So-called “12b-1 fees” are fees paid out of mutual fund or ETF assets to cover the costs of distribution – marketing and selling mutual fund shares – and sometimes to cover the costs of providing shareholder services.

12b-1 fees get their name from the SEC rule that authorizes a fund to charge them.  The rule permits a fund to pay these fees out of fund assets only if the fund has adopted a plan (“12b-1 plan”) authorizing their payment.

“Distribution fees” include fees to compensate brokers and others who sell fund shares and to pay for advertising, the printing and mailing of prospectuses to new investors, and the printing and mailing of sales literature. 

“Shareholder Service Fees” are fees paid to persons to respond to investor inquiries and provide investors with information about their investments.  Shareholder service fees can also be paid outside of 12b-1 fees.