Grubhub Sued by Washington, D.C. for Inflated Pricing — What It Could Mean for Consumers
Washington, D.C. is the most recent addition in a growing list of cities, municipalities and food service establishments suing food delivery app Grubhub for “deceptive business practices.”
In a 56-page document filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Grubhub Holdings, Inc. was sued for seven violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Take a look.
Misrepresenting Non-Partner Restaurants
First, Grubhub allegedly added non-partner restaurants to its website without the restaurants’ consent and without disclosing the restaurants’ status as non-partners to consumers. Menu offerings, prices and hours for these non-partner sites were frequently out of date or incorrect, the suit alleges. The company was also sued for this practice by restaurant company CO Craft in May 2020.
Grubhub allegedly obscured its service fee and small order fee into a “taxes” line item, only disclosing a delivery fee. By the time consumers realize there are added fees, they have already invested time in choosing their order.
Misrepresenting Partner Restaurant Phone Numbers
Grubhub allegedly assigned some partner restaurants “routing telephone numbers” that looked like the restaurants’ direct lines but were actually Grubhub numbers. Grubhub charged partner restaurants a commission for orders that came through these numbers, without clearly disclosing the fact to customers, according to the lawsuit.
Misrepresenting Partner Restaurant Websites
Grubhub allegedly created microsites designed to look like partner restaurant websites, without disclosing this to consumers. This limited the consumers’ ability to choose an ordering and delivery method.
The City of Chicago sued Grubhub for the same “deceptive and unfair tactics” in 2021, according to an article on The Verge. Grubhub claims it has since retired its microsites.
Higher Menu Prices
Grubhub often published prices higher than their partner restaurants’ actual prices on their website, without clearly and sufficiently disclosing to their customers that the prices for items ordered through the Grubhub app may be higher, according to the court document. Because Grubhub also charges delivery fees, service fees and a “small order” fee when applicable, consumers reasonably assume that menu prices are the same as the restaurant charges.
In a statement, Grubhub told The Verge that it will prominently tell consumers that prices may be lower ordering directly from the restaurant.
Misrepresenting the ‘Supper for Support’ Promotion
The City of Chicago suit also called out Grubhub for its “Supper for Support” promotion, which is also listed as one of the items in the District of Columbia case. Through this program, restaurants were allegedly required to foot the bill for a $10 discount off a $30 or more purchase.
How Will This Affect Customers?
While Grubhub director of corporate communications Katie Norris said in a statement that “many of the practices at issue have been discontinued,” the lawsuit could spark Grubhub to be more careful about disclosing fees and relationships. This would make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions when placing orders through the app.
Grubhub is not the only restaurant delivery app with high delivery fees and deceptive practices, according to The Verge. DoorDash has also come under fire for misleading customers.
Ideally, the D.C. lawsuit against Grubhub will force delivery services to be more forthcoming in their business practices, relationships and fees, which means people can order with peace-of-mind knowing they aren’t paying more than they should.
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