Free from fees? California bill combats ‘junk’ fees for everything from concert tickets to groceries

A woman at a cafe holds a cellphone in one hand and a credit card in another hand.
California lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit companies from hiding mandatory fees that lawmakers described as a “deceptive advertising practice.”
(Nattakorn Maneerat / Getty Images/iStockphoto)

California lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at fighting hidden or “junk” fees for everything from concert tickets to groceries.

Senate Bill 478 would prohibit companies from hiding mandatory fees that lawmakers described as a “deceptive advertising practice.”

“We all know how frustrating it is to get to the checkout and find out something advertised at one price actually costs much, much more,” state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said Tuesday during the bill’s introduction.


The practice has been common in the travel and entertainment industries, in which buyers are met with exorbitant and vaguely defined “service fees” or “convenience fees” when checking out.

For instance, a “Platinum” ticket for Blink-182’s June 16 date at Banc of California Stadium was listed on Ticketmaster at $290.

But an additional $42.90 service fee and $5 processing fee brings the total to $337.90.

“As I’m sure Californians have noticed, we’re seeing this more often,” Bonta said.

The practice makes it hard for consumers to compare prices or make a budget.

“The prices advertised should be the price you pay,” Bonta said.

Fans, politicians and even artists were complaining about Ticketmaster long before Taylor Swift filled stadiums. But experts say the anger may be misplaced.

Jan. 23, 2023

The bill, which was co-authored by Sens. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would require that the advertised price of a product or service include all required charges besides government taxes or fees.

The bill arrives months after the proposal of a federal rule last year that would require airlines to list the “true cost” of tickets including the price of checked baggage and change fees.

Junk fees cost Californians billions of dollars per year, Dodd said.

“It’s apt that we’re introducing our bill on Valentine’s Day because it’s time for businesses with junk fees to start showing some love to California consumers,” Dodd said.

The introduction of the bill in California comes a week after President Biden lambasted the practice in his State of the Union address, pushing for passage of the Junk Fee Prevention Act.


“My administration is also taking on ‘junk’ fees, those hidden surcharges too many businesses use to make you pay more,” Biden said during the speech. “For example, we’re making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront and refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed.

“Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most folks in homes like the one I grew up in,” he said.