Current Events in June 2009

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    Kumho Recalls Light Truck All-Terrain Tires

    June 30, 2009
    Kumho Tire USA is recalling about 36,000 Mohave light truck all-terrain tires. The recall is for sizes LT225/75R16, LT245/75R16, and LT265/75R16, produced between December 7, 2008 and June, 2009.

    The tires can cause the vehicle's handling to become difficult when operated under load or when changing lanes. this could cause the vehicle to sway and possibly cause a crash.

    Tire Brand Name / Tire Line / Tire Size: Production Dates:

    • KUMHO / MOHAVE A/T / LT225/75R16 DEC 07, 2008 - JUN 13, 2009
    • KUMHO / MOHAVE A/T / LT245/75R16 DEC 07, 2008 - JUN 13, 2009
    • KUMHO / MOHAVE A/T / LT265/75R16 DEC 07, 2008 - JUN 13, 2009

    Kumho will notify tire owners and replace the tires free of charge when the recall begins in July. Owners may contact Kumho at 1-800-445-8646.

    Consumers may contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY: 1-800-424-9153) or at

    Kumho Recalls Light Truck All-Terrain Tires...

    Midas Faces Bait-and-Switch Charges in California

    Suit names 22 muffler shops probed by undercover investigators

    Following more than two dozen undercover sting operations, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today sued Maurice Irving Glad and his 22 California Midas auto shops to stop a "massive bait-and-switch scam" in which customers were offered cheap brake specials and then allegedly charged hundreds of dollars more for unnecessary repairs.

    The undercover operations revealed that over four years Glad's Midas shops regularly advertised $79 to $99 brake specials to draw customers in and then charged another $110 to $130 for unnecessary brake rotor resurfacing services — and hundreds of dollars more for repairs that were not needed or never performed, Brown charged.

    The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, seeks $222 million in civil penalties, costs and reimbursements to customers.

    "These Midas shops were running a massive bait-and-switch scam, in which customers were lured in with the promise of cheap brake specials and then charged hundreds more for unnecessary repairs," Brown said. "This investigation revealed a shady and deceptive operation that violated the trust of its customers."

    Brown's lawsuit, filed jointly with Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff and Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth A. Egan, involves 22 Midas shops in Campbell, Clovis, Concord, Dublin, Fremont, Fresno, Hayward, Manteca, Merced, Modesto, San Jose, San Leandro, Turlock and Walnut Creek.

    The lawsuit follows a four-year California Bureau of Automotive Repair investigation into Glad and his Midas shops to monitor compliance with a 1989 Alameda County Superior Court injunction. The 1989 injunction prohibited Glad's shops from performing unnecessary repairs, charging for services not performed, or using scare tactics to convince customers to purchase unnecessary parts and services.

    Undercover agents, posing as customers, conducted approximately 30 sting operations at Midas shops owned by Glad. In total, there were more than 35 incidents in which shop managers, mechanics and employees made false or misleading statements to pressure customers to purchase unnecessary parts and services.

    On average, the shops charged undercover agents almost $300 in unnecessary brake rotor resurfacings, brake drum repairs, brake adjustments, brake cleaning services and other services. For example:

    • In May 2007, at a Dublin Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the car needed thicker, more expensive brake pads than what was advertised. This was despite the fact that the manufacturer listed the advertised brake pads as a direct replacement. The agent was also told that the car's new rotors "could be saved" if they were resurfaced and was charged for the removal of all four wheels when only three wheels were removed for inspection. In total, the agent was charged almost $400.

    • In June 2006, at a Clovis Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the front rotors needed to be resurfaced, a brake fluid flush was needed and the rear brakes required adjustment, when in fact, none of the repairs was necessary. The agent was charged over $275 for the unnecessary repairs, including the brake fluid flush that was never performed.

    • In May 2006, at a Merced Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the rear brakes required replacement and adjustment when they did not, and that the rotors required resurfacing when they were new and not in need of any service. The agent was charged $320.

    • In April 2006, at a Fresno Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the front rotors should be resurfaced because of "a safety issue" when the rotors were new and in good condition, had no scoring or hot spots, were within factory specifications and were not in need of resurfacing. The agent was charged over $230 for the unnecessary repairs.

    • In October 2005, at another Modesto Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the struts were "completely blown" and "leaking a lot of oil," that two of the rotors and brake pads needed to be replaced and that the other two rotors needed to be resurfaced at a cost of over $1,700. None of the repairs or services was necessary.

    • In October 2005, at a Clovis Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the front rotors should be resurfaced and a transmission fluid flush should be performed when the rotors were new and within manufacturer's specifications and the automatic transmission had just been flushed and refilled. The shop charged over $230 for the unnecessary repairs.

    • In September 2005, at a Modesto Midas shop, an undercover agent was informed that the brakes needed to be adjusted and cleaned and a brake and cooling system flush was required, when in fact, none of the services was necessary. The agent was charged over $200 and the brake flush was never performed.

    In July 2008, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair referred the case to Brown's Office for prosecution. Alameda County District Attorney Orloff and Fresno County District Attorney Egan joined due to the large number of shops operating in their counties.

    Brown, Orloff and Egan are suing Glad and his 22 Midas shops for:
    • False and misleading advertising in violation of Business and Professions Code 17500;
    • Unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices in violation of Business and Professions Code 17200; and
    • Breaking the 1989 Alameda County Superior Court injunction in violation of Business and Professions Code 17535.5 and 17207.

    If successful, the lawsuit would require these Midas shops to pay up to $222 million in penalties, costs and reimbursements to customers. This includes up to $1 million, or $2,500 per violation, for false and misleading advertising; up to $1 million, or $2,500 per violation, for unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; and up to $220 million, or $12,000 per violation, for violating the 1989 injunction.

    The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting these shops from:
    • Coercing its customers into buying unnecessary motor vehicle repairs or services;
    • Making or authorizing false and misleading statements; and
    • Obtaining payment for repairs or services that were not performed or for retail products that were not provided.

    Consumers who believe they have been ripped off by an auto repair facility can file a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair online at: or by calling 1-800-952-5210.

    The following Midas shops are named in today's lawsuit:

    - 1236 White Oaks Road, Campbell
    - 704 Clovis Avenue, Clovis
    - 2525 Monument Boulevard, Concord
    - 6955 Village Parkway, Dublin
    - 4045 Thornton Avenue, Fremont
    - 3741 Washington Boulevard, Fremont
    - 7340 N. Blackstone Avenue, Fresno
    - 3937 N. Blackstone Avenue, Fresno
    - 4304 W. Shaw Avenue, Fresno
    - 1078 La Playa Drive, Hayward
    - 24659 Mission Boulevard, Hayward
    - 1412 W. Yosemite Avenue, Manteca
    - 1420 V Street, Merced
    - 338 McHenry Avenue, Modesto
    - 3833 McHenry Avenue, Modesto
    - 93 S. Capitol Avenue, San Jose
    - 4224 Monterey Highway, San Jose
    - 5287 Prospect Road, San Jose
    - 2200 Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Jose
    - 13745 E. 14th Street, San Leandro
    - 2651 Geer Road, Turlock
    - 2710 N. Main Street, Walnut Creek

    Midas is one of the world's largest providers of automotive services with more than 1,600 franchised and company-owned locations in the United States.

    Midas auto shops sued for "massive bait-and-switch scam" in which customers were offered cheap brake specials and allegedly charged hundreds of dollars for...

    Don't Give Out Credit Information In a Job Hunt

    Financial data is easy target for scammers

    Scammers often target job-seekers because they are usually very likely to provide requested information. But law enforcement officials are warning job applicants about a recent scam in which criminals posing as employers ask for copies of their personal credit reports.

    "Credit reports contain a wealth of background information about consumers, including social security numbers, summaries of bank and credit card accounts, employment history, current and previous addresses and other details that are extremely valuable to con artists," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. "Falling for Internet job schemes can be a double threat — leaving victims unemployed and struggling to untangle a web of financial problems caused by identity theft."

    "Corbett noted that con artists are using Internet postings and email messages to circulate ads for high paying part-time work as personal assistants, check processors and a variety of other work-at-home positions. The exact wording of these scams varies greatly, but all of them have common features:

    • They offer "easy money" for little work.

    • Consumers work from home, rather than an office.

    • It is difficult to meet your "employer" in-person, often because they travel frequently or are based overseas.

    • Consumers need to respond quickly.

    "It is important to be watchful for online job scams, especially students looking for summer work, graduates hoping for their first job or older residents searching for part-time work or new careers," Corbett said. "Consumers should always be wary of offers that seem 'too good to be true,' especially in situations where you are being asked to provide detailed personal information to people you do not know."

    "In addition to asking consumers to email copies of their credit report — a practice that leaves that personal information vulnerable to interception or theft — some con artists are including bogus website links in their email messages, directing victims to look-alike websites that can be used to electronically steal a consumer's personal information.

    "Legitimate businesses that require credit reports as part of an employee screening process can obtain that information directly from the major credit bureaus," Corbett said. "There is no need for a business to ask consumers to obtain their own credit report and then forward that information by email."

    "Additionally, Corbett said consumers should avoid any type of online offer that involves a request to wire-transfer money to someone you do not know.

    "An important element in many job-related scams is that consumers are given checks and are asked to wire-transfer money to other people, believing that they are paying bills for the 'employers', processing checks, handling payments for an overseas business or dealing with other financial matters," Corbett said. "In reality, victims are depositing counterfeit checks or money orders into their bank accounts and then wire-transferring that money to scam artists overseas."

    "In all of these cases, the bogus checks will eventually be returned and banks will require consumers to repay any funds they withdrew."

    Don't Give Out Credit Information In a Job Hunt...

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      Firestone Recalls FR380 Tires

      June 30, 2009
      Bridgestone/Firestone is recalling about 127,000 Firestone FR 380 tires, size P235/75R15, manufactured from Sept. 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008.

      Continued use of the tires may lead to vibration and groove cracking, which could in turn lead to tread distortion or tread separation and loss of vehicle control.

      Bridgestone will notify owners and replace the tires free of charge. The company will also mount and balance the replacement tires at no charge when the recall begins in June.

      Owners may contact the company at 1-800-465-1904 or visit their Website at

      Consumers may contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY: 1-800-424-9153) or at

      Firestone Recalls FR380 Tires...

      Massachusetts Puts Charity Telemarketers On Hold

      Consumers not told fundraisers were pros

      More states are taking harder looks at telemarketing operations that supposedly collect on behalf of law enforcement charity groups but in fact, keep most of the money for themselves.

      In Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has obtained two separate preliminary injunctions in conjunction with a lawsuit against Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center, Inc., a Florida public charity; its president, Terry Morrison; and its professional fundraisers, Patrick Kane, doing business as the Kane Marketing Group, Mark Hemphill, doing business as Infiniti Marketing Firm, and James Vincent, doing business as Northeast Advertising.

      Under the terms of the first injunction, Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center, Inc., is restrained from engaging in deceptive practices or otherwise breaking the law while soliciting charitable donations in Massachusetts; must not destroy or alter records while the civil lawsuit is pending; and must account for money raised from Massachusetts residents in the next 30 days.

      Under the terms of the second preliminary injunction, the professional solicitors involved in the lawsuit are restrained from engaging in deceptive tactics when soliciting funds in Massachusetts; must not destroy or alter records while the civil lawsuit is pending; and are prohibited from spending funds collected for the Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center, Inc., or any other charitable organization the defendants solicit for.

      The preliminary injunctions were filed in conjunction with a civil lawsuit that was filed on May 20, 2009 in Suffolk Superior Court against the defendants. The lawsuit alleges the defendants misled potential donors into believing that fundraisers were volunteers calling on behalf of local disabled police officers.

      The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants did not disclose their status as professional fundraisers, did not disclose the charitys Florida address, and did not file fundraising reports for their fundraising campaigns, all of which are required by law.

      The lawsuit also alleges the professional solicitors working for Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center failed to disclose to potential donors their status as professional fundraisers who are paid by charitable organizations to solicit the public for donations.

      The Attorney General's Office, through its Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division, is responsible for overseeing the public's interest in the Commonwealths non-profit charitable organizations.

      Massachusetts general laws require public charities to register and file annual reports with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Office of the Attorney General and copies of these reports are available to the public.

      Massachusetts Puts Charity Telemarketers On Hold...

      Credit Cards Giving Consumers Heartburn

      Consumers at banks' mercy until new law takes effect

      By Mark Huffman and Martin H.Bosworth

      June 30, 2009
      After regulatory agencies adopted tougher rules on credit card companies and Congress passed the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights, the world was supposed to be better for consumers with credit card accounts.

      But neither the new rules nor the new law take effect until next year, and if anything, credit card customers are even more miserable. While Chase customers are currently the most vociferous, other lenders are also drawing complaints.

