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Ministry of Economy and Commerce Bans Minimum Charge at Eateries

July 2016 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Ghada M. Darwish Law Firm.

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Following previous consumer protection-related decisions and as one of the efforts of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to promote consumer protection in Qatar, the Ministry, in June 26th, 2016, issued Circular No. 6 of the year 2016 which laid down a prohibition on imposing a minimum charge by restaurants, coffee shops and hotels.

The minimum charge rule imposed by many restaurants and coffee shops forced consumers to consume a minimum amount of products that in many cases might exceed their desired consumption or to spend a certain amount per person or per table regardless of the number of consumers.

The decision has already received great support by many consumers. It is also part of an initiative, among many others by the Ministry, called "The Least We Can Do" which aims at regulating the market and the relationship between suppliers and consumers.

The Ministry of Economy and Commerce declared that applying the minimum charge rule violates Article (10) of the Law No. 8 of the year 2008 on Consumer Protection which stipulates: " Subject to the provisions of Law No. 19 of 2006 concerning the protection of competition and the prevention of monopolistic practices, a supplier may not hide any commodity, or refrain from selling it for the purpose of controlling the market price, or impose the purchase of certain quantities thereof or the purchase of another commodity in combination with the said commodity, or charge a higher price than the advertised price. The supplier may not cause any increase in the price of commodities and services without complying with the principles and controls issued in the Minister's resolution".

The Ministry has set a grace period of 30 days for restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and similar businesses to comply with the decision and adjust their positions accordingly, thereafter the Ministry shall carry out inspections and visits to ensure compliance therewith, in case of any discovered violations it shall take all necessary legal actions against violators.

The Ministry compelled eateries to review their menus, price lists, and invoices, to omit any reference to minimum charge, and to give instructions to their employees and those in charge of customer service  to refrain from requesting minimum charge or pressuring consumers to spend more than their desire. The Ministry also urged consumers not to accept any minimum charge and to report any violations or abuses by calling the Ministry's hotline at 16001, emailing info@mec.gov.qa or contacting the Ministry on social media.