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Grubhub accused by L.A. County of deceiving customers

Last week, Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit against the popular food delivery app Grubhub, accusing the company of misleading customers with hidden fees and false advertising practices. The lawsuit alleges that Grubhub has repeatedly violated California state law by promoting meals at a lower price than what customers ultimately pay at checkout. This practice, known as “bait-and-switch,” is illegal and deceptive to consumers.

One example cited in the lawsuit is the price of a turkey on rye half-sandwich from Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant in Los Angeles. While the advertised price on Grubhub may start at around $17, additional fees and sales tax can push the total cost of delivery to over $26. The lawsuit argues that this discrepancy between advertised prices and actual costs is unfair to consumers and constitutes false advertising.

In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Grubhub stated that the company plans to defend itself vigorously in court. The company emphasized that it has always complied with applicable laws and disputed many of the allegations made in the lawsuit. However, the lawsuit raises significant concerns about Grubhub’s business practices and their impact on consumers, restaurants, and delivery drivers.

The lawsuit also highlights the issue of “junk fees” and surprise charges that have become increasingly common in the delivery app industry. A new state law set to take effect this summer aims to prohibit last-minute fees across various businesses, including delivery apps. The law is designed to ensure that the price consumers see upfront is the price they ultimately pay, without any unexpected additional charges.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Grubhub’s practices harm not only its customers but also the restaurants and drivers who rely on the platform. Restaurants signing up for Grubhub were reportedly not adequately warned about the potential need to refund money to dissatisfied customers, even if the restaurant did not believe an error had occurred. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Grubhub gives preferential treatment to restaurants that pay higher marketing fees, potentially misleading consumers about the search results they see on the app.

Grubhub’s treatment of its delivery drivers also comes under scrutiny in the lawsuit. The company faced backlash in 2020 for introducing a new charge, called the driver benefits fee, which led to a decrease in driver earnings. The lawsuit alleges that Grubhub’s explanation of this fee may discourage customers from tipping, as it misrepresents drivers’ actual earnings and reliance on tips for income.

It’s important to note that this is not the first time Grubhub has faced legal action over its business practices. In 2022, the company settled a similar lawsuit with Washington, D.C., for $3.5 million after the district’s attorney general accused Grubhub of manipulating customers with hidden fees. A significant portion of the settlement funds went back to affected customers, reflecting the impact of Grubhub’s practices on consumers.

Overall, the lawsuit filed by Los Angeles County sheds light on the deceptive practices and unfair treatment that have raised concerns about Grubhub’s operations. It underscores the need for stronger consumer protections and transparency in the food delivery industry, especially as more consumers rely on these platforms for meal orders. As the legal proceedings unfold, it’s essential for regulators, businesses, and consumers to consider the implications of these allegations and work towards a fair and ethical food delivery marketplace for all stakeholders.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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