Pay Bills

Van Leeuwen chain to pay NYC $33,000 for refusing to take cash

Mayor Adams has pledged to follow the Treasury Act./Photo: Shutterstock

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream agreed to pay $33,500 in penalties to settle complaints that its 19 New York stores refused to accept cash payments from customers, a violation of a local law designed to protect what officials call the underbanked.

As part of the settlement with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the chain has already begun accepting cash at branches across the city. The department said it was told by the multi-regional candy brand that it had removed all signs and other notices indicating that customers must pay with a credit or debit card.

He noted that Van Leeuwen intends to equip at least some of the 19 stores with so-called reverse ATMs, or kiosks that convert cash into a cash-loaded debit card. The city said the use of these devices is permitted under the law requiring retail establishments to accept cash.

The department said it was prepared to pursue 90 cases in administrative court against Van Leeuwen, who it said had refused to accept cash since the ban on credit-only payments began in November 2020.

This law came into effect after several quick service chains announced the opening of credit and debit only units in the city just before the pandemic took hold. The aim was to speed up service by eliminating the need for order takers to count bills and coins when taking cash payments, and similarly to count any change owed to the customer.

Non-cash policies are also accompanied by a move from brands to self-service ordering kiosks. Using a card or smartphone at these stations usually takes less time than inserting notes and coins.

The move prompted complaints from consumers and public defenders, who complained that not all New York residents could afford a credit card or smartphone, and not all had a bank account, a basic for credit payments.

University students living in the city were among those who expressed a preference to continue paying in cash.

The outcry led to the passing of a city ordinance in February 2020 prohibiting restaurants and retail establishments from refusing to accept cash. It entered into force in November of the same year.

“Cash is king, which is why the Cashless Payments Ban Act was passed to protect the unbanked and underbanked in our city,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. , announcing the agreement with Van Leeuwen. “We will not allow any business to take advantage of this vulnerable population or penalize customers simply for wanting to use cash to pay for things.

“This agreement will not only ensure that those who frequent Van Leeuwen will now have the option of paying in cash, but more importantly, it sends a clear message that those who repeatedly violate this law will be held accountable.”

Van Leeuwen could not immediately be reached for comment.

The chain has 16 out-of-town scoop stores, including branches in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It is known for its high-quality ice cream, as well as its range of vegan frozen treats.

The settlement with the city forces the brand to pay its $33,500 in penalties by November 2.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all our content. Register here.