SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Business owners on Long Island are outraged after they say a new enforcement of an old law is just a backdoor tax.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports it requires stores to individually price label items, or pay a hefty waiver or fine.

Suffolk County recently told Brinkmann True Value Hardware they must stick individual price labels on thousands of items they sell or face fines. There’s another costly option – pay thousands of dollars for a waiver.

Scannable bar codes have made paper labels almost obsolete.

“Stickering each item is an old and antiquated way of doing retail,” said Hank Brinkmann, owner of the hardware store. “It’s incredibly inefficient.”

Pet, beauty, and health supply retailers have also been told to label up or pay up.

“What it is government-sanctioned extortion,” said Suffolk County legislator Tom Cilmi. “They are forced to pay the county thousands of dollars a year to get out of having to do this and it provides no value to the consumer.”

Cilmi said the county is misusing a decades’ old consumer protection law by putting the screws to retailers to raise revenue.

Supermarkets have been paying the waiver fee for years — $500 and $15,000 annually per store. They must provide price-check scanners and face regular inspections.

Suffolk’s Consumer Affairs Commissioner Frank Nardelli said the new enforcement is to even the playing field.

“It’s not suddenly. The law’s been on the books since 1992,” Nardelli said.

Cilmi’s bill would exempt hardware and paint stores for now, but he’d like to see the whole law thrown out.

Critics of the new enforcement said it’s not only hurting business owners, but the cost of individually labeling every item in a store or paying a waiver fee will be passed along to the consumer.

The new enforcement does not affect retailers that gross less than $3 million.

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