      Jacqueline, of Sacramento, says she had been paying nine percent on her Bank of America credit card for years, always paying on time. She says she considers herself "a good customer." Last week she was notified her nine percent rate was being raised to 25 percent. And that wasn't all.

      "This was a high-limit card with a balance of $5000, but they then lowered my limit to just $200 above the balance owed on this card," she told "They gave me no notice of these actions and I could have easily gone over my limit by making one $200 purchase. I'm sick about this, they are ruining my credit and my husband and i are trying to buy a home."

      Bank of America isn't the only lender raising rates. Hector, of Ventura, California, has a Capital One card.

      "I opened my Capital One statement this morning to pay my July payment. I was shocked to see the interest rate skyrocketed from 9.90 percent to 17.90 percent," he told ConsumerAffairs.Com. "I called the customer service line and was told a notice was sent earlier this year about this change. However I never received a notice. He told me it was not for my performance but for economic times."

      John, of Lexington, Kentucky started with an MBNA card at 7.99 percent, before the bank was acquired by Bank of America. After one payment the credit card company said was late, he says his rate for raised to 17.99 percent. That was four years ago, and at a rate of 17.99 percent you might not think John' would be in danger of having his rate raised. But you would be wrong.

      "Even though we pay on time, they just raised the rate to 27.99 percent," John told "They blame it on the government."

      "Bad investments"

      Banks may be acting now to maximize returns before new rules take effect that give consumers more leverage, though under the new law they still have the ability to raise rates when a payment is late. The fact that Chase this month has increased the monthly minimum payment for its customers with lifetime low rates allows the bank to regain money that is earning low rates and lend it out again at high rates. Should the higher rates cause some consumers to default, the low rates will go to 18 percent or higher.

      Lauren Zeichner Bowne, staff attorney for Consumers' Union, confirmed that banks are raising rates, cutting credit lines and imposing more fees in order to "recoup from their bad investments and losses."

      "We're also seeing signs of fees being raised on regular bank checking accounts," Zeichner Bowne said. "'Courtesy overdraft' fees are a huge profit center for banks, and we're hoping to get stronger regulations passed against them."

      The new rules

      Once the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights takes effect, credit card companies must live under these rules:

      • Creditors cannot increase the annual percentage rate (APR) during the first 12 months of opening up an account.

      • Creditors are required to provide consumers with a 45-day advance notice of changes in rates and significant contract changes. Rates that change due to a change in the index that the rate is based on are excluded from this 45-day notice requirement.

      • Promotional rates need to be in effect for at least six months from the beginning date of that promotion.

      • Creditors need to provide a 30-day advance notice of an account closure.

      • With certain exceptions, credit card issuers are prohibited from charging a finance charge based on the double billing cycle method.

      • Creditors are prohibited from charging a fee on an outstanding credit card balance at the end of the billing period if the fee is attributed to the interest accrued on an outstanding balance that was fully repaid during that preceding billing period.

      • Consumers have the right to reject a new credit card after the creditor notifies a consumer reporting agency of its corresponding account.

      • Creditors are required to remove information provided to a consumer reporting agency about newly established credit card accounts if the consumer has not used or activated the account and and if the consumer contacts the creditor within 45 days of its establishment to close it.

      • If two or more different APRs apply to different portions of an outstanding balance, the amount of any payment above the required minimum payment needs to be applied to the balance with the highest APR first and then to lower APR balances.

      • Creditors are required to provide a grace period for payments even if the cardholder takes advantage of a promotional rate balance or deferred interest rate balance.

      • Creditors are required to send credit card statements at least 21 days before the due date of the outstanding balance.

      • Creditors are prohibited from providing credit to consumers under age 18 (unless they are emancipated under state law, or the consumer's parent or legal guardian is designated as the primary account holder).

      • For college students who do not have a co-signer, the maximum amount of credit extended will be limited to the greater of 20 percent of the student's annual gross income or $500 dollars. The aggregate amount of credit extended from all of their credit cards will be limited to 30 percent of the student's annual gross income (for the recently completed calendar year).

      • Creditors are prohibited from opening a credit card account for any college student who does not have any verifiable annual gross income or already maintains a credit card account with that creditor, or any of its affiliates.

      • Creditors are prohibited from charging a fee to make telephone and web-based payments. However, a fee may be charged for expedited telephone payments made on the due date or the day before the due date.

      • Creditors are required to post their written credit card agreements on the Internet.

      "Shine a light"

      Until the new rules take effect, however, consumers are bluntly being told that the old rules apply. Zeichner Bowne said there was little customers could do, but there are a few options.

      "The best thing you can do is pay the balance down as fast as you can," she said. "You could cancel the card, but that could do long-term damage to your credit rating. Paying it off on time, keeping your debt-to-credit ratio low — that's really the best option."

      Cardholders who are suffering undue harassment or hardship can file a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the federal agency most directly charged with overseeing consumer protection in the financial industry. The OCC has a dedicated Web site for consumers to file complaints against banks, although it's not easy to find on the OCC site.

      "[Chase's policies] are the first big sign of systemic changes we're seeing since the regulations got passed," Zeichner Bowne said. "They'll be a big help, but until then, shining a light on these practices is very important."

      Credit Cards Giving Consumers Heartburn...

      Sprint Text Messaging Tax Suit Dropped

      Alleged improper taxes for users of network cards

      Sprint scored a victory last week when a federal judge dismissed a nationwide class-action complaint alleging that the company charged extraneous fees for text messages and voicemails sent to customers using network cards.

      The suit was filed by the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), a non-profit consumer advocacy group. According to the suit, Sprint began charging taxes and surcharges for text messages to network card users in September 2006. This practice is improper because the cards have no keypad or screen and thus can't alert customers when they've received a message. The suit further alleged that Sprint refused to issue refunds when prompted by consumers.

      U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan decided that the plaintiffs failed to show that a nationwide class action would "outweigh the complexity of such a proceeding." Bryan concluded that "a nationwide class in this situation would not be a superior method of adjudicating" the issue.

      UCAN, based in California, was founded in 1983 and boasts over 30,000 members. The organization's website says that UCAN "was formed to protect consumers from utility and corporate abuse" and that the group's "not-for-profit legal team has saved San Diego consumers billions of dollars in unfair utility rate hikes." The organization is especially involved in consumer issues surrounding energy, gas and water, and communications.

