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Merchants may ask for photo ID with a credit card

Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. I heard there is a new law that allows merchants to require a photo ID when you pay with a credit or debit card. I some times just carry a card, and nothing else. Do I now have to start carrying my driver’s license?
A. A new state law that took effect January 1st enables all Texas merchants to request that a customer paying with a credit or debit card produce a government-issued photo ID to prove his or her identity. The law allows the merchant to reject the transaction if the customer fails to provide the ID. The effect of the law, deigned to help prevent credit card fraud, however, is unclear.
First, the new law is optional and many merchants may chose not to request an ID, especially in smaller transactions. Requiring an ID could slow down the payment process and upset customers. There also is a question regarding whether the merchant even has the right to reject a transaction without an ID, notwithstanding the new law. Many card issuers, such as Visa and Mastercard, have contracts with merchants that bar them from declining a transaction if a customer refuses to show and ID. Arguably, the new law does not over-ride these agreements.
Whether merchants now begin to require a photo ID or what steps they will take if the customer refuses, remain to be seen.
Q. I owed my credit card company $1,500. I could not afford to pay the full amount, so I sent a check for $1,000 clearly marked “paid in full.” They cashed the check. Now they say I still owe $500. I think the matter was settled when the bank cashed my check. Who is right?
A. This time of year a lot of people are facing large credit card bills. Unfortunately for them, there is no magic way to add a few words and not owe the full amount.
Under the law, paying someone with a check clearly marked “accepted as payment in full” to settle a dispute might discharge the obligation. That means that in some cases, if a business cashes the check it may not recover any additional money. In your case, however, this rule does not apply.
For the “payment in full” rule to apply the check must be offered in “good faith” and the claim must be in dispute. In other words, it must be a good faith attempt to resolve a dispute about how much money is owed. Simply offering less than the full amount owed is not a good faith attempt to resolve a dispute. For example, if you and your mechanic have a dispute about how much you owe for repairs, he says $700 and you say $500, a $600 check marked “payment in full” would satisfy your obligation. If the mechanic cashed your check, he would not be legally entitled to any additional money. On the other hand, if you owed the mechanic $1,500 and the amount is not in dispute, you may not offer $1,000 to settle the undisputed amount. Even if the check is clearly marked “payment in full,” the mechanic may cash the check, and then seek to recover the additional $500. The bottom line—in my opinion the credit card company is right and you still owe the $500.
Q. A policeman told me I was jogging on the wrong side of the street. Is there really a law about which side of the street you jog on?
A. Yes, there is a law and it applies to any pedestrian, whether he or she is jogging, walking, running or skipping. Under the law, a pedestrian must stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, you may use the street but you must go in the direction facing traffic. If you were jogging in the street in the same direction as traffic, you were violating the law.

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