Really interesting piece in the New York Times about a US Supreme Court hearing this week that focused on whether merchants should be allowed to impose a surcharge on credit card transactions; there are some 10 states where such surcharges are banned, even though discounts can be given for cash transactions.

The merchants making their case to the Court argue that the ability to impose surcharges is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Deepak Gupta, a lawyer for several merchants challenging the law, tells the Times, "This case is about whether the state may criminalize truthful speech that merchants believe is their most effective way of communicating the hidden cost of credit cards to their customers."

According to the story, "The justices’ view of the case seemed to turn on where they stood in a rolling debate at the court about how the First Amendment applies to laws regulating economic matters, an issue that generally divides the justices along ideological lines. Some of the more liberal justices said that the law was an unexceptional and permissible economic regulation." But, "Some of the more conservative justices saw a threat to free speech."

KC's View: To be clear, I'm not a lawyer, and my understanding of constitutional law is miniscule. But from a common sense perspective, I'm on the free speech side here ... retailers ought to be allowed to impose card surcharges, and explain in detail to consumers why they are doing so.