Delivery platform SkipTheDishes has courted controversy in British Columbia by introducing a new B.C. surcharge on orders in response to the province’s temporary cap on third-party delivery services’ fees.
The temporary 15-per-cent cap on the fees that delivery services can charge restaurants went into effect on December 22 in what the provincial government described as a bid to help the ailing foodservice industry. It will remain in place until at least three months after the provincial state of emergency ends.
However, SkipTheDishes is now charging a temporary “B.C. Fee” of $0.99 on orders in the province.
B.C.-based users of the platform were informed of the SkipTheDishes fee through a message that reads: “The Province of British Columbia has temporarily capped the fees that Skip can charge local restaurants. To continue to provide you with the food you love from your favourite restaurants while providing earning opportunities for independently contracted couriers, you will now see a charge added to all orders in B.C. until the order is lifted.”
The B.C. government has officially condemned the move and has indicated it is seeking legal advice.
“When people are trying to stay home and stay safe while eating local, charging another fee on top of delivery is ridiculous,” Premier John Horgan stated on Twitter last week.
“I’m extremely disappointed in this decision by Skip The Dishes,” said Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon. “It was our objective to ensure that restaurants weren’t getting exploited during the pandemic. That’s why we put the order in place.”
Skip The Dishes has said it has supported restaurants with $43 million in commission rebates and “order-driving initiatives” during the pandemic, while restaurant owners have protested delivery fees of up to 30 per cent. It adds the new 99-cent fee is “temporary” until the government lifts the cap on its service charges.
However, restaurant sector advocates have also strongly criticized the introduction of the SkipTheDishes fee.
“I was quite surprised,” said Mark von Schellwitz, western vice-president of Restaurants Canada. “This is a counterproductive move by Skip the Dishes to add costs onto consumers because they are capped. You have to remember, over the last nine or 10 months we’ve had a three-fold increase of full service restaurants moving to take-out and delivery. At these 30 per cent fees that were being charged, these third-party delivery companies were making more money off a restaurant meal sale than the restaurant did
“We certainly appreciate what the B.C. government did in capping these fees. And today adding this extra fee is only going to hurt consumers.”
The government’s cap was applauded by the business community, restaurant sector, and B.C. Federation of Labour. The government said it had consulted with major companies like SkipTheDishes in setting the cap. The move has also been implemented in other provinces like Ontario, while Montreal advocates are calling for it to be mirrored in Quebec.
Meanwhile, B.C.-based ride-hailing company Lucky To Go has said it plans to expand its services to include food delivery in the wake of news of the SkipTheDishes fee.