Browse by year
Many say they are then charged an unjustified cancellation fee12/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Is Uber picking up some of the taxi industry's bad habits? Cab drivers are famous for complaining piteously if a passenger wants to go from an airport to a...
Parent company arranges credit line of $500 million12/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Sears is not exactly closing out 2016 with a bang. The struggling retailer is closing around 30 Sears and Kmart stores but has not yet released an official...
Family sues Apple over the death of their five-year-old daughter12/29/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A California family blames Apple for the death of their young daughter in a traffic accident that a lawsuit says was caused by a driver who was using FaceT...
Settlement could include a guilty plea to criminal misconduct, report says12/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The U.S. Justice Department and Takata are nearing agreement on a $1 billion criminal settlement that would include a guilty plea to criminal misconduct, t...
Consumer groups alert parents to the dangers of window cords12/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The problem of children strangling on window cords is one that just won't go away. Despite warnings, recalls and revised industry standards, children conti...
Diabetes tops U.S. spending on health care, heart disease is second
Diabetes is growing 36 times faster than heart disease, study finds12/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
There's a lot of talk about the high cost of health care but do you know which conditions contribute most to health care spending?If you said diabetes,...
There's a lot of talk about the high cost of health care, but do you know which conditions contribute most to health care spending?
If you said diabetes, you're right -- a new study finds diabetes costs $101 billion annually in diagnosis and treatment and is growing 36 times faster than the cost of heart disease, the leading cause of death and the second most-expensive condition.
"While it is well known that the US spends more than any other nation on health care, very little is known about what diseases drive that spending." said Dr. Joseph Dieleman, lead author of a paper published in JAMA and Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. "IHME is trying to fill the information gap so that decision-makers in the public and private sectors can understand the spending landscape, and plan and allocate health resources more effectively."
In fact, the study found that just 20 conditions make up more than half of all spending on health care in the United States.
While diabetes and heart disease primarily affected consumers 65 and over, lower back and neck pain, the third-most-expensive condition, primarily strikes adults of working age.
These three top spending categories, along with hypertension and injuries from falls, comprise 18% of all personal health spending and totaled $437 billion in 2013.
This study distinguishes between spending on public health programs from personal health spending, including both individual out-of-pocket costs and spending by private and government insurance programs. It covers 155 conditions.
In addition to the $2.1 trillion spent on the 155 conditions examined in the study, Dr. Dieleman estimates that approximately $300 billion in costs, such as those of over-the-counter medications and privately funded home health care, remain unaccounted for, indicating total personal health care costs in the US reached $2.4 trillion in 2013.
Other expensive conditions among the top 20 include musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis; well-care associated with dental visits; and pregnancy and postpartum care.
Other key findings include:
- Women ages 85 and older spent the most per person in 2013, at more than $31,000 per person. More than half of this spending (58%) occurred in nursing facilities, while 40% was expended on cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer's disease, and falls.
- Men ages 85 and older spent $24,000 per person in 2013, with only 37% on nursing facilities, largely because women live longer and men more often have a spouse at home to provide care.
- Less than 10% of personal health care spending is on nursing care facilities, and less than 5% of spending is on emergency department care. The conditions leading to the most spending in nursing care facilities are Alzheimer's and stroke, while the condition leading to the most spending in emergency departments is falls.
- Public health education and advocacy initiatives, such as anti-tobacco and cancer awareness campaigns, totaled an estimated $77.9 billion in 2013, less than 3% of total health spending.
Top 10 diseases
The top 10 most costly health expenses in 2013 were:
1. Diabetes - $101.4 billion
2. Ischemic heart disease - $88.1 billion
3. Low back and neck pain - $87.6 billion
4. Hypertension - $83.9 billion
5. Injuries from falls - $76.3 billion
6. Depressive disorders - $71.1 billion
7. Oral-related problems - $66.4 billion
8. Vision and hearing problems - $59 billion
9. Skin-related problems, such as cellulitis and acne - $55.7 billion
10. Pregnancy and postpartum care - $55.6 billion
Washington State has charged the company's 'protection plan' is deceptive12/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Comcast has failed to deflect a Washington State lawsuit that accuses it of deceiving its customers through add-on fees that don't deliver what customers a...
