Ed's Blog

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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).

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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."

The House introduced additional legislation proposing that new revenue for the Transportation Fund would come through increased volumes of oil drilling and that public transit would be kicked out of the transportation fund. This breaks with three decades of public transit being supported by a small portion of the federal gas tax. The House measure would instead funnel all these funds to highways, and leave mass transit to search for new money from Congress at a time when debt reduction rules require massive cuts to the general budget. If you were trying to make America as addicted to oil as possible, you might design legislation like this.

 

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

An article published in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, January 23rd, revealed that 25,000 children’s toys have been confiscated at the Port of Houston in the past two years, because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found them to be unsafe.

 

 

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

The Senate Banking Committee will hold an oversight hearing today at 10 am (live video) on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's semi-annual report to Congress. The witness will be CFPB director Rich Cordray, who received a PIRG-backed recess appointment from the President on January 4th. Expect some CFPB opponents on the committee to boycott; others to show up.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

All three of them spoke out this week against corporate tax dodging.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for an economy where “everyone plays by the same set of rules” and where companies can’t avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas. That same night, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren went on the Daily Show and called out 30 corporations that a recent U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice study found paid more to lobby Congress than they did in federal income taxes. When Warren told this to John Stewart on the Daily Show, it made the usually unflappable comedian’s jaw drop.