The Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Bill (SB) 388, a bill aimed at eliminating “junk fees”– those pesky, extra charges that companies tack onto purchases at checkout, which are usually significantly higher than the initially advertised price.
SB 388, introduced by Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D-Fairfax) passed with bipartisan support in a 28-11 vote. The bill aims to eliminate unexpected additional charges in various transactions, including purchases like phone upgrades, concert tickets, car rentals, hotel stays, and more.
According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, the average family of four spends $3,200 per year on junk fees. A poll conducted by Data for Progress found that an overwhelming majority of voters–81% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans–support initiatives aimed at eliminating hidden fees.
“This bill will protect consumers and hardworking Virginians from hidden fees and will level the playing field for honest businesses,” Sen. Pekarsky said in a statement. “Virginian families deserve to know what they’re paying for upfront. Today’s bipartisan vote to shed light on these junk fees was a huge win for Virginia families.”
Rhena Hicks, executive director of Freedom Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing economic security policies, praised the bill’s passage in a statement, as well.
“By eliminating junk fees, we empower Virginians to keep more of their hard-earned money,” she said. “I commend the Virginia Senate for standing with hard-working Virginians and passing Senator Stella Pekarsky’s legislation on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.”
Hicks also called on the Virginia House of Delegates to pass SB 388’s companion bill, House Bill 1320. However, the House Committee on Labor and Commerce on Thursday pushed the legislation to 2025.
The Senate version of the bill could still become law, however, if it passes the House and if Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs off on it.
On the federal level, the Biden administration has also taken steps to eliminate junk fees.
In October, President Biden proposed a new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule that would prohibit companies across the private sector from hiding additional fees by requiring all industries under its jurisdiction to show the full price of an item being purchased to the consumer “up-front,” meaning before they get to checkout.
The administration proposed another regulation last year that would require cable companies and satellite providers to show the full price of their services upfront, as well. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also proposed a rule in Nov. 2022 that would require internet companies to publish prices, data allowances, and other important information on “easy-to-understand labels” for consumers as they compare services by the end of 2024.
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