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SNAP Recipient Overcharged by D.C. Attorney General



SNAP Recipient Overcharged by D.C. Attorney General

SNAP Recipient Overcharged by D.C. Attorney General. In a recent incident, Charmaine Garrett faced an unexpected charge when purchasing a Rock Creek soda at a Southeast Washington convenience store using her electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card for SNAP benefits.

Despite it being illegal to impose transaction fees on SNAP users, the merchant insisted on the extra fee, prompting Garrett to take action.

Attorney General Warns Against Discrimination

Prompted by complaints like Garrett, D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb issued a consumer alert last week, cautioning both D.C. residents and merchants about SNAP benefits.

The alert aims to inform them of their rights during the holiday season, emphasizing that advertised prices must align with checkout prices.

Schwalb specifically warned against discrimination based on payment methods and urged consumers to verify prices at the register.

Guidance for Consumers and Merchants

In a subsequent statement, Attorney General Schwalb emphasized his office’s commitment to ensuring Washingtonians are aware of their rights when purchasing basic necessities like groceries. Under federal law, the guidance highlights that SNAP beneficiaries should receive the same treatment as those using other payment methods.

Merchants are explicitly prohibited from charging transaction fees or imposing minimum transaction amounts for SNAP purchases.

The Scope of SNAP Benefits

With over 145,000 D.C. residents utilizing supplemental nutrition benefits in 2022, it is crucial to uphold the rights of SNAP recipients.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported this statistic. While certain items like alcohol, vitamins, and cleaning supplies are excluded from SNAP eligibility, permissible products, such as soda, remain an essential option.

Advocacy for Diverse Dietary Choices

Garrett, employed in customer service at the Smithsonian, emphasized that individuals receiving SNAP benefits, many of whom have children, should not be restricted to purchasing only healthy items. She highlighted the lack of a rule mandating healthy purchases and the financial constraints faced by those on fixed incomes, where healthier options often come at a higher cost.

Reporting Violations

In closing, the guidance encourages customers who witness SNAP-related violations to contact the D.C. attorney general’s office at 202-442-9828. The initiative underscores the commitment to protecting the rights of SNAP recipients and fostering compliance with the law among District businesses.


Attorney General Schwalb proactive measures underscore the commitment to safeguarding SNAP recipients’ rights in D.C. By issuing alerts and providing guidance, efforts are focused on creating awareness, promoting fair treatment, and ensuring compliance with federal law for a more equitable shopping experience.

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