Small businesses in New York City have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. An estimated 30 percent of small businesses in New York City closed. There was some optimism headed into the summer that NYC small businesses would begin to turn the corner to economic recovery, but a prolonged recession spurred in part by the surging Delta variant threw cold water on those expectations. Suffice it to say, this is not a climate where increasing fines on small businesses is appropriate. And yet, that is exactly what the City Council decided to do.
The bill “would update Consumer Protection Law (CPL) penalty amounts and make clear that DCWP can seek daily penalties for deceptive conduct. The bill would also clarify DCWP’s power to combat online deceptive practices and define as deceptive a business’s failure to provide transactional document translations. The bill would make explicit the forms of relief for CPL violations that DCWP can seek at OATH and allow DCWP to initiate a state court case through a proceeding. This bill would also reinstate the licensing scheme for industrial laundries and businesses that engage in industrial laundry delivery and create a separate regulatory scheme for retail laundries. Additionally, this bill would codify a higher civil penalty for persons who harass DCWP personnel and require amusement operators to inform DCWP of any accidents. Finally, this bill would make technical corrections in title 20 of the Administrative Code and revise an effective date provision of local law number 80 for 2021.”
The amount of most violations jumps from a $50-to-$350 threshold to a $350-to-$2,500 threshold. Also, a business could face a civil penalty or $3,500 fine if it is found to commit the same violation three times. This bill continues NYC’s disturbing path of balancing the books on fines and fees. The number of agencies that either issue or adjudicate fines and fees is like alphabet soup, OATH, TVB (which is state run), PVB, NYPD, are just a few. Though many elected officials in NYC would like to take responsibilities away from the NYPD they are not remotely interested in removing the harmful revenue generating practice that causes economic injustice, the excessive use of fines and fees. In fact, in his last budget as Mayor, Bill de Blasio (who unsurprisingly supports the new bill) increased the amount of revenue the city expects to receive via fines and forfeitures by $150 million. This would represent a 10 percent increase and would raise the yearly amount the city brings in through code and law enforcement to an absurd $1.1 billion.