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Junk fees: Is more transparency needed?

ORLANDO, Fla. — Getting hit with fees for a dollar here and a dollar there can add up.

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Before you know it, that “great value” isn’t really all that great. Junk fees can get tacked on to just about anything you buy, so the federal government is pushing for transparency.

These days, buyers are often warned about reading the fine print and looking out for hidden fees.

Doug Sleezer knows it all too well. “Oh, it’s horrible. You think you’re paying one price and you turn around and your price is sometimes double,” he said.

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Shoppers see those extra fees on everything from airline tickets to meals and hotels. And they can add up quickly, often ballooning the price shoppers thought they were going to pay.

Shopper Shelby Lewis said, “I feel like there’s not a lot of transparency in terms of what those fees are.”

The law requires disclosure of add-ons and extra fees, but often these get added during the buying process. That means consumers may not know how much something costs until it’s time to pay.

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Jon Donenberg, Deputy Director of the National Economic County at The White House said, “Different sectors where you have the kind of mechanism that you’re talking about, you know, where there are additional costs that are glued into the price. And the real problem is you don’t necessarily know what those things are when you make your initial purchase.”

Recently, The White House, through the Federal Trade Commission, moved to limit how junk fees are tacked on by requiring better up-front disclosure and detailing of just how the fees are calculated.

“People don’t like to be played for suckers. And, you know, you ought to be able to buy a product without being worried that you’re getting ripped off,” Donenberg said.

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But regulation only goes so far and there are ways for consumers to protect themselves. The Better Business Bureau recommends shoppers approach an advertised price as a starting point and not to be afraid to take their business elsewhere if the advertised price isn’t what they thought. They should also check their statements regularly.

Another option to avoid extra fees is to pay in cash since some places like gas stations offer a cash discount. Consumers can also file a complaint with the business if they see a fee that they didn’t know about. The BBB notes 64% of people who filed a complaint over a fee got the fee removed.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.