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Credit Card Surcharges

California has a law, California Civil Code section 1748.1, that prohibits retailers from adding a surcharge when a consumer chooses to use a credit card instead of paying by cash. In March 2015, a federal court found the statute unconstitutional and prohibited the Attorney General from enforcing it. The Office of the Attorney General believes that this decision is incorrect and has appealed that order. However, as of now, the Attorney General cannot enforce the statute.

Although the Attorney General is enjoined from enforcing this specific statute, California law does prohibit a merchant from engaging in activity that is unfair or deceptive. So, for example, if a merchant charges a credit or debit card surcharge or offers a cash discount, but does not fully disclose this to customers prior to their committing themselves to the goods or services, or if the merchant does not clearly explain its policies regarding debit and credit cards, the merchant may be violating California law.

If you know of a merchant that you think is improperly charging people for using credit or debit cards without pre-disclosing the charge, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit. Complaints are used by the Attorney General's Office to learn about misconduct and to determine whether to investigate a company. However, we cannot give legal advice or provide legal assistance to individuals. If you are interested in pursuing personal restitution, you may wish to consider other options, such as filing a small claims suit (for individual claims up to $10,000) or consulting with a private attorney.

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