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Calling it misguided mandate, NJBIA testified against a bill on Monday that would require businesses to offer less tech-savvy customers access to an in-store alternative to the digital coupons used by shoppers with smartphones or other electronic devices, noting the requirement would lead to fewer discounts for all.

Bill A-5076 was advanced by a 7-3 vote in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee. The bill was amended to delay the effective date by one year.

In her prepared testimony, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Althea D. Ford said it was inappropriate for the government to mandate the marketing strategies retailers use to incentivize consumers and that it would lead to decreased cost-savings for all shoppers.

“While this bill is well-intentioned, we have significant concerns regarding the bill’s impact on businesses to continue to offer cost-savings to their customers,” Ford stated.

Under the bill, stores would be required to provide customers with an in-store alternative method to access a retailer’s digital coupon, including duplicating the digital coupons on paper, installing electronic kiosks where customers can access digital coupons, and offering the coupon discount at the point of sale.

Stores that do not comply with the proposed mandate would be subject to a $250 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for second and subsequent offenses.

If retailers are required to offer coupons to every consumer, this will lead to fewer coupons and less savings for all consumers, Ford pointed out.

“While this bill views the topic of coupons through the lens of access, we contend that coupons should be viewed through the lens of marketing, as it is a strategy used by retailers to incentivize customers to patronize their businesses,” Ford said.

“This legislation goes too far in mandating retailers to engage customers equally. Every customer is not entitled to every coupon and efficient marketing often results in targeted marketing.”