On November 18, 2016 the Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DACO”, for its Spanish acronym) filed with the Department of State a joint regulation to enforce the provisions of Act No. 42-2015, as amended (the “Act”), requiring (i) licensed service providers and (ii) commercial establishments to offer their clients at least two methods of payments. The regulation will be effective 30 days after its filing, December 18th, and will revoke Treasury Regulation No. 8625.
The Act requires licensed service providers, defined as those persons offering services in Puerto Rico for which a license or authorization from the government must be obtained, to provide their clients with the option of at least two methods of payments, of which at least one of the alternatives must be payment via credit or debit card, electronic transfer of funds, the internet or direct payment. On the other hand, commercial establishments are required to provide their clients with the option of at least two methods of payment, one of which must be through a credit or debit card.
The payment method to be used must always be at the discretion of the customer, the licensed service provider or commercial establishment may not induce or coerce a customer into using a particular method. As an exception, the use of credit cards or debit cards may be conditioned to a minimum transaction amount of up to $10 or $5, respectively, so long as such condition is made known to the customer in writing in the point of sale.
The regulation also establishes that when the commercial establishment has more than one register, it may offer both payment methods in its registers or distribute the payment alternatives among its registers.
According to the regulation, the compliance by licensed service providers and commercial establishments with the provisions of the Act and its regulations will be monitored by the Treasury and DACO, respectively. Customers, who wish to denounce a non-compliance or file a complaint, must do so with the corresponding agency.
The Act also requires that licensed service providers and commercial establishments install a sign specifying the available payment methods. In addition, the regulation would require that the sign informs of the applicability of the Act’s provisions.
Any person that violates the Act’s provisions, if convicted, will incur in a misdemeanor. First time infractions will be subject to a fine of no less than $500 and no more than $3,000. Subsequent violations will be subject to a fine of no less than $5,000 and no more than $10,000. In addition, under the regulation either department could impose administrative fines of $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000 for first, second or third and subsequent infractions, respectively.
The regulation also requires that licensed service providers and commercial establishments keep a registry of transactions where they record the date the service was provided, the amount received for such service and the payment method. Such registry must be made available for inspection by Treasury or DACO for a period of no less than six years.
For further information about the Act or the joint regulation, or should you need assistance in revising your policies, please contact any of the attorneys of the O’Neill & Borges’ Consumer and Retail Law Practice Group.