Watchdog: Baggage fees have hiked costs

Travelers who check at least one bag when flying domestically are paying more overall than they did before airlines began unbundling fares in 2008 and charging separately for checked baggage, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday.

The GAO report said airline officials told investigators that base airfares are now lower than before airlines began separately charging passengers for checked bags, reservation changes, priority boarding and other services. But the GAO's review of studies that have examined the effect of bag fees on ticket prices shows that charging separately for bags reduced fares by less than the new bag fee itself.

"Conversely, passengers who did not check bags paid less overall." the report said.

One study found that airlines with bag fees lowered fares to appear more competitive and then made up the lost revenue in bag fees. Another study found that declines in airfares amounted to less than the bag fee, so on average the combined total of the fare and bag fee rose.

— Associated Press

Facebook adds more oversight for ads

Facebook is stepping up enforcement in its ad-targeting system and adding human reviewers to make sure offensive categories aren't an option after a report by ProPublica showed it was possible for advertisers to target people who described themselves as "Jew haters."

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook will make reviews of its self-service advertising system more manual. It will also clarify its advertising policy to disallow targeting using criteria that directly attacks a group of people.

"We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves — and that is also on us," Sandberg said Wednesday in a post on Facebook.

— Bloomberg

U.S. home sales declined in August

U.S. home sales fell 1.7 percent in August, pulled down by the effects of Hurricane Harvey and a worsening shortage of available properties.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes sank last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million. Would-be home buyers are being limited by a drop in the number of sales listings. The shortage has become a drag on sales, causing a sharp rise in prices.

Over the past 12 months, sales have risen 0.2 percent. Houston-area home sales have slid 25 percent over the past year largely because of damage from Harvey — a decline that could linger through 2018, the Realtors group said.

The median sales price has risen 5.6 percent from a year ago to $253,500.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Toshiba agreed Wednesday to sell its prized semiconductor business to a group led by U.S. private-equity firm Bain Capital, a key step in keeping the struggling Japanese conglomerate listed on the Tokyo exchange. In a late-night announcement through the exchange, Toshiba said it had agreed to sign a contract for the deal worth about $18 billion. The decision to sell the world's No. 2 producer of NAND memory chips was made at a board meeting earlier Wednesday.

Fiat Chrysler is recalling almost 50,000 Pacifica vans in the United States and Canada from the 2017 and 2018 model years, all with an eight-passenger seating option. The automaker says that during sporting driving, the center buckle could hit the release button on the left buckle and cause it to unlatch. The company says it does not know of any crashes or injuries from the problem.

Walmart, Target and Pepsi joined an expanded group of nearly 800 companies on Wednesday calling for legislation to protect from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents, according to organizer A group of businesses sent a similar letter in August, before President Trump said he would end the program. The new letter reflects Trump's decision and asks Congress to pass a permanent replacement for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

— From news reports

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims.

10 a.m.: Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

Noon: Federal Reserve reports on U.S. households' net worth for the second quarter.