The year is 2017 and anything you want to know immediately comes to you by the click of a button. Whether it be from your computer, your tablet, your smart phone, your watch or even Alexa, information is readily available. Have a question, google it! The answer appears across your screen. But is that information accurate? Correct? Reliable? Up to date? Certainly, to find various versions of how to make a great Key Lime Pie, it is. But what about something more complicated… The Law!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is some level of expertise involved in understanding “The Law”. After all, it’s just a collection of words. You learned in elementary school how to read, so put together the consonants and vowels and voila you have it! Or do you?
The interesting thing (to me) about “The Law”, is that it is constantly changing. Sure, we have the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. But how it and statutes are applied to various facts, further limit or expand what the law is on arguably, a daily basis. These decisions are articulated in the form of case law, typically written by appellate courts.
Did you know there is a Florida Statute that makes it a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor for anyone to charge a surcharge to a buyer in a sales transaction, if that buyer chooses to use a credit card as opposed to paying with cash or checks? What a wonderful idea, from the consumer’s perspective, right? Who walks around with wads of dollar bills anymore, anyway, and why should we have to pay more for the convenience of using that plastic?
From a business stand point, I get it. As a new business owner, I was surprised to learn of the complex, complicated and costly system of credit card processing. I’ve learned this is a whole industry in and of itself. I even had a man lurking around my new office trying to induce me to use his company’s services. As a business owner, I understand the desire to try to mitigate or recoup those fees.
Fortunately for the consumer, even though this statute appears from a simple google search, the law was struck down by a Federal Appellate Court. The Florida Attorney General’s Office succeeded in the Florida Court system in suing a few retailers who were charging such a surcharge. Those retailers appealed to the Federal Court System and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the law was a violation of the 1st Amendment – Freedom of Speech. The way the statute was written, allowed a business to provide a discount to customers for using cash but not a surcharge for using credit cards. The Court decided that the discount was essentially the reverse of a surcharge and a law restricting the way a business phrased their policy was unconstitutional. This, of course, is a very watered down summary of the Court’s opinion.
The moral of the story is, hire me for all your legal needs! Just kidding, actually I’m not, but to further the point, the law can truly change on a daily basis. You should consider consulting a lawyer about the specifics of your problem before assuming you know how the law applies to that situation. Lawyers have access to databases with case law, treatises and other authoritative sources that need to be analyzed to arrive at a reliable and accurate legal conclusion. Call me at 813-493-3296 for help with your legal needs.
 Florida Statute 501.0117
 Dana’s R.R. Supply, Dana Jackson, TM Jewelry LLC v. Attorney Gen., 807 F.3d 1235 (11th Cir., 2015)