Antitrust Law

Suit claims Los Angeles restaurants illegally agreed to add surcharge to customer bills

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A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims more than a dozen Los Angeles-area restaurants agreed to add a 3 percent surcharge for employee health-care coverage in a price-fixing conspiracy that violates California law.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed on behalf of plaintiff Margaret Imhoff in Los Angeles County Superior Court, report Restaurant News, Courthouse News Service, the Santa Monica Daily Press and CBS News.

Defendants in the suit include the owners of Animal, AOC, The Hungry Cat, Lucques, Melisse, Rustic Canyon, Son of a Gun and Trois Mec.

The suit cites a newsletter posted on Rustic Canyon’s website about a plan to offer health-care coverage. “We’ve recently sat down with other like-minded local chefs and restaurant owners,” the newsletter said, “to come up with a plan to offer coverage and have decided to implement a 3 percent employee benefit surcharge added to all of our checks.”

The suit was filed on Imhoff’s behalf by lawyer Daniel Sterrett. “Under California law, competitors cannot get together and agree to increase the prices of the goods or services,” Sterrett told CBS.

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