The narrow ruling said that lower courts could hear challenges on whether the New York law inhibits how retailers advertise prices
A New York law that prohibited retailers from informing customers that using a credit card costs more cannot violate the merchants’ free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, USA Today reports. The unanimous but narrow decision from Chief Justice John Roberts gave lower courts the approval to hear cases on whether that law hampers how businesses can advertise prices.
At issue was the New York Court of Appeals ruling that said the law was valid because it regulated price. As the state interpreted the law, a merchant could advertise a $10 cash haircut and a $10.30 credit card haircut (or a $10.30 haircut with a “cash discount” option), but the retailer couldn’t post a $10 haircut and a 3% or 30-cent credit-card surcharge.
Roberts said that the law controls speech, not price. “The law tells merchants nothing about the amount they are allowed to collect from a cash or credit card payer,” Roberts wrote in the court’s decision. “Sellers are free to charge $10 for cash and $9.70, $10, $10.30 or any other amount for credit. What the law does regulate is how sellers may communicate their prices.”
MasterCard and Visa have declined to comment on the case. Nine other states have similar laws on the books: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas.