NCL applauds Biden Administration’s new actions to minimize education costs

March 15, 2024

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin,, 202-207-2831

Washington, DC – Today, the Biden Administration announced new initiatives to reduce unnecessary fees consumers face when enrolled in higher education. The president’s proposed budget and the Department of Education are seeking to eliminate student loan origination fees, which cost consumers over $1 billion each year just to take out a loan; limit exploitative junk fees associated with financial services that colleges may provide through banking partnerships; require colleges to return unused “flex dollars” to students before they expire at the end of a semester; and eliminate restrictions that would prevent students from purchasing textbooks off-campus, where they may be sold at a lower price than the university would charge.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Chief Executive Officer, Sally Greenberg:

“Higher education should be a marker of academic achievement, not something to be foreclosed because of a student’s economic background. If finalized, these new initiatives would reduce financial barriers that prevent many students from obtaining an advanced degree and leave others with years of debt. I urge Congress to fulfill the president’s proposed elimination of loan origination fees and look forward to the finalized rules from the Education Department.”


About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit

NCL urges FTC to strengthen consumer protections for subscriptions

June 26, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown,, 202-823-8442

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the National Consumers League (NCL) filed comments urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to strengthen its proposed rule that would provide consumers with greater transparency and control over their subscriptions. NCL weighed in alongside the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and other consumer advocacy organizations. While strongly in support of the Commission’s proposed updates, NCL urged the FTC to strengthen its rule even further with the following changes:

  1. Stamp out free trial and subscription traps by requiring sellers to ask for consumers’ consent to automatic charges right before a subscription begins. Too many businesses depend on their customers forgetting to cancel a free trial before they get charged. Consumers should be able to utilize a free trial without committing to paying for the full service.
  2. Keep consumers informed with notification prior to each recurring charge. Just like free trial traps, many individuals forget about an enrolled subscription until the money is taken from their bank account. Businesses should be required to give consumers a heads up before they charge them.

In updating its Negative Option Rule, the FTC is proposing numerous safeguards that would benefit consumers, such as requiring sellers to make subscription cancellation as easy as signing up. Additionally, the Commission’s proposal would require better disclosure of the terms of an automatically renewing subscription and compel businesses to send consumers annual reminders informing them of their ongoing subscription.

“No honest business should depend on their customers forgetting that they’re paying money to turn a profit. Unfortunately, Americans lose billions of dollars each year to unwanted and unnoticed subscriptions,” said NCL Public Policy Manager Eden Iscil. “The problem is even worse for younger individuals, with members of Gen Z and Millennials reporting higher subscription sign-ups compared to older consumers. The FTC’s proposed updates to its Negative Option Rule go a long way toward bringing transparency and control back to the consumer. If the Commission implements our suggested changes, this rule could vastly improve the consumer’s experience with subscription plans.”

The following organizations signed on to the comments:

  • Consumer Action
  • Consumer Federation of America
  • Demand Progress Education Fund
  • National Association of Consumer Advocates
  • National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)
  • National Consumers League

To read NCL’s full comments to the Commission, click here.


About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit

NCL endorses Cantwell-Cruz TICKET Act

June 21, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown,, 202-823-8442

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, today endorsed the Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing Act (TICKET Act) introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The TICKET Act would require primary and secondary ticket sellers to clearly and conspicuously disclose the all-in price for tickets, including fees, in all advertising, marketing, and price lists at the beginning of a transaction and prior to a buyer selecting the ticket for purchase. The bill would also require ticket resellers to disclose if they are listing a ticket for sale that they do not currently possess, an often-controversial practice known as speculative selling.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Vice President of Public Policy John Breyault:

“Hidden fees and speculative selling too often make buying tickets to see concerts, sporting events, and Broadway shows a frustrating experience for fans. The bipartisan TICKET Act is a long overdue solution to help fix some of the worst aspects of a ticket-buying process that is rigged against fans. We applaud the leadership of Senator Cruz and Senator Cantwell for championing this important consumer protection legislation.”

For more than a decade, the National Consumers League has worked in Washington and in the states to pass pro-fan ticketing legislation that bring much-needed reform to the ticketing industry. In the wake of last fall’s disastrous Taylor Swift ticket sale, leaders in Congress are taking notice and pushing for reforms. In addition to the TICKET Act, NCL has endorsed the BOSS And SWIFT Act in the House of Representatives and the Junk Fee Prevention Act in the Senate.


About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit

National Consumers League statement on White House all-in pricing announcement

June 15, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown,, 202-823-8442

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded the Biden Administration for securing commitments from several live event industry stakeholders to adopt more transparent ticket pricing. The consumer organization urged the White House and pro-fan leaders in Congress to pass legislations ensuring that consumers receive the benefits of all-in prices regardless of what event they wish to attend.

