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Dec 20 -- FTC extends comment period to February 7, 2024. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/12/federal-trade-commission-extends-public-comment-period-proposed-rule-prohibiting-junk-fees-30-days  
Jan 2 FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-28669

1) Nov 9 [FRN] -- The Federal Trade Commission commences a rulemaking to promulgate a trade regulation rule entitled “Rule on Unfair or Deceptive Fees,” which would prohibit unfair or deceptive practices relating to fees for goods or services, specifically, misrepresenting the total costs of goods and services by omitting mandatory fees from advertised prices and misrepresenting the nature and purpose of fees. The Commission finds these unfair or deceptive practices relating to fees to be prevalent based on prior enforcement, the comments it received in response to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, and other information discussed in this proposal. The Commission now solicits written comment, data, and arguments concerning the utility and scope of the trade regulation rule proposed in this notice of proposed rulemaking to prevent the identified unfair or deceptive practices. Comments must be received on or before January 8, 2024.

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-24234 [66 pages]

2) Oct 11 [press release] -- The Federal Trade Commission today announced a new proposed rule to prohibit junk fees, which are hidden and bogus fees that can harm consumers and undercut honest businesses. The FTC has estimated that these fees can cost consumers tens of billions of dollars per year in unexpected costs.

The agency launched a proceeding last year requesting public input on whether a rule would help to eliminate these unfair and deceptive charges. After receiving more than 12,000 comments on how fees affect their personal spending or business, the FTC is seeking a new round of comments on a proposed junk fee rule.

“All too often, Americans are plagued with unexpected and unnecessary fees they can’t escape. These junk fees now cost Americans tens of billions of dollars per year—money that corporations are extracting from working families just because they can,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “By hiding the total price, these junk fees make it harder for consumers to shop for the best product or service and punish businesses who are honest upfront. The FTC’s proposed rule to ban junk fees will save people money and time, and make our markets more fair and competitive.”

As the public comments made clear, consumers are fed up with hidden fees for everything from booking hotels and resort fees to buying concert tickets online, renting an apartment, and paying utility bills. Many consumers said that sellers often do not advertise the total amount they will have to pay, and disclose fees only after they are well into completing the transaction. They also said that sellers often misrepresent or do not adequately disclose the nature or purpose of certain fees, leaving consumers wondering what they are paying for or if they are getting anything at all for the fee charged.

The proposed rule will save consumers more than 50 million hours per year of wasted time spent searching for the total price in live-ticketing and short-term lodging alone, according to FTC estimates. This time savings is equivalent to more than $10 billion over the next decade.

The proposed rule would ban businesses from running up the bills with hidden and bogus fees, ensure consumers know exactly how much they are paying and what they are getting, and help spur companies to compete on offering the lowest price. Businesses would have to include all mandatory fees when telling consumers a price, making it easier for consumers to comparison shop for the lowest price. The proposed rule would also have enforcement teeth, allowing the FTC to secure refunds for harmed consumers and seek monetary penalties against companies that do not comply with its provisions.

To accomplish this, the proposed rule would ban the following junk fee practices that consistently confuse and trick consumers:

-- Hidden Fees. Consumers told the FTC that dishonest businesses routinely engage in bait-and-switch pricing tactics that hide mandatory fees and deceive consumers about the price. This is because fees imposed later, but before the purchase is made, significantly increase the total that consumers pay. Accordingly, the proposed rule would prohibit businesses from advertising prices that hide or leave out mandatory fees; and

-- Bogus Fees. Many consumers also said that they often do not know what fees are for, because dishonest businesses routinely misrepresent or fail to adequately disclose the nature or purpose of the fees. The rule would prohibit sellers from misrepresenting fees and require them to disclose upfront the amount and purpose of the fees and whether they are refundable.

These provisions are aimed at ensuring businesses will no longer be able to lure consumers with artificially low prices that they later inflate with mandatory fees or to deceive consumers about the nature and purpose of fees. In addition, the proposed rule would provide a level playing field for honest businesses by requiring all businesses to quote total prices at the start of the purchasing process and to remove false or misleading information about fees from the marketplace.

Other federal agencies and organizations are joining the FTC to develop and implement rules prohibiting junk fees across multiple U.S. markets and sectors including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Transportation (DOT). . . .

The Commission vote approving publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking was 3-0. Once the notice has been published in the Federal Register, consumers can submit comments electronically for 60 days. Consumers also may submit comments in writing by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.

Press release: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/10/ftc-proposes-rule-ban-junk-fees

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