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White House hammers economic issues with attack on ‘junk fees’ two weeks out from Election Day

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the U.S. economy from an auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, U.S. October 26, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

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The White House is working to assure voters President Joe Biden is doing everything he can to lower the cost of living with just two weeks until Election Day as polls increasingly show the economy as a top concern for Americans.

Flanked by CFPB Director Rohit Chopra and FTC Chair Lina Khan at the White House Wednesday, Biden announced a major initiative by his administration to cut down on “junk fees” from banks, airlines, cable companies and other industries. Junk fees are surprise costs added to consumer bills.

The speech was billed as “remarks on new actions to provide families with more breathing room.”

“One of the things that I think frustrates the American people is they know the world’s in a bit of a disarray,” Biden said Wednesday. “They know that Putin’s war has put an awful lot of strains on Europe and the rest of the world and the United States — everything from blocking grain shipments to oil. And they want to know: What are we doing? And there’s a lot going on that we’re doing. It adds up.”

Democrats are under pressure to show they are addressing inflation as the midterm elections approach. In recent weeks voters increasingly rank the economy and inflation as their top concern in polls, outpacing worry over abortion and the state of democracy. Polls show voters tend to favor Republicans on economic issues.

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A big talking point for Republicans is gas prices. Biden has been focused on lowering the price at the pump, frequently highlighting how the average price of gas in the United States has dropped from its peak of over $5 a gallon in June.

“We’re making serious progress in getting prices close to what they were before the pandemic,” Biden said. “I’m going to be working very hard to make sure that oil companies pass on the reduction in the price of a barrel of oil to the pump.”

The Biden administration’s latest initiative, reducing “junk fees,” has been months in the making as regulatory agency’s pressure or outright order companies to disclose or eliminate a myriad of fees, he said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rolled out new guidance Wednesday prohibiting banks from charging surprise overdraft fees on debit transactions and fees on deposits that later bounce.

“And we’re just getting started,” he said, adding that there are tens of billions of dollars in junk fees across industries that he’s directed his administration to reduce or eliminate. The Federal Trade Commission started work on a rule last week to “crack down on unfair and deceptive fees across all industries — fees that were never disclosed … and there was no way to avoid the fee.”

He cited processing fees for concert tickets, “resort fees” at hotels, “excessive” credit card late fees, airline booking fees and termination charges to keep consumers from switching cable or internet plans as some of the fees the administration is tackling.

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“Surprise charges the companies sneak in the bills because they can,” he said.

Airlines have added myriad fees over the past decade, such as preferred seating fees that don’t come with extra legroom. Major carriers have also introduced basic economy tickets, no frills-fares that are less flexible than standard economy. The Biden administration’s proposal is already receiving pushback from carriers.

Delta Air Lines earlier this month said customers already have access to fees and prices and that it plans to file a formal comment on the proposal. 

“They’re expecting a carrier to provide a moment of making the search every single potential fee or price without regard to who’s actually searching,” Peter Carter, Delta’s chief legal officer said on the Oct. 13 call. “So it may be a fee that’s not relevant to the consumer, which, of course, could create quite a bit of confusion for consumers.”

Chopra, who spoke at the press conference, said bank overdraft and bounced check fees were “likely unfair and unlawful.” Biden said the move would “immediately start saving Americans collectively billions of dollars in unfair fees” and hold corporations accountable.

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“My administration is also making it clear surprise overdraft fees are illegal,” he said.

CNBC reporters Sarah O’Brien and Leslie Josephs contributed to this story.



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Kerala HC rejects pleas for disqualifying Saji Cheriyan from MLA post

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday dismissed two pleas seeking a declaration that CPI(M) legislator and former state Minister Saji Cheriyan is not entitled to hold the office of MLA in view of his speech allegedly insulting the Indian Constitution. The order was passed by a bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly.
Advocate Deepu Lal Mohan, appearing for the Election Commission, confirmed the dismissal of the two pleas.

The detailed order is not yet available.

