Two cases worth knowing about

by. Henry Meier

I take a break from writing this blog for one week to go watch a few rounds of the US Open Golf Tournament and all Hell breaks loose. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses his job, Baghdad is on the verge of being overrun in a Civil War, the San Antonio Spurs overrun the Miami Heat, and the Rangers get beaten by the Kings.

As I did not make the cut in the Open, it’s time to get back to my day job before more mayhem breaks out. Here are some legal developments that happened the previous week that you may want to take a look at if you haven’t already done so.

Merchants, surcharges and cash discounts

Merchants filed a brief with the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit responding to an appeal by the NYS Attorney General in a case involving credit card surcharges. ( Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, – F. Supp. 2d -, 2013 WL 5477607, *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 3, 2013)

The antitrust settlement eliminated language from merchant agreements prohibiting credit card surcharges but New York State is one of several states that has a law that bans surcharges on credit card purchases, so the contract change had no impact on New York merchants. Last Fall, a federal district court struck down the statute on First Amendment and vagueness grounds. Merchants claim that there is little practical difference between a cash discount, which is allowed under New York State law, and a surcharge, both of which end up costing a consumer the same amount of money. In its brief appealing the decision New Yorks State argues that the statute in question does not involve the First Amendment at all, but is an appropriate exercise of legislative discretion that benefits consumers.

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