NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s almost been a year since the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster concert ticket meltdown, and since then, there have been some efforts to crack down on concert ticket pricing and transparency.
Nationally, the Biden Administration recently announced efforts to crack down on hidden or misleading fees. In Tennessee, state lawmakers passed a ticket transparency law requiring online ticket sellers to make sure the final price of a ticket is being presented upfront.
These are both efforts to limit so-called “junk fees.”
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“I like to think of a ‘junk fee’ as an annoying fee. That’s a surprising fee. That when you started to make a transaction or search for goods, you didn’t know that there was such a fee,” explained Mary Sullivan, former Federal Trade Commission economist and George Washington University visiting scholar.
Sullivan has been studying ‘junk fees’ for years and has found awareness of these hidden surcharges doesn’t prevent consumers from paying them.
“It’s hard because you’ve already invested time in searching for this product….in starting to buy the product. And you realize that if you go back and drop this, you’re going to have to go through this whole search process,” she said.
But not everyone thinks doing away with these fees should be a legislative priority.
“When I’m in Tennessee, the economy is what’s at the top of the list of things that people are talking about, they aren’t talking about junk fees,” said U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Ten.) during a Senate hearing over the summer. “They really don’t want to hear bureaucrats in Washington, our legislators, discussing resort fees, and food delivery fees for DoorDash or Uber Eats.”
During the hearing, Blackburn also said she was concerned about how any government intervention in this space would hurt businesses.
“The way many Tennesseans look at it is this is another way for the FTC, the CFPB…and all these regulators to clamp down on businesses and try to micro-manage businesses. Now, are these fees annoying? Absolutely they are. Should companies be more transparent in how they bring the fees forward? And absolutely, they should do that. And consumers themselves should be more willing to walk away,” she said.
Sullivan didn’t agree with many of Blackburn’s points, but said she does also worry about over-regulation. “Some regulations are necessary. But if you burden businesses too much with regulations, it increases their costs because of their cost of compliance and so on.”
However, despite more attention on “junk fees” and a new state law on price transparency, they still pop up when people are shopping for tickets or looking for hotels.
On Friday, state Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Davidson County), who sponsored the ticket transparency legislation, sent Attorney General Skrimetti a letter asking for increased enforcement of this law.
“It has come to our attention through numerous complaints we have received from ticket purchasers across the state, as well through recent media reports, that there are ticket sellers who are blatantly not abiding by the new law. We respectfully ask you and your office to enforce the law and would like to know when you plan to do so,” Campbell wrote.
Sullivan said enforcement of these laws is difficult.
“There have been studies, one in particular on online event tickets, where one of the companies, StubHub tried to have all-inclusive pricing, and they lost a lot of their market share. So they had to say, look, we’ll do this, but you have to have across-the-board enforcement,” she said.
Yet until that broad enforcement happens, consumers need to deal with some extra junk in their online shopping carts.