What's a Junk Fee?
Rohit Chopra, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, raised hackles by launching a broad inquiry last week into so-called junk fees charged on run-of-the-mill financial products such as loans, mortgages and credit cards. "Service charges inflate ticket prices, resort fees hike our costs to stay in hotels, and our phone bills are often laden with mystery charges," Chopra said in a Jan. 26 press call. "These junk fees make it harder for us to choose the best product or service, since the true cost is hidden. Banking is no different." But this initiative has led bankers, consumers and policy experts to ask what exactly makes a fee a junk fee? Many bankers and lenders insist that fees they charge are related to specific types of work or services performed, and existing laws and regulations already prohibit excessive fees, so it isn't clear what problem the inquiry is designed to solve.