N.J. Issues Convenience Fee Notification Warning

Consumers in the Garden State are submitting more complaints to the state’s acting Attorney General about transactions in which surcharges for paying with a debit or credit card are not being disclosed, so the AG sent out a warning last week reminding merchants of their duty to disclose the total price of goods and services to consumers.

The warning, authored by acting AG Matthew Platkin, sent cease-and-desist warning letters to a combination of service, retail, and restaurant operators across the state of New Jersey, reminding companies that while surcharges are not illegal, companies are required to disclose that the merchant processing fee is being passed on to consumers. And the surcharge needs to be disclosed prior to an order being placed by a consumer, not just disclosed on the final bill.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly how much they are paying for a product or a service, stated Acting Attorney General Platkin, in a statement. “Any Card Surcharges need to be communicated clearly and in advance.”

The announcement comes after the AG’s office received a number of complaints from consumers and a subsequent investigation that was conducted by state Consumer Protection officials. Failing to notify a consumer about a card surcharge may be considered a violation of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and subject to penalties of $10,000 for the first violation and $20,000 for each subsequent violation.

Convenience fees are in the crosshairs of more than just the top law enforcement official in New Jersey. Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a warning to companies in the accounts receivable management industry, reminding them that any convenience fees charged by collectors must be part of their contracts with creditor-clients.

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