• Calif. Pizza Hut operator faces fines for charging energy fee

    Tags: Pizza Hut

SAN DIEGO—The operator of 62 Southern California Pizza Huts is facing fines for charging customers an energy surcharge during 2002 and 2003.

According to the San-Diego Union-Tribune, customers at an undetermined number of Pizza Huts operated by RLLW Inc. were charged 50 cents--on top of advertised pizza prices--for having their pizzas baked. The company said it charged the fee to offset soaring utilities costs in the area.

San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Tricia Pummill said charging customers extra for cooking their pizzas violates California's false advertising and unfair competition laws. Her office has filed a consumer complaint against RLLW.

"This can be a major slippery slope where they break out every aspect of preparing your meal and charge you separately for that," Pummill said. "We certainly don't want to see that."

A similar complaint was filed in 2002 against a company that operated two Domino's Pizza units in San Diego County. That case was settled the day it was filed, when the company paid $13,396 in penalties and court costs.

RLLW attorney Dan Ayala said the Pizza Hut franchisee wants to amend the situation, and may do so by offering discount coupons to customers. Prosecutors, however, want a court order to prevent the company from imposing the surcharge in the future, an unspecified penalty and a refund of the surcharge to consumers.

"We're responsible for fixing it," Ayala said. But he said prosecutors "essentially want to give this company the death penalty for jaywalking."

Read related Pizza Hut stories by clicking here.

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