The Federal Trade Commission has proposed new rules to eliminate junk fees across a range of industries.
Everything from utilities to hotels often stuff bills with junk fees, many of which are not disclosed at the outset. The FTC wants to ban the practice, giving consumers a much clearer picture of exactly what they are paying for.
“All too often, Americans are plagued with unexpected and unnecessary fees they can’t escape. These junk fees now cost Americans tens of billions of dollars per year—money that corporations are extracting from working families just because they can,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “By hiding the total price, these junk fees make it harder for consumers to shop for the best product or service and punish businesses who are honest upfront. The FTC’s proposed rule to ban junk fees will save people money and time, and make our markets more fair and competitive.”
The FTC’s proposed rules would ban two practices in particular:
- Hidden Fees. Consumers told the FTC that dishonest businesses routinely engage in bait-and-switch pricing tactics that hide mandatory fees and deceive consumers about the price. This is because fees imposed later, but before the purchase is made, significantly increase the total that consumers pay. Accordingly, the proposed rule would prohibit businesses from advertising prices that hide or leave out mandatory fees; and
- Bogus Fees. Many consumers also said that they often do not know what fees are for, because dishonest businesses routinely misrepresent or fail to adequately disclose the nature or purpose of the fees. The rule would prohibit sellers from misrepresenting fees and require them to disclose upfront the amount and purpose of the fees and whether they are refundable.
The FTC’s proposal has wide support among other agencies, with the FCC, CFPB, DOT, and HUD throwing their weight behind it.
“No one likes surprise charges on their bill. Consumers deserve to know exactly what they are paying for when they sign up for communications services. But when it comes to these bills, what you see isn’t always what you get,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Instead, consumers have often been saddled with additional junk fees that may exorbitantly raise the price of their previously agreed-to monthly charges. To combat this, we’re implementing Broadband Consumer Labels, a new tool that will increase price transparency and reduce cost confusion, help consumers compare services, and provide ‘all-in-pricing’ so that every American can understand upfront and without any surprises how much they can expect to be paying for these services.”