California May Require Businesses To Switch To Electronic Receipts

An effort to cut back on wasteful paper receipts has cleared its first hurdle.

Comically long receipts have inspired Halloween costumes, stoked social media outrage and gotten the investigative journalism treatment. Now, California lawmakers are considering cracking down on them in the name of waste and energy reduction.

The bill from Assemblyman Phil Ting passed its first hurdle on Monday when the state Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee voted 6-3 to send the legislation to its next committee hearing. If it’s passed and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs it, businesses would have until 2022 to switch to an electronic receipt system and provide paper receipts to customers upon request only.

“Most of us don’t need a physical receipt for every transaction. It doesn’t make sense to kill so many trees and produce 12 billion pounds of carbon emissions, the equivalent of one million cars on the road, to make something we don’t often need,” Ting said in a statement when he introduced the bill earlier this year.

Many receipts, his office noted, have become excessively long because of the “coupons, promotions and surveys” companies attach to them. Pharmacy chain CVS is perhaps most famous for this.

The financial penalties Ting is proposing aren’t harsh, especially for a large company like CVS. Any business found in violation of the changed rules would be allotted two warnings before incurring a $25-per-day fine with a maximum annual fine of $300. Certain small businesses with gross annual receipts under $1 million and cash-only establishments would be exempt.

The proposal to crack down on receipts, which often can’t be recycled because of additives to the paper, follows efforts across the state and elsewhere to ban plastic straws, another consumer freebie that’s difficult to recycle because of its small size.

The bill has the support of many environmental groups but hasn’t gained traction with business leaders, who say it would be expensive for many businesses to switch to a point-of-sale system capable of handling electronic receipts.

With Monday’s passage, Ting’s bill now heads to a vote by the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.

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