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October 22. 2013 8:14PM

House committee decides credit card bill needs additional work

CONCORD — Merchants who decide to charge customers a fee for using a credit card will not have to post signs about the levies.

The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee Tuesday decided a bill requiring the notifications needs additional work and sent it to interim study on an 18-2 vote.

The committee can recommend additional legislation, but the newly elected 2015 legislature does not need to act on the recommendation.

Merchants and credit card companies have been fighting over who should pay the 2 or 3 percent fee credit card companies currently charge merchants. Merchants recently won a federal court decision allowing them to add a surcharge to bills to cover the fee.

House Bill 682 would have made charging the surcharge an unfair or deceptive consumer practice, but a commerce committee subcommittee instead would require merchants to post signs alerting consumers that they will have to pay a surcharge.

Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, said the proposed bill would be similar to the signs required at gas stations if the price of gasoline is different for credit cards and cash. "This will provide consumers with disclosure," she said.

But Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said the bill is totally unnecessary noting most merchants will eat the charge as they do now. "This is unnecessary government abuse," he said. "There is no evidence this is occurring anywhere in New Hampshire."

Electronic tracking

The committee voted 19-1 to kill House Bill 592, which would have prevented electronic tracking devices.

Rep. Jill Hammond, D-Peterborough, noted there is a long history of similar bills all of which have failed to pass. She said it is very difficult to regulate technology in this way.

Hammond said the more specific issue of electronic stalking does need further debate, but that is not what the bill does.

Promoting NH wines

The liquor commission will have to promote as well as stock New Hampshire wines and spirits under House Bill 226.

The committee voted 17-3 to approve the bill.

The House will have to vote on all the committee recommendations during the first three session days of the 2014 legislature.

grayno@unionleader.com


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