Strengthening Consumer Protections & Lowering Costs (Commerce)

Consumer protection prevents fraud and abuse and keeps money in Minnesotans’ pockets.

Ticket Transparency & Fairness

Ticket resellers, often operating in a largely unregulated market, have been known to engage in practices that harm consumers, including exorbitant markups, hidden fees, and deceptive advertising. These bad actors dupe the consumer by manipulating the online marketplace to represent themselves as the official ticket source or falsely represent that they have ownership of the most desirable tickets, when in fact they do not. Consumers often don’t know how much they will pay until just before they click the purchase button and fees and charges, which can sometimes be almost as much as the ticket price, are applied.

Senate DLFers passed Senator Klein’s HF 1989 which creates more transparency and fairness in event ticket sales, especially in the secondary market. The bill makes several changes to ticketing rules in Minnesota by requiring ticket sits to partake in “all-in ticketing,” meaning vendors need to disclose the total ticket price including fees upfront. Additionally, HF 1989 bans deceptive resale sites to curb buyers from unknowingly purchasing from someone that looks like the primary seller, but isn’t and bans speculative ticketing which occurs when a third-party seller tries to sell a ticket that do not actually possess.

Junk Fee Ban

Minnesota’s economy – and the nation’s – are overrun with “junk fees.” Across industries and products, consumers are paying billions each year in unavoidable surprise charges that inflate prices, while adding no value. These junk fees get added to your cart at checkout when you book a rental car, buy a ticket to a Twins game, try to upgrade your phone, reserve a hotel room, pay your rent, reserve a storage unit, and so much more. These fees also make it harder for local businesses to charge upfront and all-inclusive prices – putting responsible small and local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Examples of junk fee terminology:

  • “Convenience fees”
  • “Wellness fee”
  • “Resort fee”
  • “Service” or “processing” or “handling fee”
  • “Connection fee”, “facilities fee”
  • “Inflation fee”

Senate DFLers passed Senator Port’s bill that creates a prohibition against junk fees in Minnesota’s deceptive trade practices statute. Starting January 1, 2025, the law requires a stated price to include all mandatory fees and surcharges when the price is first shown. The law creates a clear, upfront picture of the total cost of a product and will disincentivize the use of hidden fees to take advantage of hardworking Minnesota families.

Minnesota Debt Fairness Act

Minnesotans should be able to pay back their medical debt fairly and affordably without falling into poverty, bankruptcy, and further health crises in the process. The final Commerce policy bill includes Senator Boldon’s bill to make medical debt more manageable for Minnesotans, including individuals who have been burdened by their spouse’s medical debt.

Reaffirming Minnesota’s Commitment for Gender-Affirming Care

Last year, DFLers passed the Trans Refuge Act to protect Minnesota providers and visiting patients from persecution by other states. To ensure the promise of refuge for new and residing trans Minnesotans, we must ensure trans people can access the care they need. The Commerce CCR includes Senator Dibble’s bill that requires health insurers who provide insurance coverage for physical or mental health services to also provide coverage for gender-affirming care. Clarifying this expectation into law will help to ensure that individuals and their care providers face fewer barriers throughout the process.

Strengthening Student Loan Protections

Minnesota currently has some of the highest borrowing rates in the country for student loans. When borrowers struggle to repay student loan debt, it can impact their ability to buy homes, start businesses, build wealth, and save for retirement. The Commerce CCR includes Senator Oumou Verbeten’s bill to expand Minnesota’s Student Borrower Bill of Rights. The provision adds additional reporting and registration requirements for lenders who provide services in Minnesota; requires student loan services to evaluate borrowers for income-driven repayment plans before placing them in forbearance or default; strengthens language around misleading borrowers and creates a private right of action for borrowers.

Lowering Rx Costs

The 340B program was established to extend a lifeline for health care to our most vulnerable communities, not to pad the pockets of Big Pharma. Despite the intention of the program, Rx drugmakers continue to deny discounts to our vital safety-net institutions. This denial impacts local hospitals and pharmacies that are operating on razor-thin margins on the verge of closing – most in Greater Minnesota – that provide care to people 24/7. The Commerce finance omnibus bill contains a provision that would prohibit Rx manufacturers from the discriminatory practice of restricting, prohibiting, or interfering with the delivery of covered outpatient drugs to pharmacies under contract with a 340B covered entity.

