We’re joined today by Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland, who has kindly agreed to answer some questions on the rights and responsibilities of restaurant customers.
Founded in 1966, the CAI is an independent, self-funded and non-profit organisation which works to protect and strengthen the rights of all Irish consumers.
Q. If the service is very rude, inefficient, or poor, does the customer have any right to refuse to pay part of the bill?
A. You would have to be very clear throughout the meal that you are not happy with the service you are receiving – this will make it possible for you to refuse to pay a standing service charge or decline to offer a tip of any kind at the end. However, if you eat the meal and there is nothing wrong with it then, unless you negotiate a reduction with the manager, you would be expected to pay for it. The key here is to state your dissatisfaction early and explain to the management that, considering the poor level of service etc. you would expect a reduction in your overall charge.
Q. If the restaurant/ takeaway messes up your order, what rights does a customer have?
A. If they mess up your order then you are entitled to send it back and have it replaced with the food you ordered. When you order you are entering into a contract – to pay for what you ordered. So, if it is wrong then all bets are off – the contract is not completed until the matter is resolved to everyones satisfaction.
Q. Overall, what rights does a customer have in a restaurant?
A. The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, which states that goods should be of merchantable quality, fit for their purpose and as described, also applies to the sale of food. Retail outlets selling food must, by law, sell food that is safe to eat.
If you have eaten or purchased food that is unfit or not to a satisfactory standard or if you are unhappy with the hygiene standards of the establishment then you should act quickly and make a complaint. Speak to management, be polite and never lose your temper, state your problem and how you would like it to be resolved. If you are unhappy then contact the Food Safety Authority of Ireland or your localHealth Service Executive office.