A judge recently threw out similar charges but prosecutors say they have new evidence12/28/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed new criminal charges against top executives of Backpage.com, accusing them of money laundering and p...
Annual report finds little difference from previous years, cautions consumers to be careful12/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
This is the time of year when many consumers sit down with their checkbook to dole out funds to charities. It's also a time when mail, email and telemarket...
Consumers complain that the brake pedal goes to the floor and the car keeps rolling12/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Unexpected acceleration is a problem in some car models, but unexpected decreases in braking effectiveness can also be a serious problem,...
Ingesting BPA may affect pets' ability to metabolize it and similar chemicals.12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Despite claims that it is dangerous to human health, the plastics industry and the Food and Drug Administration have insisted throughout the years that Bis...
Like many agencies, EPA is running out the clock, sticking with Obama initiatives as time runs out12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Carmakers have lost out on a last-minute bid to loosen fuel economy standards through the 2025 model year. The Environmental Protection Agency told industr...
Would you believe 17 cruises in 10 years, each one memorable?12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
Celebrity Cruises bills itself as “Modern Luxury,” and their ships are contemporary and beautiful. They provide stellar service, wonderful itineraries, and...
RSV infections are common this time of year, but parents can take action to prevent the spread12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Amid holiday gatherings and warm greetings, germs may feel right at home. Seasonal illnesses are easily passed around this time of year. One such illness i...
Patients getting ocrelizumab saw better results than those who didn't12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There may be reason for new optimism among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and the doctors who treat them.Clinical trials on a promising new drug have...
What to do if winter weather strikes while you're on the road12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Holiday travel can be stressful under the best circumstances, but winter weather can make the drive dangerous. If you’ll be hitting the highways en route t...
The move will allow the company to test its vehicles away from the stringent regulations in California12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last week, California regulators ordered Uber to take its self-driving cars off the road, saying that the vehicles did not have a special permit that class...
Consumers paid stiff upfront fees for sales that never happened12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A Florida timeshare resale operation is the latest to run afoul of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has charged Pro Timeshare Resales with bilking con...
Attorneys general warn professional fundraisers keep much of the donation12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
This is the time of year many people make out checks to their favorite charities, which depend on that generosity to provide their services.But not all...
Trials of new Ebola vaccine show 100% effectiveness
Stockpiles of the vaccine are being made as insurance against a future outbreak12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It wasn’t all that long ago that Ebola was the disease on everyone’s mind. A deadly outbreak in West Africa in the latter part of 2014 led to 11,000 grueso...
It wasn’t all that long ago that Ebola was the disease on everyone’s mind. A deadly outbreak in West Africa in the latter part of 2014 led to 11,000 gruesome deaths, and vaccination efforts went into overdrive.
Although fears related to Ebola have slowly lessened for most U.S. consumers, the disease still affects the global community to this day. Luckily, a new vaccine has finally been developed that researchers say could be 100% in fighting it. Trials of the drug conducted in Guinea are extremely promising, and stockpiles are being made against future outbreaks.
“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless. The world can’t afford the confusion and human disaster that came with the last epidemic,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, the study’s lead author and assistant director-general for health systems and innovation for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Effective but flawed
Trials of the new vaccine, named rVSV-EBOV by the researchers, were conducted in Guinea last year. Researchers used a “ring vaccination” method, wherein vaccinations were given to family, friends, neighbors, and caregivers if a victim developed the disease.
Of the 5,837 people who were vaccinated, none developed Ebola 10 days or later after being injected; those who fell ill 9 days or sooner after the injection were assumed to already be infected.
