Marketplace Fairness Act: Leveling the Playing Field or a Foul?

By Ed Weinberg May 08, 2013

Congress has come up with some ideas to level the playing field between the “Brick and Mortar” stores and online retailers. They call it, “The Marketplace Fairness Act” (S.743/H.R.684), which was passed by the Senate. It will require Internet stores to collect sales tax. I think they missed a few ideas that will make the law even more “fair.” 

I have come up with a list of ten amendments I would like see in the current Senate Bill:

10) Brick and mortar stores can only display pictures of the items available for purchase. It is unfair that the online retailers can only show pictures of their wares while brick and mortar stores can display the actual product.

9) Brick and mortar stores will be required to have all sizes and items pictured. Rain checks must guarantee availability within three business days, or put their merchant account at risk.

8) Customers in brick and mortar stores will be required to type in their own name, address, telephone number, E-Mail address, and credit card information at checkout. 

7) The credit card “swipe” machine will be eliminated, and at Starbucks you will no longer be able to pay using your smartphone.

6) To speed up future checkouts, customers may pick a password that is not a dictionary word or a dictionary word spelled backwards, with a minimum of six characters, which include at least one capital letter, one number, and one punctuation mark, and does not contain too many of any one character. They must enter this password a second time for verification. They may optionally uncheck a box that allows the store to send them E-Mail news and offers.

5) Credit card companies will eliminate the higher merchant fees for online purchases, and no longer track in their database if a purchase was made online, or in person.

4) Brick and mortar stores will be required to have correctly sized boxes for each item they sell. The cashiers will pack the boxes, being careful to insure that the contents could not be damaged during delivery, and will generate an address label for the package.

3) Stores will be required to calculate and charge customers a shipping and handling fee based on the size and weight of the item. The money collected will go to the U.S. Postal Service. This additional income for the USPS will allow it to continue Saturday delivery.

2) Brick and mortar stores will be required to get tax ID’s from all states that collect sales tax. They will file the usual quarterly sales tax returns with each state, separately.

1) And last...Customers will not be given access to the item they purchase for 5-7 days...unless they have paid for optional 3-5, two day, or overnight shopping.

A “tax on Internet sales” is a tax on YOU. It will raise the cost of doing business, and those costs will be passed on to you. It will add barriers to new entries in the market and cost jobs. Both Internet stores and brick and mortar stores have certain advantages and it is impossible for government to “level the playing field” and absurd to even try.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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