Addressing Copper Metal Theft

For the past four years, Saint Paul residents and the city have been battling a wave of streetlamp thefts. Thieves target the green lamps, prying open the lower access panels to steal the wiring – leaving parks and streets without lights. Thieves have been stripping copper wire out of streetlamps and, more recently, other wired gear such as telephone systems, traffic lights, and HVAC systems.

In 2023, the cost to replace stolen copper wire in the city of Saint Paul was over $1.2 M to continually replace these wires. The Commerce finance omnibus includes a common sense provision that aims to curb copper wire thefts across Minnesota by creating a licensure requirement for copper metal sellers through the Department of Commerce. This provision mirrors Senator Marty’s bill passed last session which led to a 90% decrease in catalytic converter thefts and the licensure requirement is supported by 38 mayors from Minneapolis, the Iron Range and across Minnesota.

MN Consumer Data Privacy Act

12 states – California, Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado, Utah, Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee, Oregon, Montana, Texas, and Delaware – have enacted comprehensive data privacy laws to provide consumers with more choice over how companies acquire and utilize their personal data. The Commerce budget includes the Minnesota Consumer Data Privacy Act which will provide Minnesota consumers with new rights over how controllers process their personal data.

Click to Cancel

For many consumers, canceling a subscription or membership – even one acquired online – has become a manipulating process that often times makes consumers pay for subscriptions they don’t want. For example, many gyms require members to cancel in person or via certified or notarized mail. Cell phone or cable providers might allow you to sign up online, but only let you cancel by talking to a customer service representative who will try to persuade you otherwise. The Commerce CCR includes Senator Gustafson’s click to cancel bill which requires sellers to make it just as easy for customers to leave subscriptions, as it is to enroll.

Net Neutrality

The Commerce CCR includes Senator Latz’ bill to reinstate net neutrality protections for Minnesotans. Net neutrality is the principle that prevents internet service providers from slowing down, speeding up, or blocking any content, applications, or websites from its consumers. Net neutrality prevents internet companies from charging businesses for the

privilege of faster speed support for their websites and ensures that websites with less traffic or financial ability to pay for faster speed support are protected.

Prohibitions to Keep Minnesotans Safe & Healthy:

  • Banning cell phone cases that resemble firearms: The Commerce CCR includes Senator Gustafson’s provision that makes it illegal for a person to sell, manufacture, or possess a cell phone case that resembles a firearm.
  • Flame resistant tents and sleeping bag requirements: Several studies have highlighted the toxic flame retardants added to tents and the potential for human exposure and health harm. Senator Maye-Quade’s provision included in the Commerce CCR removes flame retardant chemicals as a requirement in recreational camping tents and children’s indoor play tents. This provision is supported by a coalition of outdoor businesses and organizations including REI, Coleman, IKEA, Columbia, Ruffwear, Sierra Business Council, NRDC, Nontoxic School, EWG, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
  • Prohibition on DFE Aerosol Dusters: The Commerce CCR includes Senator Mann’s bill that sets requirements for the retail sale of aerosol dusters. DFE (1,1-difluoroethane) is a gas used in some products as a refrigerant or propellant. DFE is considered toxic and has been abused through inhalation. In a statement by commissioner Rich Trumka, Jr. released on August 2, 2023, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission reported that, between 2006 and 2022, it received reports of 1,115 deaths and 28,800 emergency room visits linked to inhalation of DFE.
  • Banning vapes that resemble school supplies: Some e-cigarettes companies are producing e-cigarettes that resemble characters like SpongeBob, school supplies like highlighters, toys like Nintendo Game Boy, and drinks like Starbucks Coffee. The design and marketing of these products attempts to target kids. The Commerce CCR includes Senator Gustafson’s bill that prohibits the advertising, distribution, and sale of vape products that imitate products appealing to minors or that are disguised as products with an intent to conceal them from parents, teachers, etc.