Researchers point out that the vaccine is aggressive when it comes to attacking the disease, opening up new and faster ways to isolate and kill the virus in patients. However, Dr. Gary J. Nabel says that it is only a “step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution.” Researchers say the vaccine only deals with one of the two most common strains of Ebola virus and may not provide any kind of long-lasting protection. Side effects have also been reported with its use, including joint pain and headache.
Insurance against future outbreaks
Still, having an effective method for treating Ebola, and one that was 100% effective no less, is cause for optimism. The researchers believe that their work done in Guinea may open a path to future vaccine research. While no information has been released on how big stockpiles of the new vaccine will be, having it as insurance against a future outbreak could make a huge difference.
“It’s certainly good news with regard to any new outbreak – and one will occur somewhere. But we still need to continue working on Ebola vaccines,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
A large debt with a small income always spells trouble12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Hopefully you've been careful with your credit cards this holiday shopping season, staying within your budget.Otherwise, you could be facing a painful...
But 2017 may turn out to be a better year to shop for a new car12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
General Motors announced last week that it would temporarily close a production facility because of rising inventories. Some took that as a sign that the a...
New home sales rebound in November
A surge in the Midwest was the sparkplug12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sales of new single-family houses bounced back in November from their decline the month before.The Commerce Department reports sales were at a seasonal...
Sales of new single-family houses bounced back in November from their decline the month before.
The Commerce Department reports sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000 last month -- up 5.2% from October and 16.5% from the same month a year earlier.
The latest report is a source of optimism for the construction industry.
“New home sales showed growing strength in 2016 and builders expect more of the same next year,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Ed Brady.
The November increase was led by a surge of 43.8% in the Midwest and 7.7% in the West. Sales in the Northeast were unchanged and down 3.1% in the South.
Pricing and inventory
The median sales price of new houses sold in November was $305,400, up $2,700 from October, but down $11,600 from a year earlier. The median is the point at which half the houses cost more and half cost less.
The average sales price was $359,900, a gain of $5,200 from October, but a year-over-year loss of $16,900.
The estimate of new houses for sale at the end last month was 250,000, which translates into a supply of 5.1 months at the current sales rate.
Looking ahead, NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz expects an increase in single-family home construction next year, fueled by a growing economy and solid job growth.
“Moreover," he adds, "builder confidence has risen on anticipation of reductions in regulatory costs, which is good news for home buyers and renters. However, the pace of construction will continue to be restricted by shortages of lots and labor in some markets.”
The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.
Increases were posted on both a monthly and annual basis12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Prices of houses in the U.S. rose again in October.The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) advanced 0.4% following September'...
Altijira Murray Products recalls various ice cream products
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Altijira Murray Products is recalling 16-oz. (pint size) packages of Foxy’s Thoughtful Ice Cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.N...
Altijira Murray Products is recalling 16-oz. (pint size) packages of Foxy’s Thoughtful Ice Cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported.
The following flavors and “Best By” code dates are being recalled:
The recalled products were distributed in stores in California and Pennsylvania and the North East, and were available online.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not eat them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 805 232 4519 between 9 am and 5 pm (PST) Monday through Friday, or by email at email@example.com.
Toyota recalls Avalons and 2017 Camrys
The front passenger knee air bag may malfunction12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 12 model year 2016 Avalon, and 2017 Camry vehicles manufactured August 3, 2016, to September 12, 2016...
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 12 model year 2016 Avalon, and 2017 Camry vehicles manufactured August 3, 2016, to September 12, 2016.
The front passenger knee air bag module may have been attached to the lower instrument panel with incorrect fasteners.
If the air bag was installed with incorrect fasteners, the fasteners may become loose over time, affecting the air bag deployment and increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fasteners, and if necessary, replace the instrument panel brace and body bracket and reattach the air bag assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in December 2016.
Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's number for this recall is G05.
H-E-B recall various bakery products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
H-E-B, in cooperation with Dawn Food Products, is recalling certain bakery products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.There have been no reports...
There have been no reports of illness to date in connection with these items.
