A NDP government would crack down on the "epidemic of hidden fees and predatory pricing" Canadian families face from banks and gas, credit card and telecom companies, NDP Leader Jack Layton pledged on Friday.

During a campaign stop at a family home in Newfoundland, Layton said his party's five-point plan would reduce the firms' "unacceptable and outrageous" practices, which he said are contributing to the income squeeze on working- and middle-class families.


NDP Leader Jack Layton meets with students at Memorial University in St. John's on Friday. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

The plan calls for:

  • An end to hidden fees with laws requiring full disclosure of charges by banks, cellphone operators, and other companies, including the unfair practice of charging more for cellphone text messages.
  • A ban on ATM fees "so you don't have to pay to get your own money," Layton said
  • A tough price monitoring agency and a fuel prices ombudsman to "stop gas companies from having the arbitrary power to gouge Canadians."
  • A cap on interest rates and fees charged by "fringe banks" on so-called "payday loans."
  • A five per cent over prime cap on credit card interest rates.

"Every day, Canadians are paying millions of dollars due to price-gouging and hidden fees of all kinds," Layton said. "It's wrong and it's got to stop."   

He added that some of his proposals are already in practice in several other countries, including the United States, Britain and France.

"These are measures which governments that actually stand up for working families put into place," he said. "It's really surprising to a lot of Canadians that our governments seem to refuse."

Readers who want to ask Jack Layton a question can send it to national@cbc.ca for The National's Your Turn with the NDP leader on Sept. 17.