With the holiday season in full swing, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced educational and enforcement initiatives that will help protect consumers from being overcharged as they shop, dine, and travel to celebrate the season with family and friends.
Division inspections of baggage scales at New Jersey’s two international airports and a year-long crackdown on businesses charging hidden credit card fees or refusing to accept cash payments have led to corrective actions that protect consumers’ financial interests. Additionally, the Division today issued comprehensive guidance to help merchants understand their obligations under a recently enacted law aimed at safeguarding New Jersey consumers against unfair credit card surcharges.
Baggage Scale Testing at Newark and Atlantic City Airports
To prevent holiday travelers from being unfairly weighed down by baggage overage fees at New Jersey’s two busiest airports—Newark Liberty International Airport (“EWR”) in Newark and Atlantic City International Airport (“ACY”) in Atlantic City—the Division’s Office of Weights and Measures (“OWM”) conducted inspections of all baggage scales in operation at the airports to ensure the devices were properly calibrated and accurately weighing luggage.
Inaccuracies were found in 100 of the 366 scales inspected at EWR; 81 of them significant enough for inspectors to condemn the scales and take them out of service, a failure rate of 22%. Since then, 94 of the scales have been serviced, re-inspected, and are now in compliance. Six scales remain out of service while awaiting repair parts.
At ACY, two of 16 inspected scales were removed from service for inaccuracies, a 12.5% failure rate. Both scales have since been serviced, re-inspected, and are now in compliance.
The EWR inspections were conducted from October 16 through 27, 2023. The ACY inspections were conducted on November 29, 2023. OWM is in the process of assessing fines in connection with the inspections. Failure to Maintain a Device in Proper Operating Condition, the violation cited in cases of scale inaccuracies, carries a fine of not less than $100 per violation.
Crackdown on Hidden Credit Card Surcharges/No Cash Payment Policies
Additionally today, the Division announced the results of a year-long enforcement crackdown on restaurants and stores violating the law by not accepting cash payments or by charging credit card surcharges without properly notifying consumers.
Since January 2023, the Division and its county and local partners have investigated dozens of complaints from New Jersey consumers, resulting in civil penalties against 30 businesses throughout the state, including bars, restaurants, coffee shops, delicatessens, hair salons, and a clothing store.
The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) states: “a person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail shall not require a buyer to pay using credit or prohibit cash as payment in order to purchase the goods or services.”
Raising Public Awareness of Credit Card Surcharge Laws
Legislation signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in August 2023 enhances the protections under the CFA by limiting the amount merchants may charge in credit card surcharges and adding specific requirements for how and where disclosure of these so-called “swipe fees” must be displayed.
To facilitate compliance with the law, the Division today published a comprehensive guidance document to help merchants and consumers understand their obligations and rights under the law. The guidance document, titled “Credit Card Surcharges: Frequently Asked Questions,” provides a detailed explanation of P.L. 2023, c. 146, which prohibits merchants from charging credit card surcharges that exceed their actual cost to process credit card payments.
The law also requires businesses to disclose the amount of any credit card surcharge prior to the consumer incurring any charges by posting notice in at least two places. Restaurants must display notices in the customer service area and on the menu. All other businesses must display notices on a sign at the point of entry and at the point of sale. The law provides an exception and alternative disclosure requirements for transactions made online, through mobile apps, electronic kiosks (like self-serve checkout), and over the phone. Additionally, the law permits the Division to inspect businesses’ account books or other records to ensure compliance with surcharge caps.
Inspections of baggage scales at both Newark Liberty International Airport and Atlantic City International Airport were conducted by OWM inspectors, under the supervision of Inspector Bryan Thomson. Personnel from the Office of Weights and Measures in Elizabeth assisted in the testing of scales in EWR’s Terminal A. Personnel from the Office of Weights and Measures in Atlantic City assisted in the testing of scales at ACY.
Investigators Brian Penn, Ronald Regen, Greg Zeichner, Ed George, and Roger Hines under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Murat Botas, within the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the Division’s investigations into businesses allegedly charging hidden credit card surcharges or refusing to accept cash payments. Investigators Steven Krywinski and Alyssa Quiroga of the Hudson County Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigations for Hudson County.
Deputy Attorneys General Monisha A. Kumar, Zeyad A. Assaf, and Christopher Meyer of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, under the supervision of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section Chief Jesse Sierant within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, assisted the Division of Consumer Affairs in these matters. Assistant County Counsel Alberico De Pierro assisted the Hudson County Office of Consumer Protection in these matters.
Consumers who believe that a business is in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act are encouraged to file an online complaint. Consumers can also call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.