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Politics

Lawmakers want to crack down on hidden fees in your phone, internet bill

If passed, a new bill would require carriers to include all charges in the prices they advertise.

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Lawmakers want to crack down on surprise phone, internet bills. 

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Have you been surprised by the charges on your monthly phone or internet bills? Lawmakers want to get rid of those hidden fees.

Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, last week introduced the Truth-in-Billing, Remedies and User Empowerment over Fees ('TRUE Fees') Act. If passed, the bill will require phone, cable and internet companies to include all charges in the prices they advertise for services as well as provide consumers solutions when they're wrongfully charged.

"For too long customers have been surprised each month to find that their cable, phone and internet bills are much higher than the advertised price. The TRUE Fees Act would put an end to these advertising practices that only confuse consumers about the true costs," Markey said in a release. "If phone, cable and internet companies won't be fully transparent with consumers, then Congress should act."

Hidden phone and internet fees aren't rare experiences for consumers. AT&T in June quietly doubled its administrative fee from 76 cents to $1.99, which could help the company rake in $800 million more in revenue. These "below the line" charges aren't considered to be part of the regular service fee customers pay each month. Instead, they're generally listed with local and state taxes at the bottom of a bill, though the fees aren't required by the government.

This bill would also allow customers to end their contract early without a penalty if the provider increases prices, prevent providers from increasing equipment fees unless the equipment is improved, and prohibit forced arbitration clauses for wrongful billing errors.

Lawmakers who backed the bill include House Reps. Mark Takano, Eleanor Norton, Tim Ryan, Earl Blumenauer, Jamie Raskin, Joe Courtney, Donald Beyer, Janice Schakowsky and Mike Thompson, along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Cardin, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden and Tina Smith.