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NJ governor signs ban on cashless retail

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that requires retailers and restaurants to accept cash, effectively banning merchants in the state from joining a cashless trend emerging in markets across the U.S.

The bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty of Camden/Gloucester, imposes fines starting at $2,500 for a first offense by an establishment that forces a customer to pay by card or refuses to accept cash.

"Many people don't have access to consumer credit and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash is discriminatory towards those people," he said in a press release announcing the signing.

Rental vehicle companies are exempt from the law, provided they accept certified or cashier's checks.

The signing comes just weeks after a similar bill was signed into law in Philadelphia. Similar legislation also is pending in New York City.

Local business groups have warned that the bill could stifle innovation.

"Today's signing removes a local business owner's right to freely determine how they would like to receive payment for their products and services," Michael Wallace, vice president of government affairs at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said in a statement. "The preference for retailers to run a cashless business is often based on efficiencies, and in some cases as a safety measure."

He added that consumers can access prepaid cards as an alternative to using cash.

A spokesperson for Amazon, which operates a growing number of cashless Amazon Go stores around the country, declined to comment.