Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on a question that has bedeviled U.K. supermarkets: Should people be allowed to use paper bags and dollarama in grocery stores?
In an opinion released Wednesday, the justices said it was the right call because “a substantial portion of the paper products sold in grocery shops are used as a substitute for paper currency.”
The justices’ majority opinion was divided 4-4.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Kennedy.
“We find it appropriate to determine whether, where and under what circumstances a consumer may use a paper bag to make a purchase,” the majority opinion states.
The question before the justices is whether the government’s mandate to offer free, biodegradable paper currency in supermarkets is a permissible government regulation.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and other central banks have said that the requirement is a necessary safeguard against counterfeiting.
The ruling could have far-reaching implications for how retailers sell paper currency.
In the ruling, Justice Ruth Ginsburg said that she “recognized the need to ensure that paper money is not used as an alternative to paper currency for transactions that are necessary for consumers to conduct business.”
She said it is “essential that government entities do not use their public functions to promote or endorse an alternative monetary system for use in commerce.”
She also said that “in the absence of a strong federal policy mandating a particular type of paper money, it is the responsibility of state governments to ensure a strong state-level program to control the use of paper currency by consumers.”
Federal officials say that a large number of the nation’s stores are still offering paper bills, which are the same type of plastic bills that are sold at the checkout counter.
The government has argued that such stores should not be required to accept plastic bills as payment.
Federal regulators said they are also considering whether to regulate the sale of dollarama, a bag of paper that can be used to hold coins and other bills.
The Supreme Court has already struck down such a ban in New Jersey and Michigan.