(Updates at 3:45 p.m. EST with passage of bill)
New York City Council passed a bill by a 43-3 margin, bans cashless retail and restaurants and imposes a fine for each violation.
The bill, sponsored by Council member Richie Torres requires these businesses to either directly or indirectly to accept cash through a cash conversion machine.
A restaurant or retail store that violates the law would be subject to a $1,000 fine upon the first offense and up to $1,500 fines for additional violations, according to an aide to Torres.
“No longer in NYC will brick-and-mortar businesses have the right to refuse cash and effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit,” Torres told Mobile Payments Today in an emailed statement sent from his office. “The City of New York cannot allow the digital economy to leave behind the 25% of New Yorkers who are chronically unbanked and underbanked. The marketplace of the future must accommodate the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers.”
Torres, speaking at a press conference earlier on Thursday, cited data showing that 360,000 households in New York that have no bank account and hundreds of thousands of others in the city are underbanked and lack access to credit.
He said businesses would have to accept cash and cannot add any kind of tax or surcharge on customers paying cash.
The legislation, which was one of the first proposed in the country, follows similar bans passed in New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Also retailers like Amazon reversed policy to begin accepting cash after a nationwide backlash.
“Forcing customers to only use credit or debit is a discriminatory business model that disadvantages low income people, people of color, undocumented immigrants and seniors,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York, said in an emailed statement. “Communities of color in New York City are twice as likely to be unbanked and are far less likely to host a branch of a bank than the national average.”