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Schenectady County Caps Third-Party Restaurant Delivery Fees During Pandemic

A photo of a vegetarian bratwurst and cheese curd fries
Ian Pickus
A vegetarian bratwurst and cheese curd fries

Schenectady County is the latest in New York to cap third-party delivery fees at restaurants during the pandemic. 

The Schenectady County legislature approved a local law Tuesday, placing fee limits on third-party delivery services during a declared emergency.

County legislator Sara Mae Pratt…

“While third-party delivery services such as Door Dash and Grub Hub offer some benefits to locally owned restaurants, such as a boost in visibility and increased volume, the fees assessed on restaurants always left little-to-no room for the small business to profit,” said Pratt.

Pratt, a Democrat, is also the owner of the Puzzles Bakery and Café in downtown Schenectady.

“While these third party transactions may have made up a small percentage of overall sales pre-pandemic, in-house dining has been decimated and many restaurants now rely on third-party delivery services for nearly all of their sales. For this reason, it is incredibly important to put a stop to price gouging and to have the restaurants in our communities in these troubling times," said Pratt. 

The local law adopted by Schenectady County is similar to efforts in Albany and Westchester Counties, as well as New York City. During a declared emergency – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – all third-party delivery companies may not charge an establishment a delivery fee of more than 15 percent of each online order. Additionally, pickup fees may not exceed 5 percent.

During an emergency period, third-party delivery services may not increase a non-delivery fee, reduce delivery service compensation, or increase a customer service fee by greater than two dollars.

Schenectady County Legislature Democratc Majority Leader Gary Hughes hopes the legislation will aid struggling businesses.

“As we continue through this period of emergency, hopefully this is going to provide them with relief and still allow residents to obtain access through delivery services as needed,” said Hughes.

Melissa Flieschut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, offered written comments praising the Schenectady County legislation, and backed the amendment to cap non-delivery fees at 5 percent of any order – bringing the county’s legislation in line with the policies in Albany, Westchester, and New York City.

A representative of Door Dash submitted a written comment calling the provision that caps increases to customer service fees at amount no greater than two dollars during an emergency “extreme” and “legally suspect.”

The fee-capping law adopted by Schenectady County Tuesday would remain in effect until similar legislation is passed at the state or federal level.

Last fall, three Capital Region state lawmakers introduced a similar bill that would apply to third-party delivery services statewide, including Assemblymember John McDonald of Cohoes, Assemblymember Carrie Woerner of Round Lake, and Assemblymember Pat Fahy of Albany, all Democrats.

Fahy spoke to WAMC about her advocacy to assist restaurants last month.

“We really have to be mindful of the fact that this industry is being, this this entire sector is being devastated,” said Fahy.

Another bill in the state legislature supported by Republican State Senator Daphne Jordan of Halfmoon and Democratic Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam would create a one-week sales tax holiday for food and drink sold at restaurants.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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