November 28, 2021

County weighs delivery fee cap

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Tanesha Henriques, the manager of Hyde’s Diner on Homer Avenue in Cortland hands a Doordash employee an order Tuesday afternoon. The Cortland County Legislature will vote Jan. 28 to enact a law that prohibits third-party delivery services like Doordash from charging excess fees during a declared emergency.

Tanesha Henriques, the manager of Hyde’s Diner in Cortland, quickly threw condiment packets into the bag with a couple of white Styrofoam containers Tuesday afternoon before handing it over to a woman picking up for DoorDash.

The diner has been using the food delivery service for only about a week and a half, but orders seem to be picking up, Henriques said.

Third-party delivery services are the topic of a newly proposed law heading to the Legislature meeting Jan. 28. The proposed law, which unanimously passed the Finance and Administration meeting Tuesday, would cap the fee a third-party delivery service could charge a food service establishment at 15% of the online order’s cost. The law would also make it unlawful for a third-party delivery service to charge the food service establishment more than 5% for any other fee for each online order.

The law would be in effect during a declared emergency and for 90 days after the declared emergency was over. Cortland County declared a state of emergency on March 15, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic. If the third-party service didn’t follow the law, the food service could ask for a refund and if the refund doesn’t take place, the food service could take civil action, the proposed law states.

“I have seen a number of our sister counties across the state implement a similar local law to prevent the gouging of both our local restaurants and our residents when it comes to these third-party delivery services charging an exorbitant fee,” said Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland), who brought the discussion forward.

Monroe and Broome counties issued executive orders capping the fees, while Onondaga and Albany counties have passed similar legislation.

“The purpose of the law isn’t to stop the third-party food delivery services at all, because we know that’s an important service. It’s to prevent the excessive fees that go along with it,” Harbin said, noting some of the fees can be as high as 30% of an order.

Legislator Richard Stock (D-Cortland) said he’s used several third-party services to see if there was fee gouging going on and didn’t notice any.

Henriques said the diner didn’t have any issues using DoorDash, but her mother had first suggested they try to hire someone to do deliveries because the fees can be high.

Harbin said the law did have the support of the Cortland County Tavern and Restaurant Association after talking to association President Tammy Timmerman.

“We’re supporting the law to support our restaurants,” Timmerman said, noting extra fees are difficult for restaurants any time of the year.

Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton) wanted to move to have the regulation enacted under executive order so it could be implemented much quicker. However, County Attorney Karen Howe said the county couldn’t do that because it wasn’t a chartered county and didn’t have that authority.

A public hearing on the law will be Jan. 28 at the Legislature meeting.