Will California Phase Out the Use of Paper Receipts to Document Retail and Service Sales?

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Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

California Assembly Member Phil Ting introduced AB 161 on January 7, 2019, which would phase out the use of paper receipts in favor of electronic ones. This bill would require, beginning January 1, 2022, that a proof of purchase be provided to a consumer for the retail sale of food, alcohol or other tangible personal property, or for the provision of services by a business, only in electronic form unless the consumer requests that the proof of purchase be provided in paper form.

The Ting bill is being pushed by Green America, which has published a report calling for the end of using paper receipts—largely based on concerns about toxic materials allegedly contained in many such paper receipts. Other concerns expressed are about the recycling and disposal of waste receipts as well as the generation of greenhouse gases due to the use of paper receipts.

Manatt is participating in an industry coalition, led by the American Forest and Paper Association, that has prepared an information piece outlining the benefits of the continued use of paper sales receipts. Concerns about the bill include misrepresentation of environmental and health impacts, privacy issues (e.g., collection of email addresses), and impacts on consumers and local government.

Many retailers provide customers with the voluntary choice of receiving paper receipts, electronic receipts or both. However, a mandate to collect email addresses is at direct odds with the state’s increasing focus on consumer privacy. The bill will result in a massive increase to retailers’ data security exposure at a time when another new law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), mandates that California businesses implement a series of complicated and onerous requirements for how consumer data—including email addresses—is collected and maintained. The law is also certain to conflict with existing case law governing California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, which prohibits businesses from requesting that customers provide personal identification information during credit card transactions.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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