New Liquor Policy: The Commerce CCR includes the following updates to Minnesota’s liquor policy.

  • Expands the definition of “hotel” to include 15 rooms to make it easier for 2nd tier hotels to obtain a liquor license.
  • Expands current authorization for the city of Minneapolis to issue on-sale intoxicating liquor licenses for three parks to include any of the park and recreation board’s premises. Additionally, creates a specific exemption to the seating capacity requirements (MS 340A.504, Subd.3) for Sunday on-sale licenses.
  • Allows counties to issue an on-sale malt liquor license to a resort.
  • Allows the cities of Anoka, Shakopee, and Stillwater to issue a social district license.
  • Allows the city of St. Paul to issue a temporary on-sale malt liquor license to a person or entity holding a concessions contract with the Thai Cultural Council of Minnesota, effective upon the approval of the St. Paul City Council.
  • Allows the cities of Litchfield and Watkins to issue an on-sale beer and wine license for town ball games played at a ballpark on school grounds.
  • Authorizes the city of Eagan to issue up to three on-sale intoxicating liquor licenses for a multiuse sports and event center in the city. The license may be issued for a premises that is not compact and contiguous, for sales on all days of the week.

Virtual Currency Kiosk Consumer Protections

Virtual currency kiosks known as “Bitcoin ATMs” can be seen in places including grocery shops, gas stations, and shopping malls. Due to lack of regulation, there has been an increase in frauds convincing victims, many times seniors, to take money out of their bank account and deposit it into a virtual currency kiosk. The Commerce CCR addresses this uptick in crime by adding definition and disclosure requirements for virtual currency kiosks. Additionally, the provision requires a virtual currency kiosk operator to issue a refund to a new customer for the full amount of transactions made within a 72-hour new customer time period and establishes a $2,000 maximum daily transaction limit for new customers.

Strengthening MN’s Price Gouging Statue

The Commerce CCR include Senator Frentz’ bill to strengthen Minnesota’s price gouging prohibition statute by prohibiting tree trimmers or restoration and mitigation servicers from charging an unconscionable price following a severe weather event. The provision also clarifies attorney general enforcement under 8.31 to investigate and bring action against bad actors. The provision will help reduce the cost of claims that homeowners and insurers face following severe storms.

Protecting Kids from Predatory Social Media Practices

The Commerce budget passed during the 2023 legislative session included funding for the Minnesota attorney general’s February 2024 “Report on Emerging Technology and its Effect on Youth Well-Being”. The 2024 commerce budget includes a recommendations from the report to create new disclosures for social media platforms. Social media platforms should prioritize user’s preferences, and this provision will ensure that they will.

Ban on Historic Horse Racing

Historical Horse Racing (HHRs) or “instant racing” are electronic gambling devices that allow players to place wagers on horse races that have already been run. The machines themselves have large databases of historical racing results going back to the early 1990s. Key information – like the course conditions, horse or jockey identity – on which the bettors would rely are removed while the odds for each remain.

On April 1, 2024, the Minnesota Racing Commission approved a joint request from Canterbury Park and Running Aces to add 500 HHR machines at each racetrack. Current law states that slot machines can only be situated on tribal lands. According to state gaming regulators at Alcohol Gambling Enforcement, this action was illegal, as HHR machines are gambling devices under Minnesota law and are not pari-mutual wagering, thus not under the authority of the Racing Commission. Additionally, The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association views that this action usurped legislative authority, as gambling expansion is the business of the Legislature and not regulatory bodies like the Commission.

To address the concerns around the vagueness of the statute, the legislature passed a law that specifies that historical horse racing or “instant racing” machines are gambling devices and therefore not allowed at Canterbury Park and Running Aces.

Did Not Pass:

Sports Betting Legalization

Senator Klein’s bill to legalize and regulate sports betting made it through four senate committee stops this session, totaling eight for the 23-24 biennium. The DFL-led bill would’ve given exclusive rights to Minnesota’s 11 Indian tribes. Additionally, an amendment was added this session to give a cut of the tax revenue for charitable gambling. The bill eventually failed to garner enough bipartisan support to cross the finish line in time.

Senate DFL Media