Hidden fees are a common frustration — and now we know just how common.
Altogether, 85% of Americans have faced an unexpected or hidden fee for a service they used over the past two years, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 adults from Consumer Reports. A staggering 96% of consumers said these fees were annoying.
The worst perpetrator, based on this survey, was the telecommunication industry, including cell-phone, internet and cable television service providers. Over two-thirds of the survey respondents said they were charged a hidden fee by one of these companies in the past two years.
Last year, AT&T T, -0.41% increased a so-called “administrative fee” it charges wireless customer from 76 cents to $1.99. Analysts predicted that seemingly small change would generate $800 million in additional revenue for the company. But hidden fees crop up everywhere.
Venues, utility companies, banks, hotels, airlines and investment management firms have all charged such fees. They include everything from service fees charged by hotels for the use of a gym or Wi-Fi to banks charging customers for not maintaining a minimum deposit-account balance.
All these charges add up. In 2018 alone, U.S. customers paid an estimated $7.6 billion in reservation change and baggage fees, $11.5 billion in bank overdraft fees and $2.9 billion in resort fees, according to various data sources.
Making matters worse, most people just took those charges on the chin and most people didn’t bother to warn other people of the charges. Approximately 47% said they shared the information with friends or family, while 46% simply stopped using the service.
It’s worth haggling with companies, however. While only 35% of the survey respondents said they had pushed to get an unexpected fee taken off a bill or refunded after the fact, 64% of those who did kick up a fuss said they were successful.
The survey was conducted as part of Consumer Reports’ initiative to raise awareness of hidden fees and attempt to persuade companies to stop nickel-and-diming consumers who, like many people, fail to read the fine print.