Ed's Blog

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following

By Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Just a summary of what I think are some of the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

Debt Collectors and Credit Bureaus: Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC release) went after phantom debt collectors from India who pretend to be cops to collect debts you may not owe (Chicago Tribune). Meanwhile, we applauded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week for proposing to use its full supervisory/examination powers to look at the inner workings of credit bureaus and debt collectors that qualify as "larger participants" in the marketplace. In case you missed it, Goldman Sachs and private equity friends just announced the purchase of TransUnion credit bureau for over $3 billion. $3 billion. That's a large black box someone needs to open. (Business Week.)

Court allows rent-a-tribe scam to continue: The Denver Post reports that a U.S. judge has rejected longstanding efforts by the Colorado Attorney General to regulate high-cost online payday lenders that have been using the artifice of claiming to be part of a soverign native American tribe to avoid state regulation.

Ally Financial bank "goofs" -- fails to pay interest on 5,000 CD accounts From Wall Street Journal: "The online lender mistakenly failed in December to credit year-end interest earned by some savers who hold its certificates of deposit. The company also provided these customers with incorrect tax information that didn't reflect the interest they should have earned. " Ally, of course, is also one of the 5 mortgage servicing banks settling claims with the U.S. and 49 state Attorneys General.

Broken Guitar Hero Opens Complaint Website: From Bob Sullivan's Red Tape Chronicles: ""I should have flown with someone else or gone by car/’Cause United breaks guitars."  Dave Carroll created perhaps the most successful gripe against a misbehaving company in the history of gripes, doling out Web-style justice with a remarkably viral -- and sarcastic -- music video. Now, he's trying to share his formula for success with other consumers on a website named Gripevine.com." Back to me-- First, Dave Carroll's youtube video worked, maybe the site will, too. There are, of course, many different models for complaint websites, as Bob notes. I think there is plenty of room for more. Another site that operates in a similar manner to Gripevine is groubal.com. A site that has gained some recent renown is change.org. This whole area deserves more promotion, more analysis and more experimentation. Consumers need more ways to build power in the marketplace.

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