Qatari restaurants asked to use Arabic on bills

January 12, 2011

Qatar’s authorities have ordered the use of Arabic on all restaurant bills and asked 80 hotels to stop adding service charges in their bills.

The business and trade ministry told the hotels that the service charge practice was prohibited by the consumer protection law of the county and that legal action would be taken against them if they did not heed the warning.

The notices were issued following complaints from customer about services charges being levied by some restaurants, Qatari daily The Peninsula reported on Monday.

The ministry’s consumers’ protection department last year banned the service charge practice and insisted that hotels had no right to levy additional charges on top of the price mentioned in the menu. The department launched a campaign about the issue to create awareness among the public.

Service charges, often added to the final bill at some restaurants, usually range from five to 20 per cent depending on the standard of the outlet.

“Restaurants usually print this extra charge in a lighter shade or in small fonts, so no one will see it unless the customer goes through a breakdown of the bill,” a customer said.

Restaurants do remove the service charges when a customer complains that over billing is illegal.

“I pointed to them that this service charge contradicts the state law…Once the staff realised that I am an informed consumer, the bill was changed and the additional charges were waived,” Aisha Al Kuwari, a local columnist, said.

Restaurants generally defend the service charges practice and claim the money is divided among the stewards and kitchen staff.

However, according to many hotel employees only tips given by the guests are divided among the staff.

“If a hotel bills for service charge, it actually goes to the hotel. In such places, guests usually do not give tips to the staff. But when tips are given, they are divided among the staff,” a restaurant employee said, quoted by the daily.

Shaikh Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani, the head of the consumers’ protection department, said that restaurants and hotels that do not use Arabic in their bills and menus would be fined QR10,000.

The law, promulgated in 2008, is very clear about the use of Arabic in menus and bills and they should comply with it to avoid fines, he said. The bills and menus can be in another language in addition to Arabic, he said, according to Al Sharq daily.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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