“We are grateful to President Joe Biden for his leadership in bringing to the table the main players in the ticketing industry,” said NCL CEO Sally Greenberg. “Consumers are fed up with deceptive junk fees are glad to have an ally in the White House.”

Since 2009, NCL has worked with independent venues, ticketing companies, ticket brokers, promoters, venue owners, artists, advocates, and state and federal legislators and regulators to reform a live event industry that is rigged against consumers. NCL’s advocacy has led to pro-fan legislation being adopted in several states and well as the federal BOTS Act, which outlawed the use of ticket-buying “bot” software.

“Anyone who wants to attend concerts, sporting events, and Broadway shows knows the frustration that comes with seeing tickets advertised for one price, only to see that cost skyrocket once hidden fees are added at the end of the buying process,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud for the National Consumers League.

“The commitments made today by some of the biggest names in the live event industry are a positive step forward. However, enforceable laws to rein in junk fees in the live event marketplace are still needed. There are bills in Congress today that would create a consistent all-in pricing experience for fans regardless of who they buy tickets from. We urge the Administration to work with legislators to move these pro-consumer bills forward.”


About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit

White House Competition Council announcement is a big deal

By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud 

Ask almost any consumer and they will tell you that junk fees are one of the banes of their existence. Not only do these fees add often unexpected costs to the price of goods and services, but they also inhibit competition; contributing to higher prices, worse service, and poorer product quality. Add to this the lost time and aggravation that comes with fighting companies that try to charge these fees and we have a recipe for constant consumer frustration. 

Fortunately, the Biden Administration seems to be hearing these concerns loud and clear. Last week, the White House Competition Council announced a range of executive actions and legislative proposals targeting junk fees and competition concerns that NCL have made a priority for years. These actions build on commitments the Administration made last fall to go after junk fees and other anti-consumer practices.  

So, what is in this announcement for consumers? The short answer is quite a bit. 

First, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a new rulemaking to close a loophole in the law that allows banks to get away with charging outrageously high fees for late credit card payments. Thanks to this loophole, banks have been able to get away with charging late fees as high as $41. This is big money for the banks. In 2020, banks charged around $12 billion in such fees, representing more than 10% of all fees and interest revenue. Under the new rule, the maximum fee a consumer will be hit with will be $8. This change is expected to save American consumers as much as $9 billion annually. As far back as 2009, NCL was calling for legislation to protect consumers from these “gotcha” fees, so this announcement is great news.  

Second, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will soon propose a rule to prohibit airlines from charging passengers for the “right” to sit next to their young children. Separating children from their parents in the air not only creates safety risks in an evacuation scenario, but it puts kids at increased risk of sexual assault. Back in 2016, Congress directed DOT to review airline family seating policies and, “if appropriate” act. Under the regulation-averse Trump DOT, the agency did the minimum possible to comply with the law by creating a new consumer education web page that described airlines’ family seating policies. This week’s action, however, will ban family seating fees outright, fulfilling a demand that NCL and other advocates have worked towards for years. Thanks to this new rule, parents should soon be protected from having to choose between an affordable seat and their kids’ safety in the air. 

Finally, the Administration called on Congress to pass a Junk Fee Prevention Act to crack down on a range of anti-competitive junk fees. Fees targeted by the legislation would include: 

  • Cell phone and broadband early termination fees – These fees, which can exceed $200, lock consumers into service they may not want or no longer need for years. They also make it harder for new entrants in the marketplace to compete with the big wireless and broadband carriers. 
  • Live event tickets – For more than a decade, NCL has advocated for action to control the fees that can add 50% or more to the price of a concert or sporting event ticket. The Junk Fee Prevention Act would prohibit excessive fees, require that all fees be included in the advertised price, and mandate disclosure of ticket holdbacks that keep more than 50% of tickets for a typical event from ever making it to market. 
  • Hotel resort fees – Resort fees (also called “destination fees”) are increasingly used to hide the actual cost of a hotel room. Instead of being included in the advertised price of a room, sneaky hotel chains charge the fee when a consumer checks out. Not only does this cost consumers billions annually, but it also harms honest hotels that advertise the full price. Thanks to NCL’s advocacy, state and federal regulators have taken aim at these deceptive fees. Now it is time for Congress to step up. 

Taken together, this package of regulatory and legislative reforms show that the Biden Administration is putting companies on notice that their days of raking in billions in profits by nickel-and-diming consumers with unfair and deceptive fees are numbered. NCL, along with our allies in the consumer community, will continue to be on the front line to make sure the Administration and Congress follow through on these ambitious and long-overdue plans. 

