Text: S.4145 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in Senate (07/01/2020)


116th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. 4145


To amend title 31, United States Code, to prohibit retail businesses from refusing cash payments, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

July 1, 2020

Mr. Menendez (for himself and Mr. Cramer) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation


A BILL

To amend title 31, United States Code, to prohibit retail businesses from refusing cash payments, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Payment Choice Act of 2020”.

SEC. 2. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) Section 5103 of title 31, United States Code, provides that United States coins and currency “are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues”.

(2) A growing number of retail establishments, across the United States, have adopted “cashless policies”, declaring that they refuse to accept United States cash payment from their customers and, instead, require that payment for the goods and services offered by such retailers be made only with credit cards, debit cards, or digital payment methods that result in electronic transfers of funds to the retailer.

SEC. 3. Retail businesses prohibited from refusing cash payments.

(a) In general.—Subchapter I of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

§ 5104. Retail businesses prohibited from refusing cash payments

“(a) In general.—No person selling or offering goods or services at retail to the public may—

“(1) refuse to accept United States legal tender of cash as payment for goods or services;

“(2) post signs or notices in, on, or about the business premises of such person stating that cash payment is not accepted; or

“(3) charge a higher price to any customer who pays by cash than customarily is charged to a customer using other forms of payment.

“(b) Exception.—Subsection (a) shall not apply to any goods or services sold to the public by telephone, mail, or internet.

“(c) Enforcement.—

“(1) PREVENTATIVE RELIEF.—Whenever any person has engaged, or there are reasonable grounds to believe that any person is about to engage in any act or practice prohibited by this section, a civil action for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order may be brought against such person.

“(2) CIVIL PENALTIES.—Any person who violates this section shall—

“(A) be liable for actual damages;

“(B) be fined not more than $2,500 for a first offense; and

“(C) be fined not more than $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

“(3) JURISDICTION.—An action under this section may be brought in an appropriate district court of the United States or appropriate court of competent jurisdiction.

“(4) INTERVENTION OF ATTORNEY GENERAL.—Upon timely application, a court may, in its discretion, permit the Attorney General to intervene in a civil action brought under this subsection, if the Attorney General certifies that the action is of general public importance.

“(5) AUTHORITY TO APPOINT COURT-PAID ATTORNEY.—Upon application by an individual and in such circumstances as the court may determine just, the court may—

“(A) appoint an attorney for the individual; and

“(B) authorize the commencement of a civil action under this subsection without the payment of fees, costs, or security.

“(6) ATTORNEY’S FEES.—In any action commenced pursuant to this section—

“(A) the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs; and

“(B) the United States shall be liable for costs in the same manner as a private person.

“(7) REQUIREMENTS IN CERTAIN STATES AND LOCAL AREAS.—

“(A) DEFINITION.—In this paragraph, the term ‘covered jurisdiction’ means a State, or political subdivision of a State, that has a State or local law, as applicable—

“(i) prohibiting an act or practice prohibited under this section; and

“(ii) establishing or authorizing the State or political subdivision, to—

“(I) grant or seek relief from the act or practice; or

“(II) institute criminal proceedings with respect to the act or practice.

“(B) REQUIREMENTS.—

“(i) IN GENERAL.—In the case of an alleged act or practice prohibited under this section that occurs in a covered jurisdiction, no civil action may be brought under this section before the expiration of the 30-day period beginning on the date on which the State or political subdivision, as applicable, receives by registered mail or in person notice of intent to file a civil action under this section.

“(ii) STAY.—The court may stay proceedings in a civil action described in clause (i) pending the termination of State or local enforcement proceedings.”.

(b) Clerical amendment.—The table of contents for chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 5103 the following:


“5104. Retail businesses prohibited from refusing cash payments.”.


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