California's Landmark Price Transparency Law to Go Into Effect in July — Here's What You Need to Know

By Jose Resurreccion

May 11, 2024 02:36 AM EDT

Starting July 1, California restaurants must incorporate comprehensive prices for every item with all mandatory charges in one figure on their menus, providing price transparency for consumers. 

VCPost previously reported that some restaurants would be required to remove additional costs from customers' bills due to a new state law, SB 478, which prohibits hidden service fees that may range from 4% to 20% of the advertised price.

The law would also apply to hotels, ticket sellers, and other businesses across various sectors. Only fees entirely optional, such as leaving tips for staff, could be excluded from the posted pricing.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the law, which would be implemented based on his office's guidance released on Wednesday, will apply to thousands of businesses in the state.

"The law is simple: the price you see is the price you pay. Laws work when everyone can comply. I am pleased that we can offer this guidance to help facilitate compliance with the law and make a more fair and level marketplace for businesses and consumers," Bonta said in a statement.

Consumer Advocates Praise California’s Price Transparency Law Banning Service Fees as State Government Publishes Guidelines
Interior view of cafe and restaurant as seen at The Abbey 30th Anniversary Ceremony at The Abbey on May 23, 2021 in West Hollywood, California.
(Photo : Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

California Restaurant Owners Brace for Impact

Several restaurateurs across the state have been worrying about the impact of the new legislation on their businesses. 

Restaurant owner Laurie Thomas, who heads the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, told NPR that the changes would result in higher prices, which could become a psychological obstacle in consumer dining habits, resulting in lower restaurant incomes that would hurt staff the most. 

Read Next: New California Legislation Could Put an End to Restaurant Surcharges

Consumer Advocates Praise California Legislation

Jenn Engstrom, state director for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit California Public Interest Research Group, told NPR that the new law would benefit consumers because they would "know the true price of products upfront."

Director of Consumer Protection for the Consumer Federation of America Erin Witte also told the outlet that laws like SB 478 would provide consumers with the clarity they need about the actual cost of their meals, adding that the current set-up has been giving patrons uncertainty over whether their dinner will cost an extra dollars that could "have cascading effects if it's more than they budgeted."

According to the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive nonprofit campaigning against "junk fees," California is not the only US state pushing for more transparency about prices. Colorado and Pennsylvania also propose similar policies but have yet to be given final approval. 

Read More: Some California Stores May Be Forced to Close Self-Checkout Lanes Under New Bill

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