Committee Approves Sen. Dodd’s ‘Junk Fees’ Bill
SACRAMENTO – Legislation has advanced from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, in partnership with Attorney General Rob Bonta and Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that would outlaw hidden charges on purchases – also known as junk fees -- ensuring consumers are not exposed to deceptive business practices that add unfair costs.
“It’s an underhanded trick to boost corporate profits at the expense of those who can least afford it,” Sen. Dodd said. “It’s safe to say Californians are sick and tired of dishonest fees being tacked on to seemingly everything. With this bill, we will put an end to these unfair practices that President Biden has so rightfully underscored. It is time we put the consumer first and create a level playing field for those businesses who are good actors and advertise the real price upfront.”
In his State of the Union address, President Biden called out junk fees applied to an array of transactions involving banks, ticket vendors, airlines and online sellers. By one estimate, 85% of Americans have paid hidden fees totaling $28 billion per year. California, which has fifth largest economy in the world and the nation’s largest population, pays an outsized share. The president proposed federal action by numerous federal agencies to address issues within their subject matter and regulatory authority.
At the state level, Sens. Dodd and Skinner, along with Attorney General Bonta, introduced Senate Bill 478, which would expand on the White House proposal and put the Golden State at the forefront of banning these secretive fees, regardless of industry sector. The bill would expressly prohibit the pervasive and deceptive practice of advertising a certain price and then adding on mandatory charges that are controlled by the business. Companies that fail to comply with the new rules could be subject to steep financial penalties.
SB 478, which has broad support from consumer groups, was approved by the Senate Judiciary committee late Tuesday on 9-1 vote. It heads next to Senate Appropriations.
“Transparency and full disclosure in pricing are crucial for fair competition and consumer protection,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Unfortunately, from car rental and hotel fees to concert ticket service charges, these hidden costs have been normalized in the purchasing process. Today’s legislation seeks to hold businesses accountable for their deceptive and misleading practices at the expense of the financial security of millions of Californians. My office will continue to work tirelessly to ensure an equal level playing field and demand transparency across the board for the protection of California consumers.”
“Californians are fed up with being bombarded by junk fees that, more and more, are making it unaffordable to attend a concert, go to a sporting event, take a vacation, or stay at a hotel,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner. “I’m proud to join with Attorney General Bonta and Sen. Dodd in heeding President Biden’s call to end the scourge of hidden junk fees. SB 478 will bring transparency to the true cost of goods and services in our state so that Californians know upfront exactly how much they’re being asked to pay.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.