With a move toward cashless societies growing around the world, new legislation in the U.S. could force retailers and restaurants in a number of states to accept cash as a payment method.
According to a report in The New York Times citing legislation being worked on around the country, the New Jersey Legislature and Philadelphia City Council have backed laws that would ban cashless stores. Meanwhile, the paper reported New York City, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago are looking at similar legislation. Backers of the idea say that retailers and restaurants that don’t accept cash are discriminating against people who are unbanked. They also worry about privacy and data security in a cashless world. In the states and cities that require the acceptance of cash, retailers and restaurant owners could face fines of between hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. In New Jersey, the fine can be as high as $5,000 if there is a second offense. The governor of New Jersey is reportedly weighing whether or not to sign the law.
“It’s important to recognize the fact that not everyone has access to banks or lines of credit,” said State Senator Nellie Pou, one of the sponsors of the bill in New Jersey, in the report. Pou said many of her constituents don’t have bank accounts. It includes low-income families who can’t afford the fees associated with the balance requirements. She also pointed to older adults who may not understand how to use digital payments. Pou told the paper that business groups and Amazon have come out against the bill. She also said she worked with airports, parking facilities, car rental, and any internet-based purchase to make them exempt from the law if it goes on the books. Pou asked Amazon to come up with a way to serve the unbanked, but Amazon never offered up any ideas.
Critics of the idea, which includes retailers that have embraced cash-free policies, contend most customers pay electronically and that removing cash makes lines go faster. It also free employees from counting and transporting cash to the bank and reduces robbery and theft, noted the paper.