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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Free Press submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission in support of its ongoing proceeding to combat “junk fees” that add undue costs to consumer bills. Free Press’ comments, filed jointly with the Consumer Federation of America and 40 other public-interest advocates, document the ways in which such fees are commonplace in the telecommunications sector. 

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden urged Congress to ban junk fees, specifically mentioning a ban on excessive termination fees in telecom contracts. “Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most folks in homes like the one I grew up in,” Biden told Congress, urging lawmakers to “make cable, internet and cellphone companies stop charging you up to $200 or more when you decide to switch to another provider.”

“Without effective safeguards in place to ensure that consumers are not deceived, businesses are free to charge consumers for whatever fee they can create,” the groups wrote in the FTC filing. “To participate in nearly every part of the economy, consumers are compelled to pay these fees even when they do not understand them, when they cannot opt out of paying them, and when they do not know they are paying them.”

Free Press Policy Director Joshua Stager said:

“As President Biden explained in his State of the Union address, junk fees often hit low-income communities and working families the hardest. This is especially true in the telecommunications sector, where billing is notoriously rife with surprise fees and hidden costs.

“We applaud the FTC's efforts to combat junk fees in this market, and would welcome rules that protect consumers from fees that exacerbate the digital divide and make communications services unaffordable for many households. The FCC is also working on this front with its forthcoming broadband nutrition label, and FTC action would be a much-needed complement to that effort. Big ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have gotten away with nickel-and-diming consumers for far too long.”

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