Attorney General Andrea Campbell is proposing a new slate of rules to combat an issue she says everyone should be concerned about: the proliferation of service charges, convenience fees and other unexpected add-ons that drive up purchase prices for concert tickets, airline seats, hotel rooms and more.
Campbell, appearing Tuesday on Boston Public Radio, encouraged Bay Staters to weigh in at a public hearing next week on her proposed regulations that aim to boost cost transparency and prohibit so-called “junk fees.”
“So say for example you were advertised a product, or you’re buying a product that says $100, and at the end of the transaction, you’re paying $300,” she said. “And you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, what happened?’ These are fees — service fees, convenience fees — there’s always a new name for them, and we’re saying here in Massachusetts, our consumer protection laws are so strong that we’re going after those.”
The regulations, according to Campbell's office, would require that businesses "clearly disclose" the total price of a product when they present it to consumers, make clear whether fees are optional or mandatory and simplify processes for canceling trial offers and recurring charges.
Her proposal was met with praise from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the National Consumer Law Center and AARP Massachusetts.
The attorney general's office plans a hybrid public hearing on the regulations next Wednesday and is also accepting written comments on the proposal.
“When we talk about affordability issues, this is a major issue, so we just hope folks will pay attention to junk fees and participate in the comment period, because we need to hear your voices on this,” Campbell said Tuesday.
Junk fees have also come under fire federally. President Joe Biden devoted a chunk of his State of the Union address to the topic this year, and the Federal Trade Commission has also proposed a rule cracking down on hidden and deceptive fees.
On another consumer protection matter, Campbell also discussed a recent settlement of nearly $9 million her office reached with Rent-A-Center, resolving allegations that the Texas-based consumer goods company engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices here.
Campbell said Rent-A-Center had used “very aggressive tactics” with customers who couldn’t pay, including “calling them more than they should, threatening them, using harassing language, just really causing significant financial and emotional harm.” She said she’s confident the company will adjust its practices going forward.
Rent-A-Center has more than 40 retail locations in Massachusetts, and Campbell’s office said many of those stores are in predominantly low-income areas and communities of color.
“We are very concerned about tactics like this used to exploit folks in certain communities,” she said.