Businesses have higher costs associated with cleaning more frequently and protective equipment, and those costs could be passed down to the customer.
- Businesses like hair salons, dentist offices, and care homes are charging customers “Covid-19” fees.
- The fees — which range from $5 to over $1,000 — are meant to cover the cost of cleaning and PPE.
- Covid-19 is not an excuse to “impose unauthorized costs” on customers, Michigan AG Dana Nessel said.
Businesses like hair salons, dentist offices, and assisted living facilities are charging customers hidden fees to help assist with costs incurred for personal protective equipment or cleaning associated with the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.
The costs come as millions of Americans have lost their jobs and health insurance, and as businesses deal with higher costs to clean facilities more frequently or ensuring everyone has adequate protective equipment.
The New York Times reported that fees range from just a few dollars to over $1,000. A senior living facility, for instance, charged $900 for masks, cleaning supplies, and meal delivery, and an ambulance ride had an added $60 fee for PPE.
There have been 510 complaints across 29 states over coronavirus-related charges at dentist offices, senior living facilities, hair salons, and restaurants, the Post reported.
“It’s a complicated answer, who pays for this,” Scott Manaker, a physician who is in charge of the American Medical Association’s practice expense committee, told The Times. “You look around the community and see additional costs being imposed right and left because of Covid-19. Barbershops, pedicures, and restaurants all have additional charges. It would be an undue burden to ask the medical community to bear this alone.”
While laws in some states protect consumers, those in others allow businesses to add them but only if they are disclosed from the start, the Post reported.
After 45 residents reported getting charged $900 for meal and cleaning services as well as PPE, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a cease-and-desist letter to 11 senior living facilities.
“This pandemic has caused financial strain for many people and businesses in Michigan, but that does not provide companies with the right to impose unauthorized costs on their customers and clients – especially those in our senior communities and others who are already living on a fixed income,” Nessel said in a news release.
Dentist’s offices are especially prone to extra charges, report says
According to an analysis by The Post, the bulk of the complaints about extraneous fees have come from dental patients.
The Times reported that dental industry guidelines allow for fees that insurers won’t pay to be billed to the customer. The Post added that while some insurers providers subsidize the cost of PPE, others don’t allow for the client to be liable for additional charges. The American Dental Association has called on dental plans to begin reimbursing the new fee.
“The choice to charge an additional fee for PPE is an individual dental practice business decision,” Chad Gehani, a past president of the American Dental Association, told the Post.
In August, New York state regulators outlawed the practice of having extra fees added to bills for dental cleaning be sent to customers directly instead of their insurance plans because it violated consumer protection laws, the Times reported.
Consumers told the Post and Times that while fees are relatively small, they do add up, and they wish there was more transparency upfront.