Rush to Digitalization

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Government response to a rush to digitalization varies when it comes to paper receipts and paper money. While some in the legislature think it’s a good idea to discard paper receipts, others in local governments are putting a halt to the idea of retail stores eliminating cash sales.

AB 161 by San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting would require businesses to end the use of printed receipts in most cases after a transition period. Supporters of the bill claim the printed receipts are an environmental and health danger because of the water and trees needed to produce billions of paper receipts and the waste they create and chemicals used in manufacturing the paper.

Opponents of the bill counter those charges with claims that the paper used in this country is safe and that the sustainable forest management is used in paper production. In addition, they raise privacy concerns with the process attached to issuing digital receipts.

Beyond the debate over these environmental and health issues are genuine concerns that demanding businesses to live in a digital world can upset both businesses and consumers.

There is a digital divide in the state. Many members of the public, especially those in the lower rungs of the economic ladder, don’t have Internet at home. There are those, thinking particularly of seniors here, who don’t choose to deal with digital receipts–or theater tickets or airline boarding passes, for that matter—you see those situations all the time.

Forcing people into the Internet age through mandates is not the answer as seen in the revolt against an effort by retailers to collect payments exclusively by credit cards, debit cards or smart phones.

Recently San Francisco joined Philadelphia and New Jersey in requiring brick and mortar retailers to accept cash. Low-income citizens, young folks who don’t have credit cards, or people who choose to use cash for any number of reasons including fear of identity theft, would be shut out of purchasing if cash payments for goods and services were denied.

Those consumers who want digital receipts can often get them now. The idea of eliminating paper receipts is pushed by legislators who try to grab onto any idea that they believe will be described as environmental friendly and supported by the digital point-of-sale companies that could profit from the change.

Why mandate a one-size-fits-all scheme when some Californians clearly do not fit?

Business in California struggles under enough requirements without adding the necessary tools to meet the requirements of AB 161. Small businesses in particular would suffer when they have to purchase new technology equipment and train employees to use the devices.

The march toward a digital world on the argument that the environment needs help comes with consequences for many in the population that cannot and should not be ignored by policy makers who push the rush to digitalization.

 

 

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