Proposed bill urges businesses to 'skip the slip'

California is typically on the forefront of legislative changes that affect (arguably adversely) small- and medium-sized businesses. In numerous industries, California companies set trends and priorities for the rest of the country, which is why people often pay close attention to the changes happening here.

As a recent example, for instance, California passed a law prohibiting many restaurants from using plastic straws unless a patron specifically requests one. Now, lawmakers are proposing a similar measure: offering only electronic receipts.

What the measure means

Paper receipts go hand-in-hand with just about every purchase we make. And while the choice used to be whether to have the receipt "with you or in the bag," many establishments offer a choice between emailed and paper receipts. Though, a new bill aims to do away with paper receipts altogether. Unless a customer specifically requests a paper receipt, businesses would send the receipt via email.

The bill's sponsor says that paper receipts are wasteful and harmful. He argues that reducing paper waste could protect "millions of trees and billions of gallons of water." He also notes that receipts currently have a harmful chemical coating that makes them unrecyclable.

Though the proposed measure has good intentions, there are numerous critics. First, it would require businesses to have the equipment necessary to generate and send electronic receipts. Second, it would also require consumers to give out email addresses to businesses, which many people are already hesitant to do. Third, it would require consumers to change their system of tracking, confirming or reconciling their monthly credit card statements.

How this affects California businesses

At this point, the proposed measure is just that: a proposal. Whether it moves forward or not remains to be seen.

However, it may encourage business owners to take a look at their own resources and policies. Do you have the capabilities to send electronic receipts? Do you know how to protect and properly utilize any personal information you receive from customers to send these receipts? Are there cost-saving and environmentally-friendly solutions that you must adopt in light of regulatory changes?

Making these and other changes to business operations can be prudent in the long run, but it takes planning and support to ensure it is done properly. An attorney who understands California business laws and regulations can prove to be a critical resource for business owners looking to ensure legal compliance.

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