Biden tackles rental junk fees in latest effort to strengthen economic credentials

Move aims to help renters stick to budget by exposing hidden costs

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on healthcare coverage and the economy, at the White House. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced three new measures to lower consumer costs as part of a broader push by the Democratic incumbent to burnish his economic credentials in the run-up to the 2024 election.

Mr Biden will convene with members of the White House Competition Council to promote competition in agriculture, lower rental housing fees and update guidelines on anticompetitive mergers.

As part of the announcement, major rental housing platforms will display total costs up front. The White House said the move would help renters to avoid going over budget in their housing search.

“Even after renters secure housing, they are often surprised to be charged mandatory fees on top of their rent, including 'convenience fees' to pay rent online, fees for things like mail sorting and trash collection, and even so-called 'January fees' charged for no clear reason at the beginning of a new calendar year,” the White House said.

The move follows similar actions in relation to airline costs and event ticket platforms.

But it remains to be seen if lowering these fees will boost his poll numbers and convince an electorate that remains uncertain about his handling of the US economy.

Thirty-four per cent of US adults approve of Mr Biden's handling of the economy, according to a recent AP-NORC poll, and only three in 10 people think that the economy is good.

About one in 10 Republicans approve of Mr Biden's handling of the economy.

As part of Wednesday's announcement, the White House also outlined plans to work with states' attorneys general to crack down on price gouging – when retailers and others take advantage of spikes in demand by charging exorbitant prices for necessities – and invest in meat and poultry processors.

Separately, the White House announced the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission had released new proposed merger guidelines for public comment. Mr Biden's administration said the new guidelines were designed to provide greater clarity on how the government's antitrust enforcers evaluate mergers.

Updated: July 19, 2023, 12:43 PM