New Jersey Bans Cashless Stores

(The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) —
cashless store
A shopper scans an Amazon Go app while entering an Amazon Go store in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

New Jersey lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill that would prevent most stores in the Garden State from going cashless.

The bill, passed Thursday, would make New Jersey the second state to require retailers to accept cash and the first since 1978, when Massachusetts passed a law banning cashless stores. The legislation would apply to brick-and-mortar retailers, excluding transactions made online, by telephone, or by mail.

The state senate passed the bill 39-0 and the Assembly later approved the measure by a vote of 71-2. It will now go to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who can sign or veto the legislation.

“We are reviewing the legislation,” Murphy spokesman Dan Bryan said.

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.

Some entities would be exempt from the cash requirement. Lawmakers amended the bill in December to exclude retailers inside airports, car rental companies, and certain parking facilities. Specifically, the bill carves out municipal-owned parking facilities, parking facilities that accept only mobile payments, car rental companies that accept cashier’s or certified checks, and airports, as long as a terminal has at least two food retailers that take cash.

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.

Amazon is planning to open 3,000 cashier-less stores by 2021, and is testing the cashier-less technology for bigger stores, The Wall Street Journal reported. Amazon owns the Whole Foods grocery chain.

An Amazon spokesperson declined comment.

Philadelphia and New York City are also considering bans on cashless stores.

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