Assembly Panel Advances Democratic Legislation to Safeguard Consumers from Credit Card Surcharges
Ten States Currently Have Enacted Similar Legislation to Protect Consumers from Newly Implemented Regulations
(Trenton) – Consumer protection legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary S. Schaer, Vincent Prieto, Connie Wagner, Troy Singleton, Peter J. Barnes III, Daniel R. Benson and Angelica Jimenez to prohibit retail merchants from imposing surcharges on consumer credit card purchases was approved today by the Assembly Financial Institution and Insurance Committee.
Sponsors note that this bill was introduced in response to a recent change in credit card regulations allowing merchants to impose a surcharge on consumers when they use a credit card as of January 27, 2013. Historically, credit card companies have not permitted retailer surcharging.
“This is just another swipe at the hard-working families of New Jersey,” Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Credit cards have become an essential element of the family budget. Added surcharges are simply not reasonable to consumers who are counting every penny to make it through.”
The change in U.S. regulation comes as a result of a provision required by merchants to settle a long-standing litigation brought by a class of retailers in 2005 against credit card companies. Retailers who choose to impose the new charge must disclose it on customer receipts – typically from 1.5 percent to 3 percent of the credit-card purchase – and post signs revealing it. The levy affects only purchases made with credit and charge accounts, not debit cards, according to consumer public advocacy group.
Ten states have banned imposing the new fees including New York, but not Pennsylvania.
“Additional fees nowadays can mean a decrease in how much a consumer can spend on their families using their credit card,” Prieto (D-Bergen, Hudson). “The amount of the surcharge may seem miniscule on paper, but in the family budget 1.5 to 3 percent could add up to a shorter grocery list or less to spend on gas. The legislation helps consumers take a stand against increased fees on already high credit card transaction costs.”
“Most businesses aim to encourage consumer spending with quality items at good prices,” Wagner (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Now, with the new surcharges, those who are using credit cards because of the lack of cash will be forced to go somewhere else or New York, where they will not be charged extra fees.”
“Every little bit helps in these economic times,” Singleton (D-Burlington) “However, on the other side of the coin, every little bit can add up and it can have a noticeable impact on the budgets of struggling middle class households across New Jersey.”
Credit card surcharges have been allowed in Australia since 2003. Approximately one-third of all retailers in Australia utilize the surcharges. However, some Australian Retailers over time began to charge significantly more to customers than they were paying in transaction fees. As a result, the Australian Federal reserve changed the surcharge rules to cap the amount retailers are able to charge consumers.
“Consumers are the lifelines to rebuilding New Jersey business and economy,” Barnes (D- Middlesex) “We must encourage consumer spending and help New Jersey families make every dollar in their budget count.”
“As New Jersey and the country rebuild economically and new opportunities arise for businesses, most families are also rebuilding their financial stability,” Benson (D- Mercer, Middlesex) “Added surcharges on the items they need – because they have to use their credit card — are the last thing that should have to worry about.”
“This legislation protects the consumer,” Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson). “And it’s the consumers that will help New Jersey’s economy get back on track.”
Some New Jersey retailers have expressed a disinterest in charging consumers an additional surcharge.
The measure was amended in committee to allow the current practice of charging different prices for cash/credit at a gas station, in accordance with existing law. The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker who will decide when to post it for a floor vote.
To read more, please visit the New Jersey General Assembly Democratic Office Web site.