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HomeBusiness & CommunityCounty Considers Ordinance Prohibiting Businesses From Going Cashless

County Considers Ordinance Prohibiting Businesses From Going Cashless

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The county is considering prohibiting businesses from operating on a “cashless” basis for goods and services. However, commissioners are investigating Hernando County’s payment policies and what consequences would ensue should such an ordinance be enacted. The matter will come back before the Board for review of the collected data.

The proposed ordinance would (1) prohibit a person selling or offering for sale consumer goods or services at retail to refuse to accept cash as payment, (2) prohibit the posting of signs on the premises stating that cash payment is not accepted and (3) prohibit charging a higher price to customers who pay by cash than customers who use another form of payment.

Commissioner Steve Champion requested that the County Attorney’s Office draft a proposed ordinance at the November 28, 2023 meeting. Similar legislation is currently pending federally (The Payment Choice Act of 2023) and Statewide (House Bill HB-35). It is uncertain whether or not State or Federal statutes would preempt the County ordinance.

The goal of the county’s ordinance is seemingly the same as the State and Federal bills – to ensure that individuals without debit or credit card access will be able to purchase goods and services.

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The language of the currently proposed ordinance excludes government, online-only businesses, and businesses operating under a membership model. Other exclusions would include rental establishments where collateral or security deposits are required and parking facilities.

Champion said, “I brought this forward because I’m concerned about freedom,” adding that some patrons may not want transactions recorded by a bank or credit card company. On the other side, businesses that accept cashless payments typically pay fees for the practice, resulting in reduced profits unless prices are increased to balance the loss.

Champion and Commissioner Jerry Campbell report paying “six figures” in credit card fees annually for their respective businesses.

Commissioner John Allocco is opposed to the exemption of governments. “If the government is going to tell the private sector not to (refuse cash payments), then I feel that the government should have to do it as well.” Allocco later added, “I always struggle with ‘rules for thee, but not for me.’”

Although in support of businesses accepting all forms of legal tender, Allocco also has concerns about the unintended consequences of legislation. For the county, it could mean hiring more people to process and transport cash. Another concern is businesses incurring costs as a result of the mandate, “If we enact an ordinance that (businesses) can demonstrate that a cost was added to them to do business … they can sue us to be reimbursed.”

Campbell also supports all the reasons for the ordinance as well but also has concerns over freedom for business owners. “I care about the freedom of a business person to be a poor business person. I care about the freedom for a citizen to make a foolish decision… I agree wholeheartedly (with the intent of the ordinance) – why wouldn’t (a business) take cash?”

Campbell also disagrees with all of the exclusions of the ordinance, “I don’t think there should be any exclusions, because then you’re putting one business above another, or government above the private sector.”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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