SAN DIEGO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today held a press conference to highlight the importance of Senate Bill 478 (SB 478). Coauthored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), the legislation would prohibit in California hidden fees (also called ‘junk fees’) — fees in which a seller uses an artificially low headline price to attract a customer and usually either discloses additional required fees in smaller print, or reveals additional unavoidable charges later in the buying process. SB 478 is currently pending before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Attorney General Bonta also issued a call to action and urged members of the public to share their experiences with hidden fees by using the hashtag #HiddenFeesUncovered.
“We can and should stop the fleecing of consumers. We can and should stop the imbalance in the marketplace,” said Attorney General Bonta. “California is soon to be the fourth biggest economy in the world — and we have a responsibility to lead on important issues protecting consumers. The bottom line is that the price consumers see should be the price consumers pay. California families are sick and tired of hidden fees, and SB 478 would right that wrong. If you’ve been hit by hidden fees, I encourage you to share your story on social media using the hashtag #HiddenFeesUncovered."
“Californians have had enough with bait-and-switch pricing, when we’re not told upfront the true cost of goods and services. Whether buying tickets to a concert or sporting event or booking a vacation or a hotel, Californians deserve to know exactly how much they’re being asked to pay, and not be surprised later by hidden junk fees,” said Senator Skinner. “SB 478 will finally put an end to deceptive pricing and bring much-needed transparency to California’s consumer marketplace.”
“Californians are fed up with dishonest fees being tacked on to seemingly everything,” said Senator Dodd. “It’s an underhanded trick to boost corporate profits at the expense of those who can least afford it. Our bill will end these unfair practices and put the consumer first, leveling the playing field for reputable businesses that advertise the real price up front.”
Deceptive price advertising to hide required fees is a significant problem facing consumers that appears to be proliferating in more and more sectors of the economy. Hidden required fees are now charged for a variety of goods and services, such as lodging, tickets for live events, restaurants and food delivery, and telecom and internet service. These fees, when mandatory, are a deceptive way of hiding the true cost of a good or service.
Since taking office, Attorney General Bonta has taken myriad actions in defense of consumers. He has filed a multistate amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; led a coalition of 18 states calling for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles following the companies’ continued failure to take adequate steps to address the alarming rate of theft of their vehicles; joined a bipartisan coalition in urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen proposed regulations to increase transparency in the airline industry, address hidden fees, reduce the rate of airline cancellations, and provide meaningful relief to airline consumers whose flights have been canceled or significantly delayed; and has joined a multistate coalition led by the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit challenging the proposed merger of Spirit and JetBlue airlines.
The text of the proposed legislation is available here.