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NEWTON

Newton mayor urges AG to protect restaurants from increased delivery fees during coronavirus crisis

City Hall in Newton is pictured with a sign on the door indicating it is closed to the public.
City Hall in Newton is pictured with a sign on the door indicating it is closed to the public.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Acting on a Newton City Council resolution, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has urged state Attorney General Maura Healey to protect local restaurants from high fees charged by third-party delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Fuller's May 14 letter to Healey, the mayor said Newton and other communities are in danger of losing a diverse range of local restaurants to the crisis.

"I urge you and your office to give your attention to the practice of high third-party delivery feeds and the burden they place on our already struggling restaurant and hospitality businesses," Fuller said.

The City Council's May 4 resolution called on the mayor to work with "relevant departments" to determine the feasibility of limiting the charges for online orders that third-party delivery services impose on restaurants. The measure calls for those charges to be no more than 10 percent of an order's purchase price.

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The resolution in Newton is based upon a similar Cambridge measure, according to Susan Albright, the president of the Newton City Council.

The call for a limit on third-party delivery fees follows an order by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed in April that capped them at no more than a 15 percent commission.

In her letter, Fuller said it did not appear to be within the power of municipalities to regulate these charges.

While many businesses were forced to close as part of efforts to slow the coronavirus’s spread, restaurants were allowed to continue operating if they offered only takeout or delivery services.

Still, this restriction “has placed a sudden and severe” financial strain on small businesses that operate on thin margins in the best of circumstances, Fuller said.

And the fees charged by some third-party delivery services can take up to 30 percent of the revenue from an order, she said, leaving restaurants unable to cover their costs.

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“I urge you to protect them from the practice of increased delivery fees, and ensure that delivery fees are transparent to the consumer,” Fuller said.



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.