Undercover Czech inspectors reveal dual pricing, EET evasion, in Prague tourists areas

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Budková

Unscrupulous businesses continue to engage in dual pricing and other illegal practices, especially in areas heavily visited by foreign tourists, according to the Czech Trade Inspection (ČOI), a consumer protection agency under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Budková
Dual pricing was widespread from the fall of communism until 1999, when a Prague court ruled charging certain groups of people more than others was illegal. Most often, businesses advertised a higher price in numbers, targeting foreign tourists, and a lower price spelled out in Czech. Or tacked on fees and services on tabs presented only non-Czech speakers.

ČOI spokesman Jiří Fröhlich told the news server Aktuálně.cz that its inspectors, pretending to be foreign customers, had recently uncovered the service charge scam at the Clock caffé on Old Town Square, among other places frequented largely by tourists.

“Inspectors, in the role of consumers, ordered from a menu and drinks list placed on individual tables, and chose things from a showcase inside the establishment. One order was placed in Czech and the other in English. In the case of the Czech order, no ‘service’ fee was charged to consumers,” Fröhlich said.

Inspectors at Café Restaurant on Střelecký Island encountered the same dual pricing. “The situation was basically repeated. The English-speaking consumer was charged CZK 75 for the so-called recommendation, listed on the receipt under the item ‘We recommend tips’. The Czech-speaking consumer was not.”

The ČOI later imposed fines of CZK 60,000 on both establishments. According to Aktuálně.cz, English- and Russian-speaking inspectors have uncovered a different sort of violation in another three cases during eight operations.

In two of those cases, the inspectors speaking foreign languages were not given electronic receipts – mandatory under the so-called EET system introduced in 2016 to counter the grey economy and tax fraud – while Czech-speaking inspectors were offered them.

According to Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO), the EET brought some CZK 12.3 billion into state coffers last year, CZK 4.4 billion more than in 2017.

Dual pricing, even offering discounts to residents of one district not offered to others, may violate the Customer Protection Act because it discriminates against certain groups of people.