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China's Smog Problem Spurs Restaurant to Charge an Air Purification Fee

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Diners weren't amused.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's air is notoriously polluted, but should restaurant patrons have to pay to breathe clean air while they dine? According to the BBC, patrons at one restaurant in the city of Zhangjiangang were recently shocked to discover an air purification surcharge of one yuan ($0.15 USD) on their bills. The owner explained that the restaurant recently had an air filtration system installed in order to improve the dining experience and were using the fee to subsidize the added costs.

Government authorities intervened after receiving multiple complaints from customers. After investigating the claims, the city's consumer pricing bureau determined that the restaurant surcharge was unlawful because the restaurant was responsible for filtering the air inside, not its patrons, reports the South China Morning Post. Despite the government ruling, many Chinese citizens have spoken out in support of the restaurant on the social media site Weibo. One commenter writes: "They could have added the extra one yuan to the price of the dishes, but they didn't ... there is nothing wrong with charging this extra fee. The kind of dining environment decides the kind of pricing."

Although they're increasingly more common, restaurant surcharges remain a controversial subject among diners and restaurant owners. Following the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act, many establishments in the U.S. introduced healthcare surcharges. Los Angeles' Lucques Group implemented a three percent fee on customer bills. Similar fees at a restaurant in Hawaii raised eyebrows and prompted a government investigation into whether or not the fees actually subsidized employee health plans. More recently, surcharges have been proposed at restaurants in states with newly increased minimum wages.

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