New Jersey’s recently enacted credit card surcharge law, signed by Governor Phil Murphy on August 18, 2023, brings significant changes that affect business owners and consumers alike. This law, A4284/S3508, prohibits sellers from imposing surcharges on consumers for credit card transactions greater than the cost to seller to process payment and establishes certain notice requirements regarding surcharges. In this legal blog post, we delve into the details, including how to comply and when.
Why Was This Law Passed?
In a press release about the new law, Governor Murphy emphasized that all residents and visitors doing business in New Jersey deserve transparency in their transactions, particularly given the affordability challenges faced by low- and moderate-income families.
Credit Card Surcharge Transparency Requirements
The new law prevents any “seller” (defined as any person who “sells, leases, or rents goods (excluding motor fuel) or services to a customer”) from imposing “surcharges” (defined as “any additional amount imposed by a seller at the time of a sales transaction that increases a charge to a consumer for the use of a credit card”) that is more than the actual cost to the seller to process the credit card payment.
When it comes to informing your customers about surcharges, transparency is key. The law mandates that businesses disclose credit card surcharge amounts to customers before they incur any charges for goods or services. This disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous” in plain view with text that anyone can see. This can be done by posting noticeable signs at the point of entry, point of sale, on your menu, or on your website. Telephone transactions require verbal disclosure before processing. While not explicitly addressed in the new law, it might be beneficial to add a bolded disclosure to your contracts or master services agreements with customers.
Potential Penalties: Why New Jersey Businessowners Need to Take this New Law Seriously
Compliance with this law became mandatory immediately upon its enactment in August 2023.
A violation of the bill’s provisions is an unlawful practice under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) which is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, a violation can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages, and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party. Also customers can seek redress in court through individual and class actions under the CFA. That is why businessowners need to take this new law seriously.
The Importance of Immediate Compliance
New Jersey businesses must diligently review their surcharge policies to ensure compliance with this new law. Compliance is not optional. It’s crucial to avoid severe penalties, including attorney fees. To safeguard your business interests and maintain trust with your customers, consulting with an experienced New Jersey business attorney is strongly recommended.
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