The operators of the Dreamwheel at the American Dream Mall have been cited for forcing customers who want to pay cash to buy gift cards with surcharges, state authorities said.
Skyviews of America, LLC, which operates the ferris wheel at the East Rutherford mall, was among four businesses that New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said received violation notices for either not accepting cash or charging a credit card surcharge without properly notifying consumers.
Similar notices – in this case for not disclosing card surcharges – also went to Ronnie’s Hot Bagels in Hillsdale and Seymour’s Café in Clifton, the attorney general said on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Merchants in New Jersey must give consumers the option to pay cash, Platkin said.
They also must clearly disclose the total selling price -- including any surcharges for using credit cards, debit cards, or pre-paid cards, he said.
The notice of violation against Skyviews for not accepting cash as a payment includes a $1,000 civil penalty, the attorney general said. Ronnies and Seymour’s were penalized $500 each, he said.
Two violation notices for not accepting cash were also issued to Hidden Grounds Coffee, which Platkin said resolved the situation by agreeing to pay $2,000, accept cash and “minimize any inconvenience" for customers who pay with it.
Hidden Grounds also agreed to distribute a summary of the consent order it signed with the state to company managers responsible for oversight and training of employees at its various locations in New Jersey – including Jersey City, Hoboken and New Brunswick, he said.
Going forward, the businesses cited for failing to notify consumers of credit card surcharges could be fined $10,000 for a first violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and $20,000 each for any that follow, the attorney general said,
Not accepting cash as payment is subject to a maximum penalty of $2,500 for the first violation, he added.
Businesses are allowed to add card surcharges -- but only if they clearly tell that to customers and include the amount, which can be stated as a percentage, Platkin explained.
State law requires that it be “plainly marked by a stamp, tag, label or sign either affixed to the merchandise or located at the point where the merchandise is offered for sale."
“New Jersey consumers deserve to know exactly how much they will be paying when they go to a store and be able to pay however they can,” Platkin said Tuesday.
“Many consumers from underrepresented communities do not have access to bank accounts or credit cards,” the attorney general added. “Laws requiring businesses to accept cash protect those consumers and ensure social equity in stores throughout the state.”
How Consumers Can Protect Themselves, according to Platkin:
- Check the receipt to make sure the price charged matches the advertised or posted price of an item (plus tax, if applicable);
- Look for the merchant to display full price (excluding tax) for whichever method of payment is used;
- Be wary of card surcharges that exceed the actual incremental cost of the processing fee, which is typically around 1-5%.
Consumers who believe that a business is violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act are encouraged to file an online complaint. Consumers can also call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
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