New York City’s council has voted to ban cashless businesses, in what politicians said was an effort to rein in “the excesses of the digital economy” and stop discrimination against low-income residents.
The city council on Thursday almost unanimously passed legislation, which will fine retail outlets, including stores and restaurants, if they refuse to accept cash payment.
Supporters of the ban argue that electronic-only payments discriminate against low-income people, undocumented immigrants and people of color, who are less likely to have a bank account or access to credit.
If the bill is approved by New York City mayor Bill De Blasio, New York City would become the latest place to ban businesses from only accepting payment by debit or credit. New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Francisco brought in their own bans on cashless businesses in 2019.
“No longer in NYC will brick-and-mortar businesses have the right to refuse cash [and] effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit,” Councilman Ritchie Torres, the bill’s lead sponsor, wrote on Twitter.
Torres told the New York Times: “We are reining in the excesses of the digital economy.”
A 2019 report by New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection found that 11% of households in the city have no bank account, while about 22% of households are “underbanked” – meaning they use alternatives to bank accounts for some payments.
“Forcing customers to use only credit or debit is a discriminatory business model that disadvantages low-income people, people of color, undocumented immigrants and seniors,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
“Communities of color in New York City are more than twice as likely to be unbanked and are far less likely to host a branch of a bank than the national average.
“This critical bill will ensure everyone can shop or eat at any store in our city.”