President Biden gets some major players in the 'junk fees' game to change their tune

Photo (c) Hisham Ibrahim_Getty Images

'Being transparent isn’t too much to ask,' says one consumer watchdog

Anyone who’s been bitten by “junk fees” – those hidden charges that companies sneak into your bill to make you pay more without telling you upfront – have had one of their prayers answered.

President Biden had a sit-down at the White House with representatives from Ticketmaster's parent company Live Nation, Airbnb, SeatGeek and others in the entertainment and hospitality industries and got them to agree to removing those dreaded fees.

Biden’s not stopping there. He said that his administration also has two other success stories regarding fees.

First, the White House -- with an added push from the CFPB -- was able to reduce bank overdrafts by $5.5 billion a year and bounced checks cost by another $2 billion a year.

Secondly, he claimed that there’s some forward progress on removing the type of junk fees that companies charge right at the end of the purchasing process after someone has already spent time comparing their options.  

“The solution is what is called 'all-in pricing’” he said. “And that’s where companies fully disclose their fees upfront when you start shopping so you’re not surprised at the end when you check out.”

Helping his cause is Congress, which has applied pressure on companies with the recent introduction of the Junk Fee Prevention Act. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expected to create and enforce new rules about junk fees.

Junk fees have been a major pain point for ConsumerAffairs reviewers, too. Just recently, Jessica of Sandston, Va., complained that Ticketmaster’s fees are more than the ticket sometimes.

Others – like Shawna of Groton N.Y. – have become numbed by the scheme. “Not really happy with all the junk fees added but it seems all sites do that,” she said in her review of CheapOAir.

'A huge win for consumers'

Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, called it a huge win for consumers.

"Families’ budgets are tight, but people want to have the normal summer travel and fun that they’ve missed the last few years because of COVID," she said.

“There are no circumstances where a reasonable person could think it’s okay for a business to reveal only part of the cost of a product or service upfront. Yet, this has been the practice among many companies for years.

It’s not okay to slip in fees at the last minute, bury them in the fine print of a 10-page document, or give them official-sounding names so consumers don’t realize they’re optional. Being transparent about pricing isn’t too much to ask.”

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