RI check cashing laws under fire for security measures

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Walmart and some consumer advocates are calling Rhode Island’s check cashing laws outdated – but the check cashing industry is firing back, saying those laws protect customers and employees.

At the Walmart in Seekonk, customers can cash their checks. They’re charged 1% of the check’s value with a $3 maximum.

In Rhode Island, it is a different story.

“Unfortunately, RI has some outdated laws that prevent us from being able to cash checks in the state of Rhode Island,” said Heather Harris McCaffrey, a Walmart spokesperson.

Rhode Island’s check cashing laws require security measures, including bullet-resistant glass enclosures.

“Having bullet-proof glass at each one of our cash registers really just doesn’t make sense in a retail environment,” McCaffrey said.

John Longo, an attorney who focuses on consumer laws, says the check cashing laws end up costing consumers money.

“There’s no demonstrated public safety need for this. It’s just another unnecessary burden that keeps people from becoming check-cashers,” he said. “We have to get more people cashing checks so the competition will drive down the coast of getting checks cashed – which will ultimately put more money into workers’ pockets.”

Call 12 For Action requested data from the Department of Business Regulation, which licenses check-cashers.

We discovered a range of fees from 1% to 5%, which is the maximum allowed by law.

Bill Staderman, president of the Rhode Island Association of Financial Service Centers, said he doesn’t think check cashing laws in Rhode Island are outdated.

“I think they’re some of the best in the country,” he said.

According to Staderman, bullet-resistant glass and other security measures are necessary for check cashing customers.

“When they come into the store, they want to feel safe,” he said. “The safety procedures and measures provide that feeling of safety also for the employees.”

Businesses in Rhode Island are exempt from check cashing laws as long as they don’t charge more than 50 cents per check.

There is currently no proposed legislation about check cashing this session, so House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello declined to comment for this story.

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