The recently passed Bill #S2785 prohibiting discrimination against cash-paying consumers was introduced by Nellie Pou and Nilsa Cruz-Perez (primary sponsors) over summer last year. Taking immediate effect, businesses across New Jersey will have to think twice before changing their payments policies.
The new law states that 'A person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail shall not require a buyer to pay using credit or to prohibit cash as payment in order to purchase the goods or services. A person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail shall accept legal tender when offered by the buyer as payment. That is, not without facing fines of $2,500 for the first offence and $5,000 for the second, and so on, and so forth.
'Specifically, the bill prohibits a person from selling or offering for sale any goods or services at retail if the person requires the buyer to pay with credit or prohibits the buyer from paying with cash. '
The last time an American state passed a law to ban discrimination against cash-paying consumers was over 40 years ago, was in 1978 when Massachusetts passed their own bill defending cash users. The issue seemed to lie dormant for a few decades until recently.
More and more cities are considering their own pro-cash laws, in anticipation of what would come if cashless overhype takes over.
Recently, San Francisco introduced a bill to ban discrimination against cash users. Prior to this, New York City's councilman Reggie Torres introduced his own bill. Prior to them, Chicago's most beloved alderman playfully mocked businesses refusing cash by reading out what it reads on the US dollar bill: this is legal tender for all debts, public or private. And then, passed their own legislation protecting cash.
"Many people don't have access to consumer credit, and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash is discriminatory towards those people."
Independent journalist Brett Scott recently wrote an insightful essay describing the process of societies going cashless as payment gentrification.
The recent wave of pro-cash forces amongst politicians across the US is inspiring hope that more states will take it upon themselves to defend the use of cash in an increasingly digital world. Why? Because cash is the only payment method that does not discriminate.
'The rise of digital payment and the associated phasing out of physical cash, gives financial institutions and governments a new means of financial monitoring and control on an unprecedented scale.'
New Jersey's pro-cash law does not apply to airports, as long as there are at least two persons per terminal that sell food and accept cash. It also does not apply to municipal parking facilities regardless of the operator or any parking facility accepting only mobile payments. Motor vehicle renting companies are also immune to this law provided they accept cashier checks when offered by the buyer. Finally, any telephone, mail or internet-based retail is also able to remain cashless.
Much like Philadelphia's new law, New Jersey's law makes an exception for parking garages and car rental companies, where a credit card is required upfront for incidentals. There is also an exception carved out for some airport stores, according to NJ.com.
Proponents of cashless stores say that they prevent theft, speed up customer convenience, and are generally more modern. Opponents say that cashless stores unfairly disadvantage people who don't or can't have credit cards and who don't want the fees associated with prepaid debit cards.
Privacy concerns are another reason customers might resist the rise of cashless stores. Moriarty told WNYC that the bill also protects people who "don't want every aspect of their life recorded, stored, and monetised by credit card companies, right down to the purchase of a stick of gum."