consumer Fraud Act, punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. This fee cap would end 90 days after restaurants are permitted to operate at 25 percent capacity.
“Delivery services require real investments in infrastructure that many restaurants don’t have prepared and, due to the shutdowns, currently can’t afford,” said Senator Gopal (D-Long Branch). “Restaurants are having enough trouble retaining normal staff right now, let alone hiring new delivery staff. Many struggling restaurants are relying on the income provided by these third-party deliveries to make ends meet, but while most third-party delivery and takeout apps are acting in good faith, some bad actors are taking advantage of them. Once passed, this bill will make these relationships fairer and more equitable across the board.
“Grubhub has already reported that the number of daily average orders in April was up by 20 percent compared to a year ago, and third-party takeout/delivery apps are seeing revenues soaring under our new stay-at-home paradigm,” Gopal added. “Washington, DC, Seattle, and San Francisco have already passed emergency orders limiting these service fees, and lawmakers in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston are moving quickly to do the same. Our mom-and-pop restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19, and many can’t afford to operate under these overpriced contracts. It’s time to put this practice to an end and give our restaurants the protection they need and deserve.”
The bill now proceeds to the floor of the State Senate for debate.