The impact of overdraft fees on consumers – National Consumers League

By Hannah Rudder, NCL Intern

More than three quarters of the largest U.S. banks allow their customers to overdraw their accounts when they lack sufficient funds in order to cover the transaction for a fee of $35, on average. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found the median transaction amount of purchases that resulted in an overdraft fee was only $24. Additionally, the CFPB study revealed that 18 percent of account holders pay the vast majority of all overdraft fees triggered by debit cards, checks, and automated clearing house electronic charges.  

The banks’ overdraft fees cause financially vulnerable consumers to leave the banking system. Thirty-one percent of consumers without a bank account reported high or unpredictable account fees as one reason for not having an account, while 13 percent cited it as the primary reason for not having a bank account. Overdraft fees are unexpected and unpredictable because most banks do not give their customers notice of an overdraft until two or three days after the incident. In the meantime, the consumer continues to overdraw his or her account, incurring more overdraft fees. The CFPB study found that more than two-thirds of consumers would prefer that the bank decline the transaction rather than assess an overdraft fee. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released the findings of a study conducted on “heavy overdrafters,” those who incur over $100 in overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees. Pew conducted this survey out of concern for consumers because overdraft is high risk, in that it lacks the consumer protections that accompany other credit products. It found that most heavy overdrafters are:  Millennials or members of Generation X; renters rather than homeowners; and those with low incomes. See below. Furthermore, overdraft fees consumed nearly a full week’s household income of heavy overdrafters. 

Half of the heavy overdrafters incur six or more overdraft fees annually and 42 percent paid seven or more overdraft fees. Heavy overdrafters tend to have lower incomes than the rest of the U.S. population, with most reporting an annual household income of under $50,000. This means that overdrafts hit those who can least afford these predatory fees. Debit cards are the most common transaction method for heavy overdrafters, with the actual value of the debit card transaction being relatively low, around $24.  Seventy percent of heavy overdrafters are employed. 

Younger consumers in the Millennial generation may be more affected by these overdraft fees because they are more likely to use debit cards. Additionally, they may be more vulnerable to overdraft fees because many are managing finances independently for the first time. For example, many college students are opening their first accounts for financial aid refunds, and the outside companies that distribute these funds promote their own cards. The Department of Education has adopted rules banning the charging of overdraft fees on accounts used for student aid, which will go into effect this month. 

The results of the Pew survey show that overdraft now serves as a form of short-term credit for many consumers. However, overdraft lacks the requirements that financial institutions use to verify customers’ ability to repay debt before extending credit and provide a reasonable time to repay, as well as limits on late fees. 

Pew urges the CFPB to write new rules to ensure that overdraft programs are safe and designed only for infrequent and accidental occurrences. This could be achieved by limiting: the size of overdraft fees, the frequency with which they can be incurred, and overall cost. A limit of six overdrafts a year would save the 42 percent of heavy overdrafters, who incurred seven or more fees in the past year, a median of $210 annually. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) published guidance suggesting that banks should give customers a reasonable opportunity to choose a less costly alternative and decide whether to continue with fee-based overdraft coverage. 

Frequent overdrafts are a financial burden, especially because the fees are oftentimes hidden and unpredictable. These fees cause many consumers to leave the banking system, with 13 percent of consumers without banking accounts citing overdraft fees as the primary reason, and forces them to use cash other alternatives, like payday loans with predatory interest rates. 

Pew also suggests that the CFPB enact rules to limit the negative effects of overdraft fees and ensure that overdraft is not being used as short-term credit. It suggests that overdraft fees be reasonable and proportional to banks’ cost of covering overdrafts or to the overdraft amount. Financial institutions should charge no more than six small overdraft fees in any 12-month period that are proportional either to the banks’ cost of covering overdrafts or to the overdraft amount, and these fees should be limited to one per negative-balanced episode. If that limit is reached, then any further overdrafts should be covered under the rules for credit. Additionally, banks should post deposits and withdrawals in a fully disclosed, objective, and neutral manner that does not maximize overdraft fees. 

NCL applauds Pew’s report and accompanying recommendations. Imposing these predatory fees on lower income Americans and Millennials who are just beginning to manage their own finances is unacceptable. We hope the CFPB takes action to minimize the impact of these odious charges. 

In the meantime, we support the following strategies to avoid these exorbitant overdraft fees, or at least their frequency:

  • Set up text or email notifications that alert you when your balances are below a certain level.
  • Avoid opting out of overdraft coverage and simply have the card declined if there are insufficient funds.
  • Most banks offer to link a checking account to a savings or money market account, so that money transfers from the savings account to the checking account when there is not enough money in the checking account to cover the transaction. Opt in for this option if possible.
  • Finally, the last, and perhaps the easiest: Carefully monitor the balances in the accounts as well as individual transactions.