Can merchants surcharge in Colorado in 2021? A pending bill may make it possible for all merchants in 2021 or 2022. The current law says a seller, lessor, or company issuing a credit or charge card is prohibited from imposing a surcharge against a person who elects to pay for a sales or lease transaction by using a credit or charge card.
5-2-212. Surcharges on credit transactions – prohibition
(1) Except as otherwise provided in sections 24-19.5-103 (3) and 29-11.5-103 (3), C.R.S., no seller or lessor in any sales or lease transaction or any company issuing credit or charge cards may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit or charge card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means. A surcharge is any additional amount imposed at the time of the sales or lease transaction by the merchant, seller, or lessor that increases the charge to the buyer or lessee for the privilege of using a credit or charge card. For purposes of this section, charge card includes those cards pursuant to which unpaid balances are payable on demand.(2) A discount offered by a seller or lessor for the purpose of inducing payment by cash, check, or other means not involving the use of a seller or lender credit card shall not constitute a finance charge if such discount is offered to all prospective buyers and its availability is disclosed to all prospective buyers clearly and conspicuously in accordance with regulations of the administrator.
The proposed bill:
- Repeals the prohibition; and
- Limits the maximum surcharge amount per transaction to 2% of the total cost to the buyer for the sales or lease transaction or the merchant discount fee , which is defined as the actual fee that a seller or lessor (merchant) pays its processor or service provider to process the transaction .
Summary: A merchant is required to display notice regarding the surcharge on the merchant’s premises or, for online purchases, before an online customer’s completion of the sales or lease transaction.The bill prohibits applying the surcharge on debit or gift cards. If a merchant imposes a surcharge in violation of the bill, an individual consumer aggrieved by the violation may seek enforcement of the violation as an excess charge under the “Uniform Consumer Credit Code – Remedies and Penalties”.
In my opinion, this is a great start, however, BILL 21-091 conflicts with card network rules allowing charge up to 4% IF that’s actual cost. If merchants sell in multiple states, the 2% Colorado cap presents a challenge if the merchant average cost is higher. Most merchants will be forced to collect less for all states due to technology limitations, whereby they can only specify one rate and cannot distinguish by state.
Also, it could be interpreted that surcharge must be actual cost for EACH transaction vs avg, which few businesses have technology capability. The bill would be better if it just revoked surcharge ban, requiring businesses comply with card network rules.
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