      Bryan took over the case in 2008, after colleagues recused themselves.

      The instant action is only one in a number of recent class actions involving text messages. Two weeks ago, a federal court ruled that publisher Simon & Schuster violated telemarketing laws when it sent out unsolicited e-mails hawking a new Stephen King book. That decision will likely have wide-ranging implications for electronic marketing in the 21st century.

      A suit last year accused wireless providers of overcharging customers for text messages, which use very little bandwidth and cost next to nothing to process. That action brought counts in unjust enrichment, unauthorized charges, and wrongful collections, and named as defendants seven wireless providers, including Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. A similar suit was also lodged against T-Mobile.

      Bryan's decision, while barring a nationwide suit, leaves the door open for a class action made up entirely of California residents. Plaintifffs' attorneys often file suits on behalf of statewide classes when nationwide suits fail or are impracticable.

      And while the ruling is a welcome development for Sprint — spokesman John Taylor said the company is "pleased with the judge's decision" — the company also has other lawsuits to contend with. In March, leading class action firm Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins filed a securities suit in Kansas accusing the company of misrepresenting its own health and stability, thereby driving up stock prices.

      Sprint Text Messaging Tax Suit Dropped...

      GM Vows To Honor Lemon Law Commitments

      Answers critics worried about consumers' rights

      In an effort to head off consumer objections to its bankruptcy reorganization, General Motors has promised to honor lemon law claims on future vehicle defects.

      The move answers a challenge filed by nine state attorneys general and consumer groups who filed objections with the bankruptcy court, claiming the bankruptcy would deprive consumers of protections they now enjoy.

      The Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Action, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, National Association of Consumer Advocates and Public Citizen filed objections to the GM bankruptcy sale because it attempted to immunize the new GM from claims of people who have been or will be victimized by defective GM vehicles.

      "We are gratified the General Motors bankruptcy sale documents have been amended to state that the 'new GM' will assume liability for future product liability claims -- that is the claims of people who have not yet been, but who will in the future be, injured or killed in accidents caused by defects in GM vehicles," said Adina Rosenbaum, an attorney with Public Citizen.

      "We argued that allowing the sale to go through 'free and clear' of current and future claims would violate the Bankruptcy Code and that it would violate due process to take away the rights of people who will be injured in the future and do not yet even know that they will one day have claims," Rosenbaum said.

      GM is apparently hoping to pre-empt challenges that were raised in the Chrysler bankruptcy earlier this month. Chrysler eventually said it would abide by its previous lemon law commitment.

      The promise was contained in a document filed with the court. The document assures Treasury Department officials that the new GM would assume liability for future product defect claims. The assurance was requested by Treasury officials.

      "The purchaser will expressly assume all product liability claims arising from accidents or other incidents arising from the operation of GM vehicles subject to the closing," the document said.

      The reorganization is also being challenged by a group representing about 300 consumers with pending lawsuits against GM for alleged vehicle defects.

      Most state lemon laws specify that a manufacturer must provide a refund or replacement for a defective new vehicle when a substantial defect cannot be fixed in four attempts, a safety defect within two attempts or if the vehicle is out of service for 30 days within the first 12,000 to 18,000 miles or 12 to 24 months.

      Success in using state lemon laws depends upon three things: keeping good records, providing the right notice, and using arbitration programs where required. As with all cases involving two or more parties, it is important to document the transaction. When it comes to dealing with auto manufacturers and dealers, it's even more important.

      In an effort to head off consumer objections to its bankruptcy reorganization, General Motors has promised to honor lemon law claims on future vehicle defe...

      Latest Chase Controversy Part of a Pattern

      Chase has a knack for infuriating its customers

      Chase is again under fire for what consumers are calling predatory and misleading practices regarding minimum payments, just five months after a lawsuit was filed accusing the company of reneging on promises made under its Balance Transfer Checks program.

      Thousands of Chase credit card holders have been informed that their minimum payment is being raised from 2% to 5%. Chase blames the three-percent increase on the struggling economy.

      Consumers affected by the increase all took advantage of a balance-transfer program that has already come under scrutiny in a number of lawsuits. In January, a class action lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of consumers who signed up for the Balance Transfer Program, which allows consumers to transfer outstanding debts to their new Chase credit cards. According to the suit, consumers were promised a fixed interest rate of between 2.99 and 4.99%.

      In January, Chase began charging consumers a $10 service fee every month, and consumers who refused to pay found their interest rate raised to as high as 7.99%. Neither the service fee nor the interest rate increase was mentioned in the initial cardholder agreement.

      In March, Chase reached an agreement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in which the company agreed to stop charging the $10 service fee targeted in the class action, and to refund over $4 million to affected consumers. According to the stipulation, over 300,000 consumers were affected nationwide.

      Even loyal and conscientious Chase customers haven't been spared from increases that can prove devastating to their personal finances. Steve of Autryville, N.C., who saw his minimum payment go from 2% to 5%, writes, I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm only on Social Security and barely making it. I thought Chase was a good company, but they say there's no way to get out of paying the 5% now. I never missed a payment for over 12 years with them. I don't know what to do now.

      I have always paid more than the monthly minimum due and always on time, writes J.W. of St. Charles, Missouri. I have carried the card for over 10 years and used the 'fixed rate of 3.99% for the life of the balance transfer' to reduce my unsecured debt (caused by medical expenses) in half. I mistakenly thought that this was a good company giving the average consumer an opportunity to manage financial difficulties responsibly. FAT CHANCE.

      Another ruling

      In case its reputation wasn't sufficiently tarnished, Chase lost another interest-related lawsuit last month. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Chase must clearly disclose that it might raise interest rates based on a consumer's credit history or other risk-related factors. That suit was brought by a Portland, Ore. couple whose interest rate was raised from nine to 24 percent in April 2005.

      The suit accused Chase of violating the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) by failing to explain which factors the company used when deciding to raise the interest rate. TILA requires explicit disclosures regarding the terms surrounding a loan agreement.

      The majority opinion conceded that credit card companies must be able to adjust APR rates based on consumer risk, but said that Chase buried the provision governing rate changes too deeply in the fine print. Specifically, the court noted that the disclosure came five dense pages after the disclosure of the APR. The court said that lenders must clearly and conspicuously disclose the reasons for which they might change a consumer's interest rate.

      While TILA has been a major force in the credit card industry since its 1968 inception, recent legislation seeks to better ensure that disclosures are prominent and easy to understand. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, signed into law by President Obama in May, was developed largely as a reaction to the financial crisis brought on by loans and mortgages given to high-risk consumers.

