Do I have to pay the 10% service charge in restaurants?

Last updated on January 15, 2011

A 10% service charge is usually applied in restaurants in Singapore. You may come across situations in which you feel that you have been given terrible service at a particular restaurant, and do not want to pay the service charge because it would be unjustified to do so. Unfortunately, it is highly probable that you will be ordered to pay the amount, in the event that such a trivial matter is brought to the attention of the court.

This is because it is often clearly displayed  in menus and signs that all prices are subject to a 10% service charge. There is no indication that this 10% is dependent on good service. In most cases in reality, the amount collected from service charge is not even returned to the restaurant staff. It can be argued that by having food there, you accepted to pay the 10% charge as part of the contract. Hence, it would not be right for you to refuse to pay.

However, it is likely that smart restaurant owners have their ways of placating irate customers who complain of bad service. For example, they may offer the customer a free meal upon his next visit, or a small discount from the bill. They would not allow the matter to escalate beyond a fuss at the restaurant even though they may win a case in court. This is because the amount of money concerned is usually too small to justify taking legal action. Also, customers always have the option of not returning to the restaurant if they are dissatisfied with its service.

The 10% service charge simply seems to be a custom amongst restaurants in Singapore. There does not appear to be anything that mandates it.

Before making a purchase
  1. Consumer Rights in Singapore
  2. Requisite elements in the formation of a contract
  3. Buying a Car in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide
  4. “Certified Organic” Food in Singapore: What Does It Mean?
When making a purchase
  1. Can silence amount to acceptance of a contract?
  2. What are Warranties, Conditions and Innominate Terms?
  3. The Sale of Food in Singapore
When there are problems after purchase
  1. What If a Shop Vendor Sells Me a Grossly Overpriced Piece of Merchandise?
  2. When Can I Void a Contract For Misrepresentation?
  3. Repossession for Failure to Pay Instalments in Singapore
  4. What to Do if a Carousell Seller Goes MIA after Getting Paid
  5. What Can You Do if You Were Sold a Defective Product in Singapore?
  6. How to Get Back Your Money from a Company That’s Closing Down in Singapore
How and where to seek redress
  1. How to Resolve Disputes with Car Dealers
  2. How Does the Hire-Purchase Act Protect Consumers in Singapore?
  3. Guide to Lemon Law in Singapore
  4. Unfair Contract Terms Act: UCTA in Singapore
  5. Consumer Protection in Singapore: Unfair Sales Practices
  6. Online Purchase Scams: What to Do If Your Orders Do Not Arrive
Specific consumer matters
  1. Do I have to pay the 10% service charge in restaurants?
  2. Is it illegal to jailbreak your iPhone, iPad, Android, or to modify your Playstation, Wii or Xbox in Singapore?
  3. I pawned a piece of jewellery to a pawnshop. What are my rights as a pawner?
  4. Is Ticket Scalping Legal in Singapore? Risks Faced by Buyers/Sellers
  5. Can I refuse to pay restaurants for lousy food or service?
  6. Counterfeit Goods: Is it Illegal to Sell or Buy Them in Singapore?
  7. Am I liable for the charges if my credit card is stolen? What is the law on lost card liability?