Surprise! The $ 100 concert ticket you bought your son online for a birthday was actually $ 123. If you've shocked that plus by nearly 25 percent, you're not alone. At least 85 percent of respondents had similar experience with additional or hidden fees on many purchases over the past two years, according to a recent National Survey of Consumer Reports (CR) to be a growing trend. Two-thirds of the 2,000 Americans surveyed by CR indicated that these unexpected, hidden fees are higher today than they were five years ago. Unfortunately, only 14 percent have taken the next step to file a complaint with the company, a government agency, or the Better Business Bureau.
Where hidden fees lurk
Additional fees add up to billions in profits for the industries, while a whopping 59 percent of respondents spend more than they budgeted. According to CR, these are the main perpetrators:
- Telecommunication providers (69 percent)
- Live entertainment and sporting events (44 percent)
- Gas and electricity bills (41
- Car purchases (34 percent)
- Hotel (34 percent)
- Air travel (31 percent)
- Car rental (31 percent))
- Investment services (24 percent)
Avoiding additional fees
Would you like to avoid being taken by surprise with a budget-damaging surprise? Try the following steps:
- Be aware of this. The conclusion of Consumer Reports reads: "Consumers must be vigilant." If you, like half of Americans, pay your bills electronically, check your bills carefully each month. At least check your bills from time to time. Do not get caught while napping!
- Pay attention to the "drip prices". The hotel room you thought was a bargain may not be available if you add the extra fees. (The Federal Trade Commission has warned hotel booking websites to disclose resort fees.) Learn about a person's experience with this devious strategy.
- Do not get frustrated! Take a deep breath before clicking Buy to find additional fees. Comparison shop!
- Complain and bargain. By contesting the surprise costs, two-thirds of CR respondents received a refund!
Would you like more information? Check "Protect yourself from hidden fees" in the July issue of Consumer Reports.