A new Washington Post feature story details the widespread ‘industry resistance’ to the Biden administration’s multi-pronged efforts to crack down on corporate junk fees to help lower costs for everyday Americans. As the Post notes, “corporations have fought vigorously to thwart even the most basic rules that would require them to be more transparent about hidden charges” – industries ranging “from airlines, auto dealers, banks, credit card companies, cable giants, property owners and ticket sellers that hope to preserve their profits.” Collectively, these industries’ excessive, often-hidden, fees cost Americans at least $64 billion every year. But there’s more to the story. As government watchdog Accountable.US has documented over the last year, greedy corporations that abuse junk fees to pad their bottom line have enjoyed support every step of the way from Republicans in Congress that have taken millions of dollars of their money. *See below.
“From airlines to big banks, too many corporations are greedily price gouging everyday Americans with hidden junk fees to pad their profits. By cracking down on price gouging and banning junk fees, the Biden Administration is siding with consumers over corporations. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress cozy with corporate CEOs and lobbyists want to keep the industry money gravy train coming by obstructing every single Biden administration effort to stop junk fees that rob billions from the pockets of Americans every year. For these Republican champions of junk fees, it’s more important to enrich their industry lobbyist donors than to lower costs for Americans and help grow the middle class. $64 billion in industry junk fees seriously holds back the economy, yet Republicans like Patrick McHenry say there’s nothing to see here because they’ve been paid enough by lobbyists to look the other way.”
Liz Zelnick, Director of Economic Security and Corporate Power
A Look Back: Congressional Republicans Carry the Water for Greedy CEOs Desperate to Maintain Costly Junk Fee Practice:
- In February 2023, Republican House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry joined the financial industry in bashing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to protect consumers from credit card late fees after receiving over $1.1 million in campaign contributions from the three banking trade groups opposed to the CFPB’s credit card rule and the eight largest U.S. credit card issuers.
- In October 2023, soon after the Biden administration announced two major new initiatives cracking down on junk fees, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups representing banks and industries that abuse the practice predictably denounced the effort. Anti-CFPB lawmakers Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who previously claimed “junk fees don’t exist, okay,” also rushed to defend junk fees on behalf of their industry contributors. A review from government watchdog Accountable.US found Luetkemeyer and Barr have taken a combined $401,500 from the same trade groups chiding the administration’s hugely popularefforts that will save everyday families billions of dollars.
- In April 2023, Senate Banking Committee Republicans issued a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra demanding he “promptly rescind” the CFPB’s proposed rule cracking down on abusive credit card industry late fees – an effort that is expected to save American families $9 billion every year. The Republicans’ love letter to junk fees — which offered an impassioned defense of the practice and their supposed “legitimate purposes” – came as committee members took over $2.2 million from banking trade groups and institutions that exploit such fees.
- In June 2023, Accountable.US released a new analysis finding numerous companies and trade associations across industries affected by the Junk Fee Prevention Act have spent over $1.7 million while lobbying on the bill in the first quarter of 2023. The bill, part of the larger crackdown on junk fees led by President Biden and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would “eliminate excessive, hidden, and unnecessary fees imposed on consumers” within the telecommunications, ticketing, hotel, airline, and entertainment industries. Accountable.US also foundRepublicans on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection have taken over $920,000 from these industry opponents of the Junk Fee Prevention Act.
- A July 2023 review from Accountable.US found that since the Federal Trade Commission introduced a rule banning junk fees and deceptive advertising tactics used by vehicle dealers, the National Auto Dealers Association has donated nearly $65,000 To House Judiciary Republicans while spending over $4.5 million while lobbying the federal government against the rule. Demonstrating themselves that the predatory practice is indefensible, the auto dealer trade group has grasped at straws with arguments that the FTC rulemaking “would materially change the sales process that millions of customers are accustomed to.”
- The Federal Trade Commission faced criticism from Republicans in Congress over their ‘Click To Cancel’ proposed rule that would require companies like Amazon make it easier for consumers to cancel a subscription. In June, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint calling out Amazon’s illegal use of “‘manipulative, coercive, or deceptive’ designs to enroll shoppers into auto-renewing Prime subscriptions.’” An Accountable.US review of data from OpenSecrets found Amazon gave nearly half a million dollars to House Republicans during the 2022 election cycle.