The coalition is jointly chaired by Susan Grant from the Consumer Federation of America; Jason Hollander, representing Diebold Nixdorf, and Bruce Renard from the National ATM Council.
Among the new coalition’s top priorities is supporting passage of the Payment Choice Act of 2019 (HR-2650). The bill, introduced by Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), now has 47 bipartisan co-sponsors. If enacted, the law would prohibit cashless retail establishments and maintain US currency as a viable means of payment for the vast majority of consumer purchases in the US.
H.R. 2650 closely follows popular measures recently adopted at local and state levels, which largely ban cashless policies at brick-and-mortar retail establishments, while not disrupting traditional non-cash payment methods using the internet, phone and mail. Additionally, the bill provides penalties for violations ranging from $2,500 for a first offense to $5,000 for subsequent violations.
On July 1, 2020, Senate Bill 4145 was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND). This bill is the companion bill for HR 2650 and the coalition will support its passage.
The bill prohibits retailers from declining cash payments from customers, as businesses promote “contactless” digital payment as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Retailers and mall owners, including Nordstrom and Simon Malls, have encouraged the use of contactless transactions such as Apple Pay to minimize the risk of spread in their stores and properties.
But the senators warned that should any retailer ban cash entirely, it would be discriminatory at a time when many Americans are facing financial hardship. About 20% of U.S. households have no or limited access to checking and savings accounts. Of those households, about 6% are “unbanked,” meaning they have no access at all. Fourteen percent of unbanked Americans are Black, 11% are Hispanic and 4% are White. And as weekly jobless claims grow by the millions, the number of Americans without access to bank accounts may rise.
“While I fully understand that businesses have expanded their contactless payment options during the pandemic, refusing cash discriminates against certain populations and denies people equal access to the same goods or services,” said Menendez in a statement. The Payment Choice Act targets businesses that refuse to accept cash as payment, post signs stating that cash will not be accepted or charge a higher price for cash over other forms of payment. It proposes a maximum fine of $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second.
State governments also have legislation prohibiting card-only policies, targeting the retailers and restaurants that were experimenting with ways to minimize cash before the pandemic. Massachusetts already bans retail establishments from discrimination against cash buyers.