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'Unfair, junk fees': U.S. Congress ready to crack down on much-maligned surprise charges

Legislation restricting the hidden charges is ready to be tabled by U.S. President Joe Biden.

U.S. President Joe Biden is cracking down on "unfair" travel fees.

Airlines, hotels and ticket sellers in America which charge hidden, surprise and often undisclosed fees, known as “junk fees”, are the target in new legislation about to be tabled in the U.S. Congress by U.S. President Joe Biden.

The leader of the free world was speaking prior to a meeting of his new Competition Council, which was convened in September last year and tasked with eliminating “unfair hidden fees” that “sneak up” on consumers.

President Biden spoke of the committee’s early success in convincing major airlines to rebook cancellation flights for free and banning non-compete agreements preventing staff from seeking more lucrative employment with a competing business.

The next step, the President said, was for Congress to pass the Junk Fee Protection Act which he said would prohibit four frustrating fees, two of which relate to travel and affect not just Americans but people from around the world.

If passed, the legislation would restrict airlines from charging fees to select a seat in advance, enabling families and groups to sit together without a financial impost.

The action follows a directive by the U.S. Transportation Department last year which ordered airlines to disclose fees for baggage, seating and ticket changes at the earliest point in the booking process.

Las Vegas is one of many holiday destinations known to favour 'resort fees'.

The second fee targets hotels and the infuriating ‘resort fees’ which are often mandatory and enable hotel amenities not all travellers require but must pay for regardless.

“When you book a hotel, you should see the full cost right then and there, instead of getting hit with what’s called a resort fee, which can be over $50 a night — when you check out,” President Biden said.

The President’s comments sparked immediate rebuke from industry advocacy bodies Airlines for America and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, who both defended the fee structures in place across their respective industries.

Airlines for America spokesperson Marli Collier said its largest members “make every effort to accommodate customers traveling together, especially those traveling with children, without additional charges, and consumers are offered a range of choices at the time of ticket purchase, including various seating options.”

Similarly, American Hotel and Lodging Association spokesman, Curt Cashour, said 94% of its members don’t charge resort fees but those that do say it covers “unique and tangible amenities such as food and beverage credits, special events, access to pools and beaches, transportation and spa services.”

The White House said it is expecting strong opposition from business groups which believe travellers are provided sufficient warning on additional fees during the reservation stage.

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 6 February 2023

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