N.J. senators introduce measure to ban credit card surcharges

Jim Whelan

Jim Whelan

Several New Jersey senators have introduced a measure that would outlaw the credit card surcharges retailers may now charge as a result of the recent settlement between Visa, MasterCard, banks and retailers.

The bill, S-2533, which is sponsored by Democratic Sens. Jim Whelan, Bob Gordon and Nia G. Hill, would prohibit retailers from imposing a surcharge on consumers who pay using a credit card. Retailers who impose surcharges would be subject to penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense, PolitickerNJ reports.

“Nationally we are starting to see gains in the economy, as we slowly pull out of the recession,” Whelan said, according to PolitickerNJ. “Yet once again, New Jersey residents are hit with fees and charges at the check-out line that could have a real impact on families’ and residents’ budgets. Nearly a quarter of all purchases made in the U.S. are made using a credit card and with the additional imposition of up to four percent in charges, this could negatively affect New Jersey’s growing consumer confidence.”

Effective Jan. 27, recent changes resulting from the Visa and MasterCard settlement allow retailers to pass on credit card processing fees to the consumer, tacking on anywhere between 1.5 percent and four percent to the purchase price.

“Retailers have already built the cost of credit card fees into their prices,” Gordon said, PolitickerNJ reports. “This change in regulation is in essence allowing retailers to double-dip into their customers’ pockets—customers who are already paying interest fees to the credit card companies for their purchases. Since New Jersey already has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, residents simply cannot afford to see products—from food to clothes to other necessities—go up in price.”

Gill said that consumers have been forced to turn to credit cards to pay for expenses as the economy struggles to recover.

“To have a fee added to the already high cost of goods would be an undue burden on New Jersey families,” Gill said, according to PolitickerNJ. “We cannot allow consumers to bear the brunt of credit card processing fees that have long been considered a normal cost of doing business.”

Ten other states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, have outlawed credit card surcharges. The lawmakers said that because New York has already banned credit card surcharges, New Jersey consumers may choose to make their purchases in New York.

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