New Jersey lawmakers on Monday advanced a bill that would ban cashless stores in the Garden State.
The measure, which can now go before the full state Senate, would require all brick-and-mortar retailers to accept cash, excluding transactions made online, by telephone, or by mail. That would make New Jersey the second state to prohibit retailers from refusing to accept cash and the first since 1978, when Massachusetts passed a law banning cashless stores.
The state Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the bill 5 to 0, with amendments that would exclude retailers inside airports and certain parking facilities from the cash requirement. Specifically, the amended bill carves out municipally-owned parking facilities, parking facilities that only accept mobile payments, and airports as long as a terminal has at least two food retailers that take cash.
No one testified for or against the bill.
The state Assembly passed a version of the bill in June by a 71 to 4 vote.
As technology gives consumers more ways to pay, including with their smartphones, some businesses have gone cashless to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of robbery, among other reasons.
But consumer advocates say cashless businesses effectively discriminate against poor customers who don't have access to credit or bank accounts, and seniors who aren't comfortable paying with plastic or digital devices.
Under the bill, businesses could receive a $2,500 fine for a first offense and $5,000 for a second violation. Subsequent offenses would be considered unlawful practices under the consumer fraud act, which can levy penalties of up to $20,000.
The Senate Commerce Committee had planned to consider the bill in September, but shelved the vote after major retailers including Amazon raised concerns about the legislation.
Amazon has one cashless bookstore inside the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, Bergen County. The company also has five “pop-up” retail locations inside New Jersey malls that all take cash.
An Amazon spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
The web giant has launched cashierless retail locations in Seattle that allow consumers with an “Amazon Go” app to grab items they need and leave without checking out. The stores can detect when products are taken from shelves and add them to a virtual cart, according to Amazon. After the customer leaves, Amazon charges the user’s online account.
Amazon is planning to open 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021, and is testing the cashierless technology for bigger stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. Amazon owns the Whole Foods grocery chain.