Supreme Court Rules to Protect Businesses’ Free Speech on Credit Card Fees

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In today’s fast-moving economy, there aren’t many people who are likely to be carrying around cash. As such, most people who use credit cards have run into the issue of fees being tacked on by businesses for charges under ten dollars.

Credit card companies have long been charging merchants two to three percent for any credit card transactions. The amount of fees that can amass in a year from this costs business thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Five New York businesses banded together to ensure that their customers were up-to-speed on just what those additional fees cost. This past week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of these businesses to protect their communication to customers under the First Amendment in the Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, No. 15-1391. Back in 1984, a New York law was put in place that would make it illegal for businesses to charge a fee to customers using credit cards. Rather than protecting businesses’ conduct, the Justices decided the law regulated speech.

While the law cannot move the ball for prices charged for items by merchants, it will protect the right to display signage warning customers of the additional fees for credit card use.

Chief Justice Roberts commented on how the fees imposed by credit card companies impact businesses: “Those fees add up, and the merchants allege that they pay tens of thousands of dollars every year to credit card companies. Rather than increase prices across the board to absorb those costs, the merchants want to pass the fees along only to their customers who choose to use credit cards. They also want to make clear that they are not the bad guys — the credit card companies, not the merchants, are responsible for the higher prices.”