The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision overturning a controversial Florida law. The law, Florida Statutes § 501.0117, puts restrictions on the charges that a company can apply to customers who choose to use a credit card instead of cash. Overturning a state law like this by a federal court is rare, and sure to be challenged to the Supreme Court of the United States in the future.
As of now it is no longer illegal for stores to charge a surcharge for those using a credit card versus cash. It is not known whether the parties will ask for a stay on the ruling to keep the law intact until the Supreme Court either agrees to hear the case or not.
Background and Facts of This Case
In 2013 the owner of a furniture store was sent a cease and desist letter by the Florida Attorney General. The Attorney General told the store owner that she had to stop charging her customers and extra 3% when they used credit cards, or she would face fines and even jail time. The store owner could not believe this was the case, and so she hired an attorney to fix the problem.
Along with the furniture store owner, other store owners sued the state of Florida to have the law overturned. Their argument centered around the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, their argument was that by telling them how they could present their prices to their customers infringed on their right to free expression.
The court of appeals agreed with the store owners. In their opinion, two out of the three judges on the panel pointed out the illogical nature of the law. The law itself prohibits companies from charging a surcharge on purchases when a customer uses credit instead of cash, but at the same time the law allows a company to discount the price of their merchandise to induce the use of cash instead of credit cards by offering a lower cash price.
To the court of appeals this law did not make sense and could not survive constitutional muster. The First Amendment does not allow the state to regulate the content of speech unless the state has a compelling interest in doing so, and the regulation is narrowly tailored to meet that interest. This is the precedent that the court of appeals used in this case to strike down the law.
U.S. Supreme Court watchers are predicting that the high court will take the case on because another court of appeals has come to the opposite conclusion in a similar case. Known as a circuit split, such opposite decisions are a main reason why the Supreme Court decides to hear a case or not.
Panama City Area Accident and Injury Attorney
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