      The law only allows lenders to raise interest rates if a cardholder submits a payment at least 60 days late. Moreover, if the borrower pays on schedule for the next six months, the lender is required to return the loan to its original APR. Justine Fischer, an attorney for the Oregon couple who claimed victory last month, said that Chase's conduct would likely be prohibited under the new law.

      Additional suits relating to the balance transfer program have been filed in several other states, including Oregon.

      More: Read verbatim complaints by Chase customers.

      Latest Chase Controversy Part of a Pattern...

      Snapple Lawsuit To Be Reinstated

      Alleges drink's claims of "all-natural" are deceptive

      A class action lawsuit alleging that the best stuff on earth is actually made from cheap and unhealthy junk is on the verge of reinstatement after being tossed two years ago.

      The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey in 2007, alleged that Snapple manufacturer Cadbury Schweppes defrauded consumers by labeling the drink "all natural," and, of course, "the best stuff on earth." The suit said this language was misleading because the drink contains man-made high fructose corn syrup.

      The suit was thrown out by a lower court after the judge determined that federal regulations preempted the state-based claims. According to the judge, labeling requirements set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prevented the plaintiffs from arguing a case based on state laws.

      Judge Mary Cooper reasoned that FDA guidelines "so thoroughly occupy the field of the beverage labeling at issue in this case that it would be unreasonable to infer that Congress intended states to supplement this area."

      But a three-judge panel that recently heard arguments appears likely to reopen the case, according to legal experts. Recent years have seen more courts allowing state-based claims even when federal regulations are in place.

      Whether the suit will succeed is another matter. The FDA hasn't outlined what "all natural" actually means, and scientists disagree as to whether high fructose corn syrup falls under the "natural" umbrella.

      The controversial ingredient — made of fructose and glucose — is common in soft drinks and plays a large role in America's growing obesity epidemic. It is also cheaper for manufacturers than actual sugar, due in part to corn subsidies provided by the government. Unsurprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association filed an amicus curaie brief on behalf of Snapple in the instant action.

      In November 2008, Snapple rolled out a newly-calibrated line of beverages. Along with a higher-brow bottle design and an emphasis on the drinks' black and green tea leaves, the new formula uses actual sugar in place of high-fructose corn syrup. The decision to give the company a makeover came after increased competition from lower-key drinks, including Honest Tea, a favorite of President Barack Obama. Recent years have seen a decline in Snapple sales as more teas and other beverages enter the market.

      Just because Snapple no longer uses high-fructose corn syrup doesn't preclude the suit moving forward, however. If the class is reinstated, it will be on behalf of those who bought "all natural" Snapple before November 2008.

      Cadbury Schweppes was spun off into the Dr. Pepper Snapple group in May 2008. The company, unsurprisingly, manufactures both Snapple and the popular soft drink Dr. Pepper, which was originally made by the Coca-Cola company.

      About a year before the present lawsuit was filed, a California woman filed suit against the drink manufacturer, claiming that the company's Diet Lime Green Tea contained "a disgusting foreign substance," and that several bottle tops were not properly sealed. That plaintiff was so enamored with Snapple that she was known to purchase up to seven cases of lime green tea at once.

      A class action lawsuit alleging that the best stuff on earth is actually made from cheap and unhealthy junk is on the verge of reinstatement after being to...

      Chase Raises Minimum Payments On Credit Cards

      Consumers with low rate, high balance, caught in trap

      Thousands of Chase credit card customers have gotten some bad news this month. The bank has informed them that the minimum monthly payment on their accounts is being raised from two percent of the balance to five percent.

      That might not sound like a huge increase, but for many who are carrying large balances and are tightly budgeted, its a severe and unexpected blow. Kay, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, said she contacted Chase and was told the change in policy was related to the poor economy.

      I was told I could possibly re-negiotate a lesser monthly payment but my interest would go from 3.9 percent to 21.99 percent. I was told that out of over a billion credit card holders 850,000 were effected by this change, she told My monthly payment from my four accounts will go from $961.00 a month to $2394.00 a month. Needless to say I will not be able to make these payments and will end up defaulting on my accounts and probably claim bankruptcy.

      The change in minimum payment has little to do with how long customers have been Chase cardholders, or their credit ratings, though in an analysis of complaints to in the last few days, many customers do seem to have one thing in common. They all mention that they took advantage of a previous promotion and signed up for a Chase credit card, with the promise of a low, fixed rate for an extended period of time.

      In the past year I took advantage of balance transfer offers with their life-of-the-loan low interest rate offers of 5.99 and 6.99, Wendy, of Cardiff By The Sea, California, told I basically used the card as debt consolidation this year in lieu of the economy, wanting to close some other accounts and just use the Chase card to pay this amount down. I am horrified at the new five percent minimum! This will increase my payment by about $475 a month.

      Dana of Dacula, Georgia, also took advantage of the promotion and transferred money to a Chase account at 4.9 percent. In August her minimum monthly payment goes from two percent to five percent.

      This could put me in default since it would cause my payment to more than double each month, she told I do not want to use the card, I just want to pay it with the terms I agreed to when the card was issued.

      With new credit card rules on the way, thanks to changes by regulators and legislation passed by Congress, lenders are preparing for a new consumer lending environment. By increasing its minimum monthly payment for customers with low, fixed interest rates, Chase recovers that low-interest money faster, and can loan it out again at much higher rates.

      The new credit card rules that go into effect next year prevent lenders from arbitrarily raising interest rates, but do not address the issue of minimum monthly payments. In fact, regulators in the past have encouraged lenders to increase the minimum payments, so that consumers pay down their balances faster.

      But a number of consumers who thought they were doing the smart thing — transferring large balances to cards with locked in, low rates, are finding themselves in a trap. The increased minimum payment is now unaffordable. The price of keeping their payment the same is to give up that promised low rate, so that more of their monthly payment goes to interest each month, not paying down the principal.

      Chase Raises Minimum Payments On Credit Cards...

      FDA Approves Generic Plan B Pill

      Still prescription-only under 17

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first generic version of the emergency contraceptive Plan B (levonorgestrel) tablets, in the 0.75 mg dosage. The generic product will be available by prescription only for women ages 17 and under.

      Plan B was first approved in 1999 for prescription use only for women of all ages. Plan B is manufactured by Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cincinnati.

