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Moriarty, Benson & Murphy Bill to Protect Consumers from Surprise Fee Add-ons to Advertised Prices Passes Committee

A pro-consumer bill intending to stop television providers from charging surprise fees to consumers was approved by an Assembly Committee on Thursday. Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Daniel Benson and Carol Murphy are sponsors of the bill (A-2339).

The bill requires television providers, direct broadcast satellite, and television streaming service companies to include the total billable amount, including fees, in advertisements for their service.

“We see this all the time— an advertised sale price for a certain service or upgrade but it leaves out the additional fees—an administrative fee, a broadcast programming fee, regional sports fee or a television equipment fee,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By the time the fees are added in, the ’29.99’ special is now over $60. Advertised prices should reflect the actual price of the service and be clear of any added fee. Anything else is deceptive and unfair to consumers.”

Under the bill, the advertised price must be the total billable amount that the company will charge to a consumer for the provision of television service based on the minimum equipment necessary per television set to receive and operate the television service that is being advertised. A price advertised to a consumer is to include, but not be limited to, any administrative or broadcast programming fees, television equipment rental service fees, including set-top box and remote rental fee, if applicable.

“Often cable television, television streaming providers offer discounts or deals to entice consumers to switch to their service,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex).  “Many times the advertised prices do not include various mandatory or unexpected fees. It will save consumers time and energy from looking into a deal based on an advertised price that doesn’t mention the added fees.”

“A recent Consumer Reports study found that 24% of the average cable television bill is made up of fees or hidden surcharges costing consumers an extra $450 per year,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “No one wants surprise fees and hidden charges. Families operating on a tight budget should not be tricked by falsely advertised prices. What you are paying for and what the service entails pertaining to fees should be crystal clear.”

A violation of section 2 of the bill would be an unlawful practice and violation of the New Jersey consumer fraud act.  An unlawful act under the consumer fraud act is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for the first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense, in addition to other penalties. This act shall take effect immediately, but shall remain inoperative for 60 days following the date of enactment.

The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further review.