Virginia bill to ban junk fees would include mandatory costs in advertised price

Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-09 18:42:46-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Whether buying concert tickets, booking a hotel stay or renting a car, it is likely something many people have experienced.

Service fees mean that the final price when you get to checkout is higher than what was initially advertised.

"You already made the decision that you're going to go, so you just end up paying the price," Rachel Ruth said. "But it's definitely more expensive than what you initially anticipate."

What brings up that cost -are what are known as hidden or junk fees.

"Research has shown us that for the average family, they pay about $3,200 in junk fees a year." Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D - Fairfax) said. "That is a considerable amount of money."

And it's an issue the Virginia state senator wants to fix.

Her bill would require industries that fall under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act to advertise the final cost of their product, including mandatory fees, but excluding shipping and taxes.

Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D - Fairfax)
Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D - Fairfax)

"Anything where if I did not pay you, I could not attain that service or good," Pekarsky explained.

The bill would also help lower-income people or those who aren't as proficient in English, according to Pekarsky.

"They think they're paying for something and they've budgeted for that number," Pekarsky said. "And at the end, they're in a lot deeper than they initially thought."

Virginians in Carytown Friday were supportive of the idea, especially when it comes to concerts.

"People can make a better decision about what they're trying to invest in and they can find other routes, because there's different websites that charge less or more," one woman said.

The issue of junk fees gained national attention last fall aimed at Ticketmaster's junk fees on tickets for Taylor Swift's Era's Tour. The federal government is proposing regulations on the issue as well.

Similarly inspired at the state level, Del. Dan Helmer has legislation specifically for sports, theatre and concert tickets.

"Consumers are experiencing a 'Blank Space' upon checkout with surprise, unadvertised fees," Helmer said. "Leaving them with feelings of 'Bad Blood.'"

Helmer's legislation has received support from the ticket industry.

"In the industry, this is known as all-in pricing and we are supportive of disclosing the price up front," a lobbyist said.

But business advocates said that while they are understanding of Pekarsky's bill, they have concerns about how broad it is.

"I do still feel that there could be some unintended consequences that my members could get wrapped up in," one person commenting on the legislation said.

Pekarsky said that while she has been working with groups on the bill, but didn't want to target any one industry. The overall goal is to ensure transparency and protect consumers.

"Passing this bill would really help working families especially. And I think we've got to prioritize that right now," Pekarsky said.

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