      In 2006, Plan B was approved for nonprescription use for women ages 18 and older. Plan B remained available as a prescription-only product for women ages 17 and under.

      The new approval allows marketing of a prescription-only generic product for women ages 17 and under. No generic levonorgestrel product for emergency contraception can be approved for nonprescription use in women ages 18 and older until Aug. 24, 2009, when the marketing exclusivity held by Duramed for the nonprescription use expires.

      The generic levonorgestrel tablets 0.75 mg are made by Watson Laboratories Inc., based in Corona, Calif.

      Levonorgestrel can prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or a known or suspected contraceptive failure. It is not effective in terminating an existing pregnancy and does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection.

      The drug delivers a surge of hormones, similar to a high dose of birth-control pills, interfering with fertilization and preventing implanation of a new embryo in the uterus. Most medical authorities do not consider this to be an abortion but some anti-abortion groups disagree.

      Plan B is not the same as mifepristone, sometimes called RU-486, a pill that chemically induces an abortion.

      Even when it was available only with a prescription, Plan B was not widely available in some areas. For example. Wal-Mart did not stock it in its pharmacies until March 2006, when it succumbed to pressure from Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states.

      Three Massachusetts women had sued Wal-Mart for not carrying the pill, leading to the state Board of Pharmacy's decision to require the chain to stock the drug.."

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first generic version of the emergency contraceptive Plan B (levonorgestrel) tablets, in the 0.75 mg...

      Most Consumers Lack Confidence In Food Safety, Survey Says

      Skepticism grows in wake of recalls

      There was a time that the safety of food Americans put on their tables was not among their most pressing concerns. Not anymore.

      A new IBM study reveals that fewer than 20 percent of consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy for themselves and their families. The study also shows that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about the safety of food they purchase, and 63 percent are knowledgeable about the content of the food they buy.

      The survey of 1,000 consumers in the 10 largest cities nationwide shows that consumers are increasingly wary of the safety of food purchased at grocery stores, and their confidence in -- and trust of -- food retailers, manufacturers and grocers is declining.

      Eighty-three percent of those surveyed were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years due to contamination or other safety concerns. Nearly half -- 46 percent -- named peanut butter, the staple of school lunches for children across the nation, as the most recognizable recall. Spinach came in a distant second, with 15 percent awareness nearly two years after the incident.

      Consumers are proving to be extra cautious in purchasing food products after a recall. Nearly half of those asked would be less likely to purchase a food product again if it was recalled due to contamination. Sixty-three percent confirmed they would not buy the food until the source of contamination had been found and addressed. And eight percent said they would never purchase the food again, even after the source of contamination was found and addressed.

      These findings underscore how the rise in recalls and contamination has significantly eroded consumer confidence in food and product safety, as well as with the companies that manufacture and distribute these products.

      Sixty-three percent of respondents report they have purposefully changed their grocery shopping behavior in the past two years because they wanted better value for their money. And almost half have changed shopping behavior to access fresher foods (45 percent) or better quality foods (43 percent).

      "Especially in today's economy, if consumers are going to pay a little extra for a branded or organic product, they want to be assured that they're paying for something different and better quality," said Guy Blissett, Consumer Products Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value. "Across the board, consumers are demanding transparency and more information about the food they purchase to ensure their safety and that of their families. As the government, industry associations, retailers and manufacturers work through the operational issues associated with ensuring food safety, we can each become more aware and take greater responsibility for the food we purchase."

      The survey found that over the past two years, consumer appetite for information about food products increased. Seventy-seven percent of consumers want more information about the content of the food products they purchase, and 76 percent would like more information about its origin.

      Seventy-four percent said they are willing to dig deeper and seek more data about how the food products are grown, processed and manufactured. Despite industry efforts to keep consumers informed with more detailed product information, there's still a significant gap between consumer expectations and what retailers/manufacturers are providing.

      The survey also found that consumers are spending more time poring over food labels to know which ingredients were used, questioning supermarkets and product manufactures about product detail, paying closer attention to expiration dates, and doing more in depth background checks on specific food brands and their origin.

      This will have an even bigger impact as the younger, more Internet savvy generation of consumers evolve into being the primary purchasers of groceries.

      An estimated 76 million people in the United States get sick every year with food borne illness and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food safety is top of mind for governments, retailers, manufacturers and consumers alike, and in fact, President Obama's proposed budget includes $1 billion for the FDA to spend on improving food safety. More than 600 bills addressing food safety have been introduced in state legislatures since January 2009.

      "The ability to trace a contaminated product all the way back to the source of production is key to modernizing our food industry, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest. It would also allow producers to more precisely identify the source of a problem in order to improve production practices and could help narrow the scope of recalls by more quickly identifying the specific plant or country of origin.

      More than half of those asked trust food manufacturers when handling a recall in the event that a food product is contaminated, indicating a decrease in their level of trust over the past two years. Meanwhile, 72 percent said they trust the store where they buy groceries to properly handle food product contamination recalls.

      Fifty-seven percent of consumers report they've stopped purchasing certain foods, even for a short time, within the past two years due to safety considerations.

      Most Consumers Lack Confidence In Food Safety, Survey Says...

      Feds Offer DTV Reception Advice

      Some tweaking may be necessary

      Still having problems receiving certain channels following the June 12 transition to digital TV? The Federal Communications Commission suggests "double rescanning," and double-checking and relocating your antennas. Meanwhile, local broadcasters are working to resolve any problems on their end.

      Many consumers already know about the need to run the "scan" function on their digital converter boxes or digital TV sets periodically following the June 12 digital TV transition. Scanning searches for and "remembers" the available digital broadcast channels.

      But in some cases where stations moved their digital frequencies on June 12, simple scanning may not be enough. There is a procedure — sometimes called "double re-scanning" — that can clear your box's memory of saved channels. These earlier scans may have saved channel information that is now incorrect.

      There are five simple steps to a double re-scan for a converter box or digital TV:

      1. Disconnect the antenna from the box or digital TV

      2. Re-scan the box or digital TV without the antenna connected. As with any scan follow the on-screen instructions or owner's manual for your device

      3. Unplug the box or digital TV from the electrical outlet for at least one minute

      4. Reconnect the antenna to the box or digital TV and plug the unit into the electrical outlet.

      5. Rescan the box or digital TV one more time.

      You must have a VHF/UHF antenna. "Rabbit ears," rods, or other elements are needed to pick up channels 2-13 (VHF), and a circle, "bow tie," or other element is needed to pick up channels 14-51 (UHF). Some antennas marketed as HDTV antennas don't perform well on VHF channels; some antennas are VHF or UHF-only.

