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Lawsuit over credit card surcharges underway

4 Florida businesses involved in lawsuit

Many of these cards are devaluing their rewards programs by requiring cardholders to spend more to get the same "free award" they could have gotten with fewer points previously. Many also come with annual fees. Consider a card with a "cash-back"
Many of these cards are devaluing their rewards programs by requiring cardholders to spend more to get the same "free award" they could have gotten with fewer points previously. Many also come with annual fees. Consider a card with a "cash-back"

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Four Florida businesses, including a discount furniture store, are part of a lawsuit over whether the companies can charge extra to someone using a credit card. The case could soon be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under Florida law, merchants can’t charge customers more for using a credit card unless they post two sets of prices -- one for cash and one for credit. They can offer a discount for using cash.

"So, everyone’s paying a higher price for goods for the few who choose to use credit cards," said Duana Palmer, owner, of Tallahassee Discount Furniture.

A stone's throw from the state capitol, Tallahassee Discount Furniture advertises prices well below retail. She was told to stop charging more for the use of a credit card or face a fine or  jail.

"I had no idea it was illegal," Palmer said. "It made sense to me to keep my prices down. So I said, 'This is the price, this is what it costs if you use your credit card.'"

Palmer sued and won. A federal appeals court said her pricing strategy was free speech. But Florida’s Attorney General is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and uphold the law, arguing customers shouldn’t be ambushed by higher prices at checkout.

"Why should it be a crime?" Palmer asked. "And we’re being honest with them. This is what they are charging us, if you want to use this method of payment, then we have to pass that fee on. Certainly not trying to ambush anybody. My goal is to give the best pricing as possible."

Florida is one of 10 states that don’t allow credit card surcharges.

The Attorney General’s Office declined comment, saying it would be inappropriate because of the ongoing litigation.