The V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs is warning the territory’s businesses that they must accept two forms of payment — cash and either credit or debit card — under a law passed in 2019.
The department will start enforcing the law in January, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many consumers and businesses to avoid handling cash, it announced in a news release on Tuesday.
Effective April 3, 2020, Act 8205, also known as Bill No. 33-0098, gave the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs the responsibility to regulate business practices relative to the forms of payment they are required to accept, according to the release from Commissioner Richard Evangelista.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., in collaboration with Sen. Kurt Vialet and members of the 33rd Legislature, passed the legislation to ban cash-only businesses. “Many people utilize only credit cards or debit cards to pay for services and/or items so it is very inconvenient for customers who are unable to transact business with certain establishments that accept only cash payments,” the news release stated.
The legislation is not applicable to itinerant vendors, farmers certified by the Agriculture Department, fishers certified by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, and commercial establishments with an annual volume of business of less than $50,000 per year, according to the release.
When Act 8205 was signed into law in 2019, the existence of COVID-19 was not contemplated and neither was the uncertainty of whether the virus was spread via the handling of cash, either paper or coin on the date the law was to take effect, the release stated.
“Fast forward 21 months to November 2021, and we are more aware of what we must do to protect ourselves as much as possible from COVID-19. As such, on or about Jan. 1, 2022, DLCA shall commence enforcing the requirement for establishments to accept at least two forms of payment: Cash and either credit card or debit card,” according to the release.
Failure to adhere to the law may result in a fine of not less than $1,000 for a first offense, and not less than $3,000 but not more than $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
For more information on consumer-related issues, contact the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs at email@example.com or call St. Croix at 340-727-SCAM (7226) or St. Thomas/St. John at 340-771-SCAM (7226). You may file a consumer complaint at www.dlca.vi.gov.