What merchant information is required on receipts?
By Elaine Pofeldt
Your Business Credit
Dear Your Business Credit,
I recently installed an updated version of my credit card processing software. Unlike the earlier version, the heading on the top of the printed voucher/receipt no longer gives my store name, address and telephone number -- even though such information is programmed in the system. I was told the new system cannot provide this information and will only print my store name. Isn't this information required under the Fair & Accurate Credit Transactions Act? -- Craig
Among other things, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act is aimed at preventing identity theft. It limits merchants from printing more than the last five digits of a customer's card number or the expiration date on the receipt, but it says nothing about providing the merchant's contact details.
I posed your question to Jason M. Gordon, a small-business attorney in the Greater Atlanta area and assistant professor of legal studies and management at Georgia Gwinnett College. The short answer is that under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, a merchant must give either (1) the code that identifies the terminal or (2) an address that includes the city and state. If you pick option two, you must give either the street address, a commonly accepted name for the location or the name of the owner or operator of the terminal.
That said, there are some compelling reasons to want to print your store's complete name, address and phone number on your receipt. For one thing, that information has marketing value: Seeing your store's name on a receipt in their wallet or purse is a good reminder to customers that you're out there, and having the contact details at hand helps if they need to get in touch with you.
Another reason is that it may give shoppers comfort in buying from you. If they have to return a purchase, they will have ready proof that they made it in your place of business. That's particularly true if you sell pricey merchandise. Would you want your receipt for a $300 item to simply include the purchase price? Gordon notes that if you deal with business customers, they may need a detailed receipt for tax deductions. "If the retailer fails to provide a detailed receipt, this hinders the ability of the purchaser to document the transaction," he says.
Gordon also notes that the Internal Revenue Service requires retailers to sufficiently document sales to substantiate them. Without point-of-sale receipts that identify both your total sales and your business, "this is difficult," he says. However, if your point-of-sale system automatically records information on your sales, you should be covered.
If you are not happy with your software since the upgrade, check your contract to see what was promised, he suggests. It's possible that the information you want to see on your receipts is not printing because of a malfunction. "If the software fails to function, then it can be returned as a defective product under applicable consumer law," he says. He adds that if your POS system has a warranty that covers its functionality, and it is not working as promised, you may be entitled to return it and get a refund.
It's possible that a call to tech support at your software provider may help you rectify the problem, so don't rule this out. Sometimes, I've found that I have to call software providers' tech hotlines several times before getting someone who can help me. If you like the software otherwise, persisting until you can find someone who can help you -- or perhaps even hiring a tech consultant on your own -- may help you print the kind of receipts you want.
*Correction: As originally published, Jason M. Gordon said he was not aware of any consumer protection law that requires a retailer to print the store's name, address and telephone number on customer receipts. Further research by CreditCards.com and Gordon revealed that the Electronic Fund Transfer Act does require some identifying information on customer receipts, and the story has been changed to reflect that. See CreditCards.com's correction policy.
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist who specializes in entrepreneurship and careers, contributing to publications such as Fortune, Money, Working Mother and many others. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals.
Elaine answers a question about small business and credit from a CreditCards.com reader each week. Send your question to Your Business Credit.
Published: March 11, 2013
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