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VERIFY: Is it legal for businesses to add a COVID-19 surcharge?

People across the country are seeing an extra charge at the bottom of their bill to help cover the cost of rising meat prices and purchasing PPE, but is it legal?

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Across the state and the rest of the country, some restaurants are giving customers an extra charge at the bottom of their bill.

They call it a COVID-19 surcharge to help with the cost of gloves, masks and rising meat prices.

But is it legal?

We set out to verify.

A post from a sushi restaurant in West Plains, Missouri made headlines when they announced they would be adding a COVID-19 surcharge to everyone's bill due to rising meat prices.

Credit: WMAZ

It's something Ken McCall in Warner Robins is becoming all too familiar with.

"Beef costs, in particular, just doubled and, in some cases, tripled, along with some of the other processed meats that we use," says McCall.

To cover the extra costs of not only the meat, but also masks and takeout containers, he had to raise the price of some of his sandwiches by 99 cents.

"The only thing that I've raised is the price of the sandwiches with beef on them."

Raising prices is one thing, but how about an added charge on top of the menu price?

Shawn Conroy with the Consumer Protection Division of the Georgia Attorney General's Office says if businesses do add that COVID charge, it is legal in Georgia.

They just have to announce the surcharge through social media or on signs in the restaurant.

If they don't, they could be violating Georgia law.

McCall says he is not in favor of adding a COVID-19 surcharge.

"I don't know why they would want to put a label on it. Prices go up for various reasons."

So we can verify that, yes, it is legal in Georgia to add a COVID-19 surcharge as long as it is clearly stated to your customers before the sale is complete.

The Consumer Protection Division also says if you believe a business has failed to disclose that extra charge, you can file a complaint.

To do that, you can go to consumer.ga.gov or call 404-651-8600.

RELATED: 'We won't tolerate those who are taking advantage': Georgia Attorney General's office reviewing hundreds of price gouging complaints

RELATED: Tips to avoid price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic

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