Will you pay the restaurant service charge for bringing you free tap water?

Free Tap water

This issue brought to our attention recently. Are cosummer's rights taking too far?  A question some of the buffet restaurters asked us.

The fact is, the Local Licensing Act 2003, then twice updated act came into force in April 2010 and 2014 said, all restaurants in England and Wales that serve alcohol are legally required to supply fee paying customers free tap water if the customer ask to supply.  Scotland has a similar legislation, but still require licensed establishment to do the same.

In our present economic situation, many small local buffet restaurants are working on a shoestring budget, decided to charge 30-40p as an additional service charge when customer required free tap water. 

Since the Licensing Act does not mention whether allowing restaurant to put in additional service charge or not, this is a grey area that you can not say its right or wrong for restaurant to charge for a small service. In theory, if the restaurant reminds their customer that they do not charge for tap water. However, the water needs to be served by waiter or waitress, refill if required and glass has to be washed and dried. Restaurant is not going to make a huge profit out of this service charge. Nevertheless, Customer still have the right to refuse being charged and insist to have free water supply to drink.

The bottom line is, the restaurant will still supply you with a glass of free tap water to drink with your meal, because you have good reason such as can't drink alcohol and dislike cold drink. Or, they don't want to upset you.

The question to pay or not pay lies on the customer's moral sense of right or wrong to refuse to pay.

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