The following products, sold in H-E-B and Mi Tienda in-store bakeries in Texas and Mexico, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions or concerns may contact H-E-B customer service at 1-855-432-4438, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CST).
The crankshaft or camshaft sensor may only work intermittently12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 43,071 model year 2016 Dodge Journey, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot vehicles manufactured May 9, 2016, to July 15, 2016...
Snyder of Berlin recalls Buffalo Blue Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella12/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Snyder of Berlin is recalling Snyder of Berlin Buffalo Blue Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.There have b...
Snyder of Berlin is recalling Snyder of Berlin Buffalo Blue Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
There have been no reported illnesses associated with this product to date.
The following product, distributed in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia
West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, New York and Tennessee, is being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Snyder of Berlin consumer care at calling 888-257-8042.
Environmental groups hit with subpoenas as Rex Tillerson and company go on the offensive12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
In 1997, ExxonMobil’s then-chairman Lee Raymond told the World Petroleum Congress that fossil fuels are not causing the earth’s temperature to rise. Fiftee...
The money will be split between three families whose children died in accidents12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For years, Ikea has faced the ire of consumers and regulators over its supposed lack of concern for the safety of consumers. Consumer advocacy groups say t...
Study: short courses of antibiotics aren't better when treating ear infections in kids
A ten-day course of treatment is twice as effective, researchers say12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Three-quarters of children will get an ear infection during their first year of life. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat an ear infection, but is...
Three-quarters of children will get an ear infection during their first year of life. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat an ear infection, but is a short course of antibiotics the best way to treat an ear infection in a child? Maybe not, according to new research.
In a new study involving 520 children with ear infections, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that the standard course of antibiotic treatment is far more effective than the shortened antibiotic regimen.
What's more, the study found that the 10-day regimen did not translate to an increased risk of antibiotic resistance or side effects such as diarrhea or diaper rash.
"The results of this study clearly show that for treating ear infections in children between 9 and 23 months of age, a five-day course of antibiotic offers no benefit in terms of adverse events or antibiotic resistance," said Alejandro Hoberman, chief of the general academic pediatrics division at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Lower risk of treatment failure
Children in the study received either a five-day course of antibiotics (followed by five days of placebos) or a standard 10-day course. For those in the five-day group, there was a 34% risk of treatment failure. Children in the 10-day group, however, had only a 16% risk of treatment failure.
Amid current concerns regarding overuse of antibiotics and increased antibiotic resistance, Hoberman says these findings are significant. Not only was it determined that a 10-day course of antibiotics is more effective, it was proven that a shortened antibiotic regimen doesn’t reduce a child's risk of developing antibiotic resistance.
Hoberman stated that although we should be concerned about the emergence of resistance overall for this condition, “the benefits of the 10-day regimen greatly outweigh the risks.”
The study was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The slaughterhouse uses a high-speed line that encourages workers to take cruel shortcuts, the suit alleges12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
An animal rights group has filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota slaughterhouse that it says abuses pigs, saying its i...
Consumer groups say anything short of a full ban doesn't go far enough12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Due to the highly-publicized events in Flint, Michigan and in other parts of the country, consumers are becoming more aware of just how bad lead can be for...
There may already be a lot of people ahead of you12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Many students heading for college will be rushing to get their applications in next month ahead of deadlines, but they should also be thinking about financ...
The study measures owners' satisfaction with their cars12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Each year Consumer Reports magazine surveys its readers to find out how satisfied they are with their vehicles, and it seems like each year, Tesla, Porsche...
Why consumers should think twice before believing that healthy-equals-expensive12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Consumers often think that in order for health food to actually be healthy, it must cost an arm and a leg. But according to new research from Ohio State Un...
Engine fires in Smart Fortwo cars probed
Safety regulators have received eight reports of severe fires that destroyed the cars12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal safety regulators are looking into reports of severe fires in 2008 and 2009 Smart Fortwo cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (...
Federal safety regulators are looking into reports of severe fires in 2008 and 2009 Smart Fortwo cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received eight complaints from consumers and is conducting a preliminary evaluation of the problem.
