A bill that would ban merchants from imposing fees on debit card purchases cleared a major legislative hurdle late Thursday.

SB 933, by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, passed the state Senate on Thursday on a 22 to 9 vote and now moves on to the state Assembly for consideration.

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 ampm mini-marts; it opposes Oropeza’s bill.

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

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.