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Philadelphia City Council votes to ban cashless stores, businesses

By Ed Adamczyk
Philadelphia's City Council approved a bill on Thursday calling for a ban on businesses which do not accept cash for payment. Proponents said businesses that only accept credit or debit cards discriminate against the poor. File Photo by Nadalina/Shutterstock.
Philadelphia's City Council approved a bill on Thursday calling for a ban on businesses which do not accept cash for payment. Proponents said businesses that only accept credit or debit cards discriminate against the poor. File Photo by Nadalina/Shutterstock.

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Philadelphia's City Council passed a bill to require businesses to accept cash, a pushback against stores and restaurants requiring use of credit or debit cards.

The 12 to 4 vote came on Thursday, and sent the proposed law to Mayor Jim Kenney for his signature, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The ban applies to most businesses within the city, and violators could be fined up to $2,000.

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Councilman Bill Greenlee, who introduced the bill, said in a 6 ABC report that merchants who accept only credit cards, payment apps or similar non-cash transactions discriminate against the poor.

"There's a reasonable segment of people who wouldn't be able to patronize those stores because they don't have any kind of credit or debit card,'' Greenlee said. "Those people tend to be a little lower income, and also minority and immigrant. I don't think that's the kind of message we want to be sending.''

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He later noted in a Twitter message that at least 10 percent of city residents lack access to any credit.

"We share the concerns of council members about the significant number of Philadelphia residents who are unbanked and underbanked,'' Lauren Cox, a spokesperson for Kenney, said. "That said, we remain concerned about how this measure impacts innovation in our retail sector."

Cox added that Kenney is reviewing the bill.

The percentage of retail transactions done using cash in the United States fell from 40 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2018, Federal Reserve statistics indicate. Proponents of the bill cite Philadelphia's high level of poverty. Six percent of the city was identified by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as "unbanked," with 22 percent described as "underbanked."

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The council's vote came on the day online retail giant Amazon warned Philadelphia officials it may not open a planned brick-and-mortar location in the city if the ban on cashless stores proceeds. The retailer has announced its intent to open as many as 3,000 "Amazon Go" cashless stores across the United States.

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