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State House members do a complete 180, allowing credit card surcharges

HB 1870, originally drafted in the Washington House of Representatives to forbid credit cards surcharges, has been amended into the exact opposite of the first bill.

Originally it was written to outlaw any retailer from adding a credit card surcharge to common retail transactions. (Government business was exempt, as in cases of online license renewals.)

The bill came out of a House committee and then went through recent modification. We wrote about some of the opposition to that bill two weeks ago at Office Hours.

Amended, it now simply says that any merchant who adds a surcharge must notify customers of the surcharge and list the amount at the cash register.

The substitute HB 1870 includes this language: “Any surcharge must be conspicuously and continuously posted at the location. The disclosure must be in a size and location that is easily seen and read by a consumer  prior to a sale. If a surcharge for the  use of a credit card is being imposed in a transaction at a physical location, the disclosure required  in (a) of this subsection must  be conspicuously and continuously posted at the location. The disclosure must be in a size and location that is easily seen and read by a consumer prior to a sale.”

The House passed the substitute bill 68-29. Opponents to the original bill included several pro-business groups, including the Retail Association of Washington.  The substitute retains the earlier exemption that allows some retailers to offer a discount for payments in cash.

The bill has moved to the state Senate. It's not clear what its future is.

As drafted, the substitute bill mirrors nearly exactly the language offered by a federal Appeals Court in a preliminary ruling issued in November. Earlier this year, that court ruling allowed MasterCard and Visa merchants to add a surcharge provided it be posted conspicuously, and not exceed the “swipe fee” the business pays the card-issuing bank.


  


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