On May 24, 2022, the Connecticut State Legislature passed Public Act 22-104. While many people will focus on this bill for the effects it has on cannabis advertising, it also made important changes to the existing consumer protection statutes. The changes could result in liabilities for small business owners who are not careful. The following are four things all small business owners should know about the new law.
- Disclosures Are Key. In short, 42-133ff makes it illegal for anyone to charge more for a customer to use a method other than cash, or to set a minimum purchase amount requirement for use of a credit card, unless notices advising the consumers are posted clearly and conspicuously. The law further mandates that these notices not only be posted where it is clear and conspicuous in the store but on the seller’s website as well. While we all have seen the signs in stores allowing alluding to these limitations on the use of credit or debit cards, the mandating of the clear and conspicuous postings on seller’s websites is bound to present an issue for small businesses.
- Encompasses Everyone. By defining a “person” as, “any natural person, corporation, incorporated or unincorporated association, limited liability company, partnership, trust or other legal entity,” and rewriting the law to state, “[n]o person may impose a surcharge,” the legislature has effectively made sure that all sales are governed by this law. The effect of the change will likely be that the law now covers people who would never know it exists.
- Gas Stations’ Special Place. I know what you’re thinking, “I drive by gasoline stations all the time where they have one price for cash and another for credit. Isn’t this exactly what this law is meant to stop?!” The short answer to this question is no. Gasoline companies hold a special place in this state’s economy and are allowed to offer discounts to buyers based on the method they use to pay. And yes, those signs out front with the tiny “cash” and “credit” in front of them count as their clear and conspicuous postings.
- A Breach Has Serious Consequences. To give this law some teeth, the Connecticut Legislature made any violation of this law a per se violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110b. CUTPA allows a plaintiff in a lawsuit to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. This can transform a suit over a few thousand dollars to one which can wind up costing the defendant far more than the transaction was worth. For small businesses unaware of the law or unable to make the necessary corrections in their business practices, this change could potentially leave them open to being on the wrong side of some big awards.
While some small business owners might be able to easily adjust their practices to what the new law prescribes, others are bound to fall victim to the relative silence these changes in the law were made under. Having a business attorney you trust to monitor and know these changes could save you from falling victim to this pitfall.
For any legal advice for your business’ needs, or any of your business or estate planning needs, contact Justin Krajeski with Fournier Legal Services for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 670-3535.
Justin Krajeski is an Associate Attorney at the firm operating primarily out of our CT office. He graduated from Siena College and from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law. Justin focuses on business and employment litigation, and he is admitted to practice law in CT, MA, NY, and PA.