Six of the incidents report experiencing symptoms of smoke, check engine light illumination, or unusual noise while driving, before pulling over and observing fire in the engine compartment. The other two incidents were not detected until the vehicles were stopped.
All eight incidents involve severe fires that rapidly engulfed the vehicles. Five of the incidents occurred in 2015 and the most recent three have all occurred since October 2016.
One complaint came from a consumer in Arlington, Texas, who said: "I was on my way home from work and looked in my rear view mirror and saw smoke. I pulled over to the side of the road only to find my car was beginning to be engulfed in flames."
The consumer said there was no previous warning of problems. The car was a total loss and fire investigators said the fire had started in the engine compartment.
The complaints report incident mileages ranging from 29,000 to 86,000 miles (average is approximately 54,000 miles). The preliminary evaluation will try to determine the cause, scope, and frequency of the problem and could lead to a formal investigation and, possibly, a recall.
Foreclosures rose in November but are still historically low
But it's still a problem in parts of the South12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The housing market has come a long way from the dark days of 2010, when foreclosures dominated real estate news and dragged property values lower in neighb...
The housing market has come a long way from the dark days of 2010, when foreclosures dominated real estate news and dragged property values lower in neighborhoods across America.
Today, you don't hear much about foreclosures, but they're still occurring. Fortunately, it's not happening anywhere near as often as the immediate aftermath of the real estate crash.
Black Knight Financial Services has issued a report on November foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies, showing a slight increase from October, but both numbers remain near 10-year lows.
Foreclosure starts were 6.9% higher than in October but were down nearly 10% from November 2015. November's mortgage delinquency rate was 4.46%, up over two and a half percent from October but down 9.43% from a year ago.
Big improvement from last year
In just about every category having to do with either foreclosure or mortgage delinquency, this year's numbers are sharply lower than last year's, suggesting the last of the housing crisis inventory has been settled.
While subprime mortgages, which trapped many consumers with home loans they couldn't afford, served as the trigger for the first wave of foreclosures, the resulting financial crisis that threw millions out of work produced the second wave.
Today, with a stronger economy and tougher loan qualification standards, foreclosures are usually the result of some specific and personal financial setback. And there are many fewer of them.
For example, nationwide the number of properties that are 90 days or more past due total 682,000, up slightly from October but down 145,000 from November 2015.
More common in the South
The Black Knight report also shows that many of the foreclosures and delinquent mortgages are in the South. Mississippi leads the nation with 11.56% of non-current mortgages. Louisiana is next with 10.09%, New Jersey with 8.2%, Alabama with 8.06%, and West Virginia with 7.94%.
Homeowners in North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, and Montana are doing the best job of keeping up their house payments, with delinquency rates under 3%.
According to data compiled from RealtyTrac, the Federal Reserve, and Equifax, there were 1.2 million completed foreclosures in 2007, at the start of the foreclosure tsunami, peaking in 2011 at 3.58 million. Last year, the number had fallen to 575,378.
Meanwhile, the California DMV wins a stand-off with company over driverless cars12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Uber recently updated its ride-hailing app and one of the changes is a subject of concern to a member of Congress.Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has publish...
Uber recently updated its ride-hailing app and one of the changes is a subject of concern to a member of Congress.
Franken says he is concerned that the updated app has eliminated a significant feature – the ability to turn off Uber's access to a consumer's location when the app is not being used.
Franken says now consumers have only two choices – allowing Uber to access their location “always” or “never.” If they choose “always,” Franken says Uber can track consumers, even when the app is not being used. If they choose “never,” it leaves consumers with imprecise pick-up and drop-off information.
"While the stated justifications for this update appear well intentioned, I strongly believe that American consumers deserve a meaningful opportunity to decide for themselves the fate of their personal data," Franken wrote.
At the very least, he says consumers should be aware of what data is being collected about them and how it's used and shared.
