Junk fees: Will the government pull through for consumers?

Last updated
May 15, 2024
What are junk fees and what's happening with the proposed Junk Fee Prevention Act? Plus more importantly, how it affects your business.

Update Tuesday, May 14, 2024: Bloomberg Aviation Regulation reporter Allyson Versprille reported that airlines and airline lobbying organizations are following suit with the banks and the CFPB... They're suing the US Department of Transportation over their part of the junk fee bill.

Allyson reports, "The final regulations, which the department has projected would save travelers more than half a billion dollars a year, require carriers and ticket agents to clearly communicate their extra charges up front for checked luggage and carry-on bags and for canceling or changing reservations. But Airlines for America -- a trade group for the airlines -- says carriers already provide those disclosures and that the new rules would just confuse consumers and complicate the buying process, whereas DOT says the regulations are needed to help passengers avoid surprise fees."

It also offered protections from extra fees for seating families together, which would be a welcome sigh of relief from traveling families on a budget.

Chambers and bank lobbying groups sue the CFPB

After being introduced in the Senate and wrapping up a comment period, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, bank lobbyists, and other business organizations sued the CFPB in Texas this spring, claiming that the rule is unconstitutional.

These groups mostly oppose the credit card late fee limits of 25% and $8, which would be a big reduction from the current $32 and save Americans millions of dollars. Opponents claim that it would force raising interest rates and other ways to make up the lost revenue.

Now there's another change in the trajectory of this bill.

On Friday May 10, 2024, a United States District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued a stay of the CFPB ruling, which basically means he agreed with the lobbyists – so the ruling that was set to go into effect May 14, will not.

Brian Axell, Managing Partner at Axell Law, commented on LinkedIn, "In a very…interesting opinion, the judge’s opinion spent more time throwing shade at the Fifth Circuit and the plaintiffs, than the actual injunction. It’s a long story, but the judge basically said he wasn’t happy that the plaintiffs were pushy about getting a quick ruling on an injunction, and that the Fifth Circuit enabled them."

The conclusion ends with a General Patton quote and then Pittman ends with, "Parties should not be allowed to manipulate the court system to order trial judges "how", "what", and "when" to rule." Snap!

Read the full Injunction.

History of the Junk Fee Act

The Junk Fee Prevention Act is a significant legislative effort aimed at combating hidden and excessive fees across various consumer services.

In October of 2023, Governor Newsom signed a similar bill into law in California. Senate Bill 478 bans “offering a price for a good or service that does not include all mandatory fees or charges other than taxes or fees imposed by a government on the transaction.”

Typically, when California sets a new law that imposes a higher standard for regulations, New York and parts of the rest of country follow, or a federal law like in this case.

The key aspects of the Act reflects a seemingly earnest effort to enhance transparency and consumer protection.

It identifies four major areas for cracking down 

  • Excessive online ticket fees: Hefty service fees often tacked on at the checkout for online ticket purchases, which are not disclosed upfront. Some charges from entertainment platforms like Ticketmaster can amount to more than half the ticket's face value. After Taylor Swift tickets went upwards of 70 times the price of the original ticket on resale platforms, consumers exhibited support for the bill in an attempt to take Ticketmaster to task.
  • Family seating fees on airlines: It proposes to end the practice of airlines charging extra for seating children next to their family members during flights, a common source of frustration among traveling families.
  • Early termination fees: Commonly seen amongst TV, phone, and internet service providers, these fees lock consumers into services and stifle competition.
  • Surprise resort and destination fees: The act intends to ban unexpected "resort fees" or "destination fees" at hotels, which can hide the true cost of a stay and hinder effective price comparison.
  • Predatory fees in general: The act also considers how to tackle the broader issue of excessive predatory fees across various industries. Practices like making a resident benefits package mandatory, could be considered junk fees in the future. Hidden fees can significantly raise the cost of services and goods, misleading consumers or taking advantage of those who don't have other options.

Endorsed by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has endorsed the Junk Fee Prevention Act, saying it's about time and it's a start: 

"Consumers are rightfully fed up with the proliferation of junk fees that jack up the price of everything from event tickets and hotels to airline flights and internet services.” - Chuck Bell, advocacy program director for Consumer Reports.

“Junk fees can add up to a lot of extra money and pose a real financial strain for families at a time when inflation is already taking a big bite out of their wallets,” he said.

The organization highlights the importance of transparency and fairness in consumer transactions, urging Congress to pass the Act to ensure advertised prices are more reflective of the actual costs consumers will face. They reference some powerful numbers: 

The Governmental Accountability Office reported on the consumer issues of the event ticketing market in April 2018, and found that combined fees averaged 27 percent of the ticket’s face value, with values ranging from 13% to 58%.

The White House estimates that between the CFPB, DOT and FCC working on their own initiatives, predatory fee initiatives are projected to reduce typical late fees for consumers from roughly $30 to $8, saving Americans as much as $9 billion a year in late fees.

Perks are the alternative

At Paylode we believe that customers shouldn't be "nickled and dimed", they should be rewarded for their loyal actions. Consider replacing a fee with a reward. When the customer redeems, you build loyalty and revenue at the same time. Without being limited by a fixed monthly fee per person, the ceiling is much higher when you engage customers with rewards on a consistent basis.

About the author
Adrienne Kmetz
Adrienne is a marketing expert with a career history of working in startups of all sizes, from early stage to series A. She has 17+ years of experience writing about business, finance, and entrepreneurship. She went to Colorado College where she majored in skiing.
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