Have you ever gotten a bill and the total comes out to be more than you expected? A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that about 85 percent of Americans have experienced an unexpected or hidden fee over the past couple of years. Some hidden fees are small, but all together they add up, which can place a strain on your budget. Here’s some information to help you spot, avoid, or report hidden fees.
Common Places To Find Hidden Fees
These days a majority of people have a phone, credit cards, cable TV, and other bills, all of which come with some written agreement. It is common that contracts with telecommunication providers, gas and electric bills, credit cards, investment services, and car buying may all have some type of hidden fee buried in the terms in their contract.
Airlines, cable companies, car rentals, and hotels are other frequent culprits for hidden or unexpected fees. In 2018, airlines were found to have two main travel charges that resulted in unexpected charges: reservation change fees and baggage fees, together accounting for a combined $7.6 billion in revenue in 2018.
How To Protect Yourself
The very first and most crucial step to protecting yourself from overpaying is understanding your bill or final ticket price and terms. By doing so, you will be able to recognize the fees and what you’re being charged for, or avoid triggering penalty fees. Try monitoring just one bill for a few months for any inconsistencies. This allows you to have a baseline reference of what you should be paying each month.
How to Fight Back Against Hidden Fees
Contact the company and contest the fee - two thirds of people in Consumer Reports’ survey who fought a hidden fee won!
Report a hidden fee to Consumer Reports’ What the Fee! campaign to help advocate for honest pricing
Find local support from your nearest Department of Consumer and Business Affairs office through 211 LA’s resource database for consumer education, resources, and filing complaints
File a complaint online with the Better Business Bureau
Ultimately, try to know what you’re paying and why rather than just paying the bill - protect yourself from hidden fees when you can and fight them or report them when you can’t. And, if you are struggling financially, there may be resources that can help you pay some of your bills - call 2-1-1 (it’s free, 24/7) or search 211la.org for income, employment and financial resources that can help your situation.
Credit: Consumer Reports, Protect Yourself from Hidden Fees, by Penelope Wong