“To achieve this necessary transparency, I urge you to amend Uber's privacy statement to reflect the company's public assurances and justifications related to the most recent app update," Franken concluded.
Stand-off in California
Uber, meanwhile, has hit a speed bump in its effort to use autonomous vehicles in California. After a week-long stand-off with California's Department of Motor Vehicles, Uber has said it will suspend its plans to offer rides in San Francisco using driverless cars.
The California DMV officially revoked the registration of those vehicles, so the company could not have legally operated in the state.
Last week, it appeared Uber’s head of autonomous tech, Anthony Levandowski, was ready to launch a legal challenge, citing a loophole in the regulations.
“The regulations apply to 'autonomous vehicles,'” he said in a statement. “And autonomous vehicles are defined as cars equipped with technology that can — and I quote — 'drive a vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.' But the self-driving Ubers that we have in both San Francisco and Pittsburgh today are not capable of driving without … active physical control or monitoring.”
Uber is currently using the same technology in Pittsburgh, but the California DMV isn't buying it. However, Wired reports the state agency has extended an olive branch, pledging to work with Uber to try and resolve the issue.
Wearables are out, privacy is in12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's that time of year. Out with the old, in with the new. For consumers, what does 2017 hold in store?At this time last year, prognosticators said 201...
Jobless claims hit 6-month high
Personal income and spending barely moved last month12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A flurry of layoffs in the week ending December 17 pushed initial applications for state unemployment benefits to thei...
A flurry of layoffs in the week ending December 17 pushed initial applications for state unemployment benefits to their highest level in six months.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports a seasonally-adjusted total of 275,000 people filed first-time jobless claims -- up 21,000 from the week before.
Even with that increase, claims have remained below the 300,000 level for 94 weeks in a row, the longest streak in more than 45 years.
The four-week moving average, seen by economists as a more accurate barometer of the labor market for its lack of volatility, rose 6,000 from the previous week to 263,750.
The complete report may be found on the DOL website.
Personal income and spending
When it comes to personal income and spending, November was a somewhat stodgy month.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), incomes were up just $1.6 billion -- less than 0.1%, with disposable personal income (DPI), what's left after your taxes are taken out, falling less than 0.1% or $1.3 billion.
Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, inched up 0.2% or $24.0 billion.
The November increase in personal income came from advances in personal interest income and rental income. Wages and salaries actually fell.
Spending for services accounted for most of the gain in the increase in real PCE.
Personal saving totaled $780.9 billion last month, and the personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income, was down 0.2% from October, to 5.5%.
The full report is available on the BEA website.
The growth rate in the third quarter was the fastest in two years12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It appears three is the charm when it comes to the nation's economy.The Commerce Department reports its third and final look at how things were going i...
Ford recalls model year 2017 Fusions
Stowed luggage may move into the passenger compartment12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 35 model year 2017 Ford Fusions manufactured September 27, 2016, to September 28, 2016.The left rear seat backs pivot p...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 35 model year 2017 Ford Fusions manufactured September 27, 2016, to September 28, 2016.
The left rear seat backs pivot pins may have been improperly welded. During a crash, the improper welds may fail, allowing any stowed luggage to move into the passenger compartment, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the left hand, second row seat back frame, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 9, 2017.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16S43.
Poppies International recalls pastry products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella``12/22/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Poppies International of Battleboro, N.C., is recalling pastry products made with custard powder that may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses...
Poppies International of Battleboro, N.C., is recalling pastry products made with custard powder that may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses or adverse health effects resulting from these events have been reported to date.
The recalled products sold through retail stores, can be identified by the following lot numbers which can be found on the side of each tub by the lid:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should immediately discontinue use of the product and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Heather Aycock at 252-442-4016 Monday through Friday between 9am-5pm (EST) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GAO report shows these garnishments are pushing seniors into poverty12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The crushing toll of student loan debt is a common problem plaguing today's Millennials. But it may surprise you to learn that a large number of retired Ba...
