Consumer Protection Updates

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

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

CFPB To Visit NYC and More Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Just a few of the interesting consumer stories I am following this week: CFPB heads to New York to talk about checking accounts (Feb. 22)... Meanwhile, Citibank charged some consumers twice to pay bills only once (NYTimes)...Consumer groups call for a real recall of Bumbo baby seat (Boston Globe)...Mortgage settlement is a good first step (PIRG statement)...House opponents ratchet up attacks on new CFPB (WashPost)...Over-priced "Who will pay your credit card if you die, get sick or get laid off?" products pay out only 21 cents on the dollar (American Banker)...More on the CFPB's latest semi-annual report (St. Louis American)...PIRG, Demos document rise of the Super-PACS (MS-NBC)...And finally, "Enron" -- a musical theater production about corporate crime, re-opens in Washington State (The Olympian).

Over at the CALPIRG blog, consumer advocate Jon Fox explains why CALPIRG, U.S. PIRG, Kids In Danger and other leading groups have asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in a letter, to recall the Bumbo baby seat. Previous remedial actions, including labeling the seat with warnings, haven't prevented an alarming number of injuries, including over thirty skull fractures.

Encouraging news on HUD/state AG settlement with big mortgage servicers

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Update: The terms of the settlement, which was announced this morning, are at the page http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. We are reading it now. Original: If I am reading the overnight news stories correctly (NY TIMES and Politico and Boston Globe), it appears that negotiators have clarified that the well-publicized settlement between HUD and state AGs and the nation's 5 largest mortgage servicers will not release the big banks from claims related to their activities with the mysterious entity known as MERS that aided and abetted their illegal foreclosures. If so, this is a big deal in ultimately holding the big banks fully accountable.

PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate's statement).

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus?

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

Some user reviews on the Internet are written by sockpuppets paid by the website; in other cases, consumers are given inducements to write good reviews (New York Times). Meanwhile, doctors, especially, are trying to use copyright law to "squelch" valid reviews from patients (Washington Post). Either way, watch out.

Reuters: Bank Transfer Day saw 600,000 switch

Bank of America (BofA) Gets Hit By $5 Debit Card Fee, Consumers Move Their Money From Big Banks. Read the story. Then, get more info at U.S. PIRG's Bank Fee Tips. Check out our April 2011 report Big Banks, Bigger Fees for more details.

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