      For the best reception of channels 2-6, extend the rods all the way out. For the best reception of channels 7-13, reduce the length of the rods to 12-18 inches.

      The location of an indoor antenna is key. And one of the most popular spots for indoor antennas — on top of the TV — may not be the best. Consumers having trouble with digital TV reception should try moving their antennas to one of these locations:

      • Near a window

      • As high as possible

      • Away from other electronic equipment, including computers, VCRs, DVD players, converter boxes, and the television itself

      • Change the direction the antenna is facing

      • Rooftop antennas may be needed in some instances

      Consumers may need to run the "scan" function again on their converter boxes after moving the antenna

      For more information about antennas and rescanning, visit the government's DTV site,, particularly their "Fix Reception Problems" page. And good luck.

      Feds Offer DTV Reception Advice...

      Wireless Carriers Agree To $1.5 Million Cramming Settlement

      Some Florida subscribers to get refunds

      Verizon Wireless and Alltel customers in Florida will get millions of dollars in refunds of third-party charges that ended up on their telephone bills. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum struck a deal that holds the telecoms liable for "cramming" by third party billers.

      As part of the deal Verizon Wireless, LLC has agreed to adopt a series of "best practices" standards which will protect consumers from third-party charges, including charges for "free" ringtones and other cell phone content customers either didnt order or didnt realize would result in a monthly charge.

      "Consumers deserve to get their money back when a company misrepresents something as free that isn't," said Attorney General McCollum. "I commend Verizon Wireless for providing full restitution to their Florida customers and changing the business model to better protect consumers nationwide."

      Cell phone content includes ringtones, music, wallpaper, horoscopes and other material that is often promoted by online marketers as "free," but ultimately ends up costing up to $19.99 a month. The charges appear on a subscriber's monthly wireless bill and are usually recurring. The bill charges often appear under the following indiscernible names: "OpenMarket," "M-Qube" and "M-Blox."

      A large number of complaints related to the mobile content industry led to an investigation which revealed that thousands of Florida consumers had received these charges on their cell phone bills for mobile content downloads that they neither knowingly authorized nor desired. Prior to the investigation, Verizon offered its customers the ability to block third-party mobile content and to implement parental controls free of charge. The investigation and subsequent settlement have been negotiated by the Attorney Generals CyberFraud Section.

      McCollum says Verizon Wireless has agreed to first-of-their-kind standards for advertising on websites, prohibiting the use of the word "free" without clear disclosure of the actual price and requiring all content providers and advertisers to clearly and conspicuously disclose the true cost of cell phone content.

      These compliance standards, which include website design restrictions for online advertisers, will ensure consumers see and understand the terms and conditions of the purchase. Verizon Wireless will enforce these new standards through its contracts with all content providers and advertisers nationwide. Alltel will also be required to adopt these "best practices" under the company's acquisition by Verizon Wireless.

      As part of the settlement, the company will pay a total of $1.5 million, with $1 million for Verizon Wireless and $500,000 for Alltel, to reimburse the state for the costs of its investigation and to help the Attorney General's Office fund the efforts of the task force as it continues to press for similar reform across the industry. The agreement was negotiated with full cooperation for Verizon Wireless LLC.

      The Attorney General's Office has already obtained several settlements with players from each part of the industry, including marketers, billing aggregators, content providers and wireless service providers. Verizon Wireless is the second wireless provider to set up these standards and offer consumer refunds; AT&T Mobility reached an agreement in February 2008.

      Wireless Carriers Agree To $1.5 Million Cramming Settlement...

      Payday Lenders Resist APR Comparisons

      How much are you really paying for that loan?

      Consumer advocates say borrowing money from a payday lender is always a bad idea. Doing business with an online payday lender can lead to double trouble.

      Doing business with an online payday lender that claims "tribal sovereign immunity" could means triple trouble., one such lender, has generated a number of consumer complaints lately.

      "I appied for a pay day loan with One Click Cash and was approved with the understanding that I would only have to pay back a service fee of $75.00 on the loan amount of $250," DeAnna, of South Lake Tahoe, California, told "They had taken 4 payments of $75.00, which I thought would leave me a final payment of $25.00 . When I went to check my account it said that my next payment would be $125.00, with only $50.00 of that to princapal and $75.00 for another service fee."

      Even by payday loan standards, those numbers are grossly excessive. But huge fees appear to be a common refrain in complaints about

      "I took a payday loan from these people who call them selves One Click Cash in February of 2009. I did not receive the $200 until March," said Joe of Dennison, Texas. Since then they have withdrawn $700 from my account."

      "I took a loan out for $150 and agreed to pay back this loan with $45 as the interest fee," Maria, of Springfield, Massachusetts, told "All was well until the automatic withdrawals from my account wouldn't stop. And not only that, they would take out multiple withdrawals of various amounts on the same days. So the problem with all of us is very obvious, so what can we do about it? Is there anything?"

      States have tried, but there are problems. A number of online payday loans have affiliated with federally recognized Indian tribes. Operating under the auspices of a sovereign tribe, they claim immunity from state prosecution.

      The good news for consumers is that some states aren't completely rolling over. In West Virginia last year, Attorney General Darrell McGraw mounted a vigorous crackdown on payday lenders making the tribal sovereign immunity claim.

      In September 2008, McGraw reached a settlement with 17 online payday lenders, including three that were affiliated with Indian tribes., operating under the umbrella of Miami Nation Enterprises, was among them.

      The settlements with the tribal corporations, Miami Nation Enterprises and SFS, Inc., affiliated with the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska, and MTE Financial Services, affiliated with the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, resulted in $128,239.50 in cash refunds and canceled debts for 946 West Virginia consumers. The companies did business under numerous trade names.

      According to the Center for Responsible Lending, the case was settled before the tribal sovereign immunity issue was addressed. Consumers who feel they have been victimized by an online payday lender should contact their state attorney general.

      Payday Lenders Resist APR Comparisons...

      "Clear" Registered Travel Program Goes Dark

      Company abruptly shuts off service for frequent flyers

      It was billed as the perfect antidote to long airport waits for busy flyers — simply pay $200 a year, submit some personal information, and you could be whisked to the front of the line for flights from many major airports. That was the promise of the "Clear" airport program, largest of the "Registered Traveler" priority-passenger programs.

