Diner's court win unplugs corkage fee debate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am

A Beijing court yesterday upheld a diner's complaint against a restaurant's 100-yuan corkage fee, a result the restaurant claims is a blessing in disguise.

The Beijing No1 Intermediate People's Court ruled that the Xiangshui Restaurant in Haidian district had breached the diner's right to information and fair transaction when it failed to state on the menu or remind him that customers had to pay a corkage fee to consume wine they bought elsewhere and brought into the restaurant, according to China News Service.

The court said because the policy increased the burden on consumers, they must be made aware of it.

The customer, identified only as Mr Wang, won back his 100 yuan.

The ruling caused controversy among restaurant owners, with some declaring they would ban customers who brought their own beverages. But the Beijing Catering Industry Association said it would not encourage the ban.

Yesterday's ruling said only that diners must be explicitly informed about any corkage fees.

Xiangshui Restaurant's deputy manager, Ge Jianhua , said the judgment was fair and showed respect for the industry.

'This judgment shows a change in legal position; it did not rule against the legality of charging a corkage fee,' Mr Ge said.

'This industry is not a monopoly. A customer has a choice whether to go or not to go to a restaurant [which charges a corkage fee].'

Qiu Baochang , who represented the Beijing Consumers' Association on the issue, said the judgment implied that the charge was unfair. But he said it was unnecessary for the court to say corkage fees in general were unfair because it depended on the situation.

He stressed that Mr Wang's food bill totalled 196 yuan, excluding the corkage fee.