California may become the first state to require businesses to offer electronic receipts unless customers specifically ask for paper copies.
On Tuesday, Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, with the help of a very tall paper receipt, proposed legislation that would force businesses to offer customers e-receipts.
Many businesses in the Golden State and around the country are already turning toward electronic receipts, but Ting’s bill would require it as the standard.
According to Ting, the law is needed because paper receipts pose a health risk many consumers are unaware of — chemicals Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS), already prohibited in baby bottles, which cannot be recycled and with which most paper receipts are coated.
The bill would require all businesses to provide proof of purchase receipts electronically starting in 2022 unless a customer asks for a printed copy.
The penalties in Ting's bill are modeled on the state’s straw bill, said Nick Lapis, of Californians Against Waste. It calls for written warnings for the first two violations and a fine of $25 a day for subsequent infractions, with an annual $300 cap.
But not everyone is on board with the paper receipt ban.
Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle of Bieber said he's concerned the receipt proposal could be burdensome for small businesses, won't save that much paper and may not be practical in rural areas without Internet connection.
In addition, "then they have your email, then they'll be marketing to you or selling your information or it can get into privacy issues," he said.
Ting said consumers can still request paper receipts if they are worried about giving out their email addresses.
Many larger stores already offer the choice of paper or electronic receipts but it is unclear if a mandate would cause a hardship for small and medium-size stores, said California Retailers Association spokeswoman Pamela Williams. Her association and other business groups have not taken a stance on the bill.
Ting said businesses can save money by moving away from printed receipts.
The advocacy group Green America, which is pushing a "skip the slip" campaign, estimated that millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used annually to produce paper receipts in the United States.
Ting cited studies by the Environmental Working Group and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that retail workers have higher concentrations of BPA or BPS than those who do not have regular contact with receipts.
Ting, with use of his living prop – a man wearing a very long paper receipt – demonstrated how large, and wasteful, paper receipts can be.
And he’s not the first to point out how comically long receipts can get.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.