A reader: I recently parked my car at the airport as I do quite often when I travel. For the first time last week, the parking attendant indicated there was a credit card fee. Can they charge a credit card fee?
Action Line: The state of California has a civil code section 1747-1748.95 called the “Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971.” You can find it here: http://fblinks.com/card The Office of the Attorney General advises that this code prohibits retailers from adding a surcharge when a consumer chooses to use a credit card instead of paying by cash.
In March 2015, a federal court found the statute unconstitutional and prohibited the attorney general from enforcing it. The Office of the Attorney General believes that this decision is incorrect and has appealed that order. However, as of now, the attorney general cannot enforce the statute.
The attorney general is enjoined from enforcing this specific statute, but advises that California law does prohibit a merchant from engaging in activity that is unfair or deceptive. So, for example, if a merchant charges a credit or debit card surcharge or offers a cash discount, but does not fully disclose this to customers before committing themselves to the goods or services, or if the merchant does not clearly explain its policies regarding debit and credit cards, the merchant may be violating California law.
If you know of a merchant that you think is improperly charging for using credit or debit cards without predisclosing the charge, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, http://fblinks.com/calAG.
Complaints are used by the Attorney General’s Office to learn about misconduct and to determine whether to investigate a company. The AG’s office cannot give legal advice or provide legal assistance to individuals. If you are interested in pursuing personal restitution, you may wish to consider other options, such as filing a small claims suit or consulting with an attorney.
The Federal Trade Commission also works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to consumers and businesses. The FTC and other government agencies will enforce various provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, including the rules governing debit card interchange fees and routing.
For example, the National Credit Union Administration is responsible for enforcing the rule with respect to federally insured credit unions; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is responsible with respect to national banks and federal thrifts; the Federal Reserve Board is responsible with respect to state member banks; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is responsible with respect to state nonmember banks and state-chartered thrifts.
The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcement with respect to other entities not covered by the above regulators. If you have questions about these rules or comments about how financial institutions are implementing them, contact the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that email is not secure, so don’t include any confidential information.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or email@example.com.