A bill that would ban merchants from imposing fees on debit card purchases cleared the Legislature on Thursday and has been sent to the governor’s desk.

SB 933, by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, passed the state Assembly on a 45-24 vote; it had passed the Senate on a 22-9 vote in June.

The bill bans surcharge fees that merchants sometimes impose when customers use debit cards. These fees, which range from about 40 cents to 75 cents per transaction, help merchants recover the cost of processing fees levied by banks and credit card companies.

Similar surcharges on credit card transactions were banned under a state law nearly 20 years ago.

Debit card surcharge fees are typically found at mom-and-pop retail outlets. One major retail chain, BP Arco, also levies the fee at its service stations and am/pm mini-marts. The chain opposes the bill.

Consumer groups contend the surcharges are unfair because they are tacked on after a customer buys a product. In some cases, customers switch to credit cards or cancel their purchase altogether when they learn about the surcharge.

The governor has two weeks to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. He has not taken a public position on the bill.

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