Hidden Fees Cost Consumers Billions: Which Ones Are the Worst?

Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 10.

Consumers are notoriously combative over high product and sales fees, and who can blame them?

Fees for common items like mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and online deliverables, among many others, can really add up, and do hit consumers hard in the pocketbook.

That goes double for so-called "hidden fees" - shadowy charges on goods and services that buyers usually don't know about.

A new study by the Washington, D.C.-based National Economic Council shows that Americans lose "billions of dollars" from such hidden fees. Another study of communications firms like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast by the Consumer Federation of America pegs hidden fee costs at $60 billion annually.

Few hidden fees are favored by consumer advocates, but some are worse than others.

"My household bills look very much like those of a typical consumer - two cell phones, cable, broadband and landline telephone," says Dr. Mark Cooper, the CFA's Director of Research and author of the communications industry report. "Hidden fees - excluding the price of the service, taxes, and governmental fees - added about 25% to my total bill."

The CFA's "Hidden Fees" report documents a pervasive pattern of abuse across many industries, adds Cooper, "but hidden fees on communications services are particularly troubling because these digital services have become absolute necessities in the American household."

Besides cable and internet service costs, which routinely stand atop the list of industry offenders, what other hidden fees continue to haunt American consumers?

Here's a quick list:

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