      But subscribers to the program were in for a shock yesterday, as the company abruptly ceased operations, its Web site replaced with a brief note saying it was closing down due to a dispute with its creditors.

      "At the present time, because of its financial condition, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. cannot issue refunds," the Web site stated. The company's parent, later updated the site to add that it would take "appropriate steps" to delete the passenger data it had gathered.

      The "Clear" program and its siblings were designed to circumvent higher security and longer lines imposed on airports in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The premise was that business travelers would submit extensive personal data — including biometric verification — to the Transportation Security Authority (TSA), which would vet the applicant and grant them permission to use "Clear," or other services.

      Users of "Clear" would get a clear plastic ID card that could be used at any participating airport, or with competitors' terminals, in an effort to speed business travelers on their way while other passengers endured long lines, byzantine rules, and humiliating searches.

      Many analysts blamed the program's shutdown on the economy, claiming that tight business budgets and high unemployment meant less air travel, and consequently less need for a fast-registration program.

      Although "Clear" had the imprimatur of its founder and former CEO, media magnate Stephen Brill, and over $50 million in venture capital funding backing it, critics charged that programs like "Clear" did not offer any real security, as any potential terrorist or saboteur would find a way to forge their credentials and get past the system.

      Privacy advocates also noted that the information gathered by Clear was not actually held by the TSA, but by the private companies backing the venture, such as Lockheed Martin.

      "Now my personal information is within a database controlled by Lockheed Martin along with my biometrics," Greg of Centerville, Virginia told ConsumerAffairs.Com. "I don't know where it's going to end up or sold to in the future. The representatives told me they were just following instruction, but by who?"

      The TSA temporarily shut down "Clear" in August of 2008 after a laptop was stolen from San Francisco International Airport containing personal data on 33,000 new applicants for the program.

      Angry customers complained on various news sites that Clear had been charging them for renewals right up until the company's sudden shutdown, and demanded that Boston-based investor Spark Capital refund their payments.


      TJ Maxx Settles Data Breach Charges

      Company will pay $9.75 million to 41 states

      Retail chain TJX, operator of TJ Maxx stores, has settled charges with 41 states, resolving a 2007 security breach that exposed thousands of customers' sensitive financial information.

      The company was charges with failure to appropriately protect its customers' financial information and to guard against a massive data breach that placed thousands of consumers' personal data at risk, nationwide. TJX has agreed to pay $9.75 million to the states and to implement and maintain a comprehensive information security program, designed to safeguard consumer data and address any weaknesses in TJX's systems in place at the time of the breach.

      "Protecting consumers' personally-identifiable information is of paramount importance to prevent fraudulent use of credit and identity theft. All retailers and companies that hold or use personally-identifiable information must employ data security systems that guard against the improper disclosure or use of that information," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. "This settlement ensures that companies cannot write-off the risk of a data breach as a cost of doing business. In addition to the monetary relief, this agreement requires TJX to implement and maintain a substantial data security program to ensure that this kind of data breach does not happen again."

      In January 2007, TJX announced that certain persons had obtained unauthorized access to its computer systems enabling them to seize cardholder data and other personally identifiable information. A coalition of attorneys general conducted an extensive investigation into TJXs data security policies and procedures in place when the breach occurred.

      That investigation concerned a number of alleged vulnerabilities in TJXs data security systems that may have facilitated the unlawful intrusion and allowed it to last undetected for an unacceptable duration. The settlement reflects the lessons learned from that breach and provides for an information security program designed to guard against future intrusions or unauthorized disclosures. The settlement's relief, in that regard, is the most comprehensive relief achieved to date following a data breach investigation.

      The settlement ensures that TJX will employ a comprehensive "Information Security Program" that assesses internal and external risks to consumers' personal information, implements the safeguards that will best protect that consumer information, and regularly monitors and tests the efficacy of those safeguards. TJX also will report regularly to the Attorneys General on the efficacy of its program, after obtaining a third-party assessment of its systems.

      Of the $9.75 million monetary payment under the settlement, $5.5 million is to be dedicated to data protection and consumer protection efforts by the states, and $1.75 million is to reimburse the costs and fees of the investigation. Further, $2.5 million of the settlement will fund a Data Security Trust Fund to be used by the state Attorneys General to advance enforcement efforts and policy development in the field of data security and protecting consumers personal information.

      The 41 States participating in todays agreement are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

      Retail chain TJX, has settled charges with 41 states, resolving a 2007 security breach that exposed thousands of customers' sensitive financial information...

      Mayo Clinic Announces Cancer Cure Breakthrough

      Inoperable tumors almost disappear in three patients

      For years its been medicines Holy Grail — a cure for cancer. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic arent saying theyve found it, but they think they may be getting close.

      Two patients whose prostate cancer had been considered inoperable are now cancer-free, doctors say. The men were treated using an experimental drug therapy that was used in combination with standardized hormone treatment and radiation therapy.

      The men were participating in a clinical trial of an immunotherapeutic agent called MDX-010 or ipilimumab. In these two cases, physicians say the approach initiated the death of a majority of cancer cells and caused the tumors to shrink dramatically, allowing surgery. In both cases, the aggressive tumors had grown well beyond the prostate into the abdominal areas.

      "The goal of the study was to see if we could modestly improve upon current treatments for advanced prostate cancer," said Dr. Eugene Kwon, Mayo Clinic urologist and leader of the clinical trial. "The candidates for this study were people who didn't have a lot of other options. However, we were startled to see responses that far exceeded any of our expectations."

      The patients first received a type of hormone therapy called androgen ablation, which removes testosterone and usually causes some initial reduction in tumor size. Researchers then introduced a single dose of ipilimumab, an antibody, which builds on the anti-tumor action of the hormone and causes a much larger immune response, resulting in massive death of the tumor cells.

      Both men experienced consistent drops in their PSA counts over the following weeks until both were deemed eligible for surgery. Then, during surgery, came a greater surprise.

      "The tumors had shrunk dramatically," said Dr. Michael Blute, Mayo urologist, co-investigator and surgeon, who operated on both men. "I had never seen anything like this before. I had a hard time finding the cancer. At one point the pathologist, who was working during surgery, asked if we were sending him samples from the same patient."

      One patient underwent radiation therapy after surgery; both have resumed their regular lives. Further research is being planned to understand more about the mechanisms of the antibody and how best to use the approach in practice. The researchers, however, note the significance of their findings.

      Mayo Clinic Announces Cancer Cure Breakthrough...