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Biden to Congress: Eliminate ‘junk’ fees for resorts, cable, airlines

Calls to come as part of White House meeting on competition

President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to crack down on airlines that charge a fee to ensure parents sit with their children on flights.
President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to crack down on airlines that charge a fee to ensure parents sit with their children on flights. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images file photo)

President Joe Biden will call on Congress to act to curtail what his administration calls “junk fees” on everything from concerts and sporting events to resort hotels.

The president will announce the calls for congressional action as part of Wednesday’s meeting of his Competition Council, an interagency group that has focused on ways to try to reduce consumer costs in a number of industries.

“The call for legislative action in these areas is not meant to imply that there is no administrative authority here,” Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said Tuesday. “As you all know, the rule-making process can take quite a long time. And so what we are calling for here is fast congressional action in these areas, because we think that these are each areas in which consumers, as each day goes by, are paying hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars and fees each day that they shouldn’t pay and congressional action can fix that faster than administrative action.”

[CFPB proposes lowering credit card late fees]

Ramamurti highlighted bipartisan interest in addressing fees and competition in many of the areas to be discussed Wednesday.

Among the president’s targets is the concert venue owner and promoter Live Nation. A fact sheet provided to reporters ahead of the announcement highlighted the company’s market concentration in the live events business. The company’s market power was recently the focus of a bipartisan Senate hearing.

“While antitrust enforcement agencies have the authority to investigate and address anti-competitive conduct in the industry, the President urges Congress to act now to reduce these fees through legislation,” the fact sheet says. “Specifically, the President is calling on Congress to prohibit excessive fees, require the fees to be disclosed in the ticket price, and mandate disclosure of any ticket holdbacks that diminish available supply.”

The announcements offer an appetizer of sorts to the kinds of proposals for which Biden could be seeking bipartisan applause during next week’s State of the Union address.

Other recommendations for Congress include working to eliminate what the administration deems “exorbitant” early termination fees when people try to switch television and telephone providers and up-front disclosure of resort fees charged by hotels, which are often opaque early in the booking process.

The administration also wants Congress to crack down on fees airlines may charge parents to ensure they are seated with their children.

Credit cards and mobile apps

On the regulatory front, Wednesday’s competition announcements also include a new proposed rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau aiming at reducing late fees charged by credit card companies, a rule that CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said could be ready to take effect in 2024.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is part of the Commerce Department, is also participating in Wednesday’s announcements with the release of a new report focused on mobile app competition, highlighting the market dominance of Apple and Google.

“Innovators have very limited avenues for reaching consumers, and consumers have very little limited choice or no choice about where to get their apps,” Alan Davidson, an assistant secretary of Commerce and the NTIA administrator, told reporters.

Davidson said the report being published by the NTIA did not make specific endorsements of legislation for bolstering competition, though there were proposals that would address concerns raised by his agency.

“I would note that, you know, many of our recommendations would be answered … and addressed by legislation such as the Open App Markets Act, as it was introduced last year. So we’ll be looking forward to seeing what comes this year,” Davidson said.

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