California lawmakers want to ban hidden fees on hotels, event tickets

"These junk fees cost consumers billions of dollars each year and hurt vulnerable families."

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
CA lawmakers want to ban hidden fees on hotels, event tickets
President Joe Biden took aim last week against hidden fees, but California lawmakers say they don't want to wait for congress to act.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- You may recall President Joe Biden took aim at his State of the Union address last week against hidden fees -- those charges added on to your bill for everything from hotel rooms to airline seats. Now, California's attorney general and state lawmakers say they don't want to wait for congress to act.

MORE: Biden touts agenda, accomplishments in State of the Union: 'The soul of this nation is strong'

Democratic lawmakers took action Tuesday. They said they want California to take the lead in what they see as bait-and-switch pricing. You buy something, then find out at checkout that you must also pay a mandatory fee on top of it.

President Biden vowed to bring an end to mandatory hidden fees for goods and services.

"We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all of the fees up front and prohibit airlines from charging $50 round trip just so families can sit together," President Biden said in the State of the Union address on Feb. 7.

"It's called the Junk Fee Prevention Act..."

Exactly a week later, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and state lawmakers announced a bill to ban hidden fees on most anything you buy.

"These junk fees cost consumers billions of dollars each year and hurt vulnerable families at a time when every dollar matters," said Attorney General Bonta.

MORE: Biden vows 'breathing room' for families going into midterms

"Because in California, we believe that when you make a purchase, your final purchase price shouldn't be a mystery," he said.

"We know a dysfunctional Congress will drag their feet whenever possible, and each federal agency can only get a piece of the problem. That's why we're joining the fight and helping lead the charge," said State Senator Bill Dodd (D - Napa).

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The legislation would not ban mandatory fees altogether, but would require companies to disclose the fees upfront as part of the total price of goods or services.

"Whether it's a hotel, the ticket broker for a special event, or the airlines who slammed us with baggage fees or a fee to sit with our family; all of these are exorbitant and just too costly," said State Senator Nancy Skinner (D - Berkeley).

Lawmakers say consumers often don't find out until checkout that they must pay additional fees on top of the price -- which often happens with event tickets and hotels.

"We've all experienced, you go to a website, enter the dates of your stay, pick a room for a certain price, enter your personal information. And then at the last minute, the hotel or travel website tacks on resort or cleaning fees," said Assemblymember Marc Berman (D - Palo Alto). "It's time to take action."

Officials said the bill would not require disclosure of optional fees -- only those you MUST pay. And California law cannot control fees for airlines, which operate under federal law. But officials hope this will spur national regulation of these fees.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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