California lawmakers take aim at ‘junk fees’ for ticket sales, hotel stays and more
California state lawmakers are coming for Ticketmaster.
A handful of bills introduced this year aim to crack down on hidden fees — or “junk fees” as some lawmakers called them — on concert tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, small business loans and more.
One of the bills would also address “dynamic pricing,” which is when sellers hike the price of tickets in high demand. It’s blamed for the sky-high price of tickets to shows by artists including Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen.
The package is supported by a coalition of consumer advocacy groups but will likely face opposition from the companies and industries they aim to target.
Hidden fees cost consumers billions of dollars every year through “deceptive pricing and expensive add-on fees to a wide range of consumer and small business transactions,” said Robert Herrell, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California.
President Joe Biden asked Congress and state lawmakers to crack down on the hidden fees in his state of the union address last month.
So far, lawmakers have introduced six bills to increase price transparency in California.
AB 8 by Assembly members Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Jaqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) wouldn’t solve all the issues that led to Ticketmaster crashing the day Taylor Swift’s tour went on sale. But it would require ticket sellers to be transparent with fees, seating location and pricing.
Friedman pointed out that while the exorbitant ticket prices have made headlines in recent months, LiveNation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, reported record profits last year.
“We need to make sure that artists, performers and venues can reach fans and sell tickets in more transparent ways,” she said. “But we also need to update the law to make sure to stop price gouging. We see that in the profits and we see that in these egregious fees.”
Another measure, AB 537, would require hotels and short-term rentals to include all taxes and fees in their advertised prices.
“Hotels are free to charge cleaning fees, destination fees, resort fees, but have that in the up-front price so consumers know when they’re price shopping,” said the bill’s author, Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park).
A separate bill, AB 1222 by Assembly Member Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), would require car rental companies to list all fees in the original price.
When amended, freshman Sen. Caroline Menjivar said her SB 611 would require landlords and property management companies to incorporate trash, parking and other mandatory fees into the advertised cost of rent.
“Renters today already face an array of hidden fees to secure housing,” she said. “These fees keep safe and decent rental housing out of reach for many working families.”
SB 666 by Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) would target fees for small business loans. He said the fees, with names like “origination fees, platform and due diligence fees,” can add on hundreds of dollars in costs for businesses “while not providing any clear benefit.”
“We need safeguards in place to make sure the lending process is straightforward, transparent, and doesn’t come with unfair surprises,” Min said.
SB 680 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would prevent car dealers from selling electric vehicles for more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. She accused dealers of “jacking up the price” on EVs while telling car buyers they are getting a good deal because the purchase would qualify for state and federal rebates.
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