AG Brnovich Warns Businesses and Consumers About Properly Disclosing COVID-19 Surcharges

PHOENIX – In light of recent stories about businesses adding COVID-19-related surcharges or fees to the final price of their goods or services, Attorney General Brnovich is warning businesses that any such surcharges must be accompanied by disclosures that are transparent, direct, and issued in advance. Charges must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in advance of the advertising/marketing and during the order process.

“Consumers need to know exactly how much they will be paying for a good or service before making their purchase,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “If a business attempts to deceive or sneak additional fees past consumers, we need them to file complaints with our office and we will take action when necessary."

Just months ago, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) obtained an $11 million consumer fraud settlement with CenturyLink. Among the claims resolved by the settlement was CenturyLink’s imposition of a made-up “Internet Cost Recovery Fee” without adequate disclosure to consumers. As part of the settlement, CenturyLink has agreed to stop charging the fee to new customers and allow existing customers paying the fee to cancel their plans.

In 2018, the AGO obtained a landmark consumer fraud verdict of over $1.85 million against Phoenix Car Rental, also known as Saban’s Rent-A-Car. Nearly $1 million of the verdict consisted of restitution for nearly 50,000 consumers who were charged $17.49 in made-up fees that were not disclosed adequately in advertising or at the rental counter.

As illustrated by these cases, businesses must clearly and conspicuously disclose surcharges in advance of the advertising/marketing of that product or service and during the order process. Consumers must be able to make informed decisions when making purchases about what the total and final cost will be.

If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website. If you need a complaint form sent to you, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431.