The petitions had claimed that Cheriyan’s actions attracted disqualification under Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Section 9 of the Act states that “a person who having held an office under the government of India or under the government of any state has been dismissed for corruption or for disloyalty to the state shall be disqualified for a period of five years from the date of such dismissal.”
The pleas had also contended that Cheriyan’s conduct was a violation of Articles 173(a) and 188 of the Constitution and a case has also been registered against him under the Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 in connection with his controversial speech.

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The speech had created a political row in the state with the proceedings of the state Assembly being suspended for a day due to protests by the opposition demanding that Cheriyan resign or be sacked and finally resulted in his resignation from his cabinet posts on July 6.



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Bypoll results LIVE: Who will win the high-stakes battle in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri? Counting begins for six assembly, 1 Lok Sabha seat

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The counting for bypolls held in six assembly seats and the high-stakes battle for the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat has started. It’s nothing short of a prestige battle for the Samajwadi Party as the seat fell vacant after the demise of party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Dimple Yadav is contesting the Manipuri by-elections to claim Mulayam’s legacy.

The entire Yadav family joined hands to ensure that the seat remains in the family, estranged leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav also patched up, much to the relief of family members.

For Akhilesh, this election is extremely crucial because ever since he took over the reins of the party, he has been facing a series of defeats. From the 2017 Assembly polls to 2019 Lok Sabha polls, then the 2022 Assembly polls and the following bypolls in Azamgarh and Rampur, the party has faced losses.
Along with Mainpuri, Rampur Sadar and Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh, Padampur in Odisha, Sardarshahar in Rajasthan, Kurhani in Bihar, and Bhanupratappur in Chhattisgarh are the assembly seats where results will be declared today.
Here are the LIVE updates:

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  • Dimple Yadav of Samajwadi Party has taken early lead in Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat.

  • Counting began for the six assembly seats in five states along with the Lok Sabha seat of Mainpuri.



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Sule leads NCP-Uddhav Sena MPs’ attack on Bommai government; BJP MP rejects charge

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The opening day of the winter session in the Lok Sabha witnessed some heated exchanges over the Belagavi border dispute involving Maharashtra and Karnataka, with NCP MP Supriya Sule leading an NCP-Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) combined attack on the BJP-ruled Karnataka government and its CM while demanding intervention by Union home minister Amit Shah in the matter. The Shiv Sena (Uddhav) also raised the matter at the Opposition floor leaders’ meeting convened by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge at his office of the Rajya Sabha LoP. During the meeting, Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi condemned the “provocative statements” made by the Karnataka CM and said her party would take up the issue in Parliament and that she had given a notice for immediate discussion of the matter in the Rajya Sabha.
When the Lok Sabha reassembled after it adjourned till 12 noon as a mark of respect for the late Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sule raised the Belagavi issue. ” The chief minister of our neighbouring state, Karnataka, has been speaking nonsense. A conspiracy against Maharashtra has been going on for the past 10 days. The Karnataka CM is speaking about disintegrating Maharashtra. Both states are BJP-ruled. People of Maharashtra were beaten up on Tuesday when they wanted to go to the Karnataka border. This can’t be allowed… I urge Home Minister Amit Shah to speak up,” Sule said.

While most BJP and Congress MPs were seen treading on a cautious note perhaps because both parties have stakes on both sides, the mandatory counter came from BJP MP from Karnataka, Shivkumar Udasi.

“Maharashtra politicians from the Opposition are habitual offenders! This is their insecurity. Since the matter is still in the Supreme Court, do not let the Opposition talk on it,” he requested the Speaker.

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Trinamool back in Opposition meet

The Opposition floor-leaders’ meeting on Thursday witnessed the return of the Trinamool nominees, who had kept away from the Opposition floor-coordination meeting held at Kharge’s office during the previous session. Representatives of about 13 like-minded Opposition parties decided to coordinate in taking up in the Houses a whole range of issues they had separately raised at the session eve’s all-party meeting. They also decided to oppose two Bills — the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amend) Bill and the Biological Diversity (Amend) Bill.



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