Proposed Wisconsin law would require retail stores to accept cash
Hoping to head off retail businesses accepting only credit or debit payments for their products, a rural Wisconsin legislator is pushing for a law that would force brick-and-mortar retailers to take cash as well.
The bill, introduced this week by state Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) and four fellow Republicans, calls for a fine of not less than $200 and up to $5,000 for each time a retail store merchant refuses to accept cash in a face-to-face transaction with a consumer.
Tauchen was worried that some people in his district — particularly the elderly — might have trouble if retailers go cashless, Craig Arrowood, an aide to Tauchen, said Friday.
Arrowood said the idea to require a cash payment option occurred when Tauchen was in a McDonald’s restaurant and noticed electronic payment kiosks and not many humans taking orders. Tauchen was concerned “not having a cash option would be a real detriment” to people who were unfamiliar with electronic payment technology or have misgivings about it, Arrowood said.
In a memo sent to other Wisconsin lawmakers, Tauchen said it’s a common misconception that businesses must accept cash payments because it is “legal tender” for debts in the U.S.
“As we have an aging population, people who are concerned with credit fraud, people who do not have credit or debit cards, and people with lower credit scores or simply lacking credit altogether — possibly hindering them from possessing a credit card, debit card or checking account — I am introducing ‘Wisconsin Cash Option’ to protect Wisconsin consumers,” Tauchen stated. “This bill requires retailers to provide a cash option.”
Very few face-to-face retail businesses in Wisconsin are cashless. One, the restaurant Goddess and the Baker in the Town of Brookfield, has required card or debit payment since it opened last year. During the last basketball season, the Milwaukee Bucks experimented with 11 cashless food vendors at Fiserv Forum.
Proponents of cashless payments say they reduce the chance of robbery, are faster and more convenient, and eliminate issues like counting cash and getting the money to a bank.
But Cardtronics, a large retail automated teller machine network whose ATMs are found in places like CVS, Walgreens and Speedway, was quick to applaud Tauchen’s bill. Cardtronics operates 1,156 ATMs in Wisconsin
"Cashless policies are exclusionary and particularly harmful to the poor, unbanked/underbanked populations, seniors and minorities, who disproportionately rely on cash for their everyday purchases,” said spokeswoman Crystal Wright. “Moreover, Americans want the option to pay with cash because it is reliable and works when payments systems go down; it's secure; and it's private and can't be hacked."
Massachusetts and New Jersey have laws against merchants banning payment by cash.
Tauchen’s bill was sent to the Assembly Committee on Small Business Development.
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