Details of the settlement have not yet been released12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Volkswagen has encountered another hefty toll on the dirty diesel highway, agreeing to pay $1 billion to fix or buy back about 80,000 VW, Audi, and Porsche...
Daily calorie intake is the same either way in the short-term, researchers say12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Consumers who want to lose weight or just control their blood sugar may often be plagued by decisions on what they should be eating or drinking at any give...
Carmakers getting more time to meet tougher fuel economy standards
A government agency says it is bowing to reality12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In a change of heart, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has agreed to push back the date that it will start imposing penalties on...
In a change of heart, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has agreed to push back the date that it will start imposing penalties on carmakers for failing to meet new fuel economy standards.
In response to pleas from several automotive companies and their advocacy groups, the government agency has agreed to hold the 2019 models to the new standard.
NHTSA said it is simply bowing to the reality that carmakers design their products well in advance. Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says it was the right move.
“In a month of political posturing by outgoing and incoming administrations, this action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adds a needed dose of reality to the conversation around fuel economy and emissions,” Nerad said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.
By delaying the penalties until the 2019 model year, Nerad says the agency is giving the auto industry some “much-needed breathing room” in their efforts to meet standards that are made more difficult to reach by the fact that fuel is reasonably inexpensive and expected to stay that way for at least a few years to come.
Low gas prices equal lower mileage ratings
Automakers have discovered that it is much harder to sell smaller, more fuel-efficient cars when gasoline prices are barely over $2 a gallon. Instead, consumers have been buying less-efficient trucks and SUVs.
An automaker's fuel economy rating is based on the cumulative mileage rating of its entire fleet. The more trucks and SUVs a company sells, the lower its rating.
As recently as August, NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly finalized fuel economy and pollution standards, sticking with the original deadline.
In extending its deadline, NHTSA also granted a request by carmakers for a way to clear up discrepancies between the two different mandates administered by the two separate government agencies.
The victims thought they were auditioning for jobs in the adult entertainment industry12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a consumer complaint against a man who allegedly carried out a scheme in which he posed as a woman...
Keep button batteries away from children this holiday season
Swallowed button batteries can have life-threatening effects, poison center officials warn12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Small items often go straight into the mouths of little ones. But while a swallowed crayon or penny may not necessarily be cause for concern, experts say a...
Small items often go straight into the mouths of little ones. But while a swallowed crayon or penny may not necessarily be cause for concern, experts say a swallowed button battery most certainly is.
Ahead of the holidays -- a time in which toys, greeting cards, games, and other gifts containing button batteries are commonly brought into households with children -- toxicologists at the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC) are warning adults to be aware that a swallowed button battery can have serious and life-threatening effects.
“During the holidays, we all feel stressed and busy, but if a button battery ingestion is even suspected, quick medical evaluation should be a priority,” said Donna Seger, M.D., medical director and executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center.
Button battery ingestion happens all too often, experts say. Each year, more than 2,800 children are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, which may be found in remote controls, calculators, watches, key fobs, flameless candles, musical greeting cards, flashing holiday jewelry, and decorations.
While most small batteries can pass through the digestive system without harm, poison center officials say harmful effects can occur when a button battery gets lodged in the esophagus. That’s because the human body is a conductor, and the battery itself produces electric current than will begin to burn through tissue and major blood vessels in the neck.
How can you tell if a child may have a button battery lodged in his or her esophagus? Signs include: complaints about chest pain or tightness, coughing, or in severe cases, bloody vomiting.
If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery, seek medical attention immediately. If a battery can be visualized on X-ray, doctors can remove it through an endoscopy. If the battery isn’t lodged in the esophagus, it may be allowed to pass through the stomach and intestines.
To keep kids safe, experts recommend keeping lithium battery-controlled devices out of reach of children. In case of an emergency, have the number for the toll-free Poison Help Line handy: 1-800-222-1222.
Online market research firm agrees to clean up its tracking practices
Turn Inc., continued tracking consumers who had opted out, FTC charged12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A company that tracks consumers on the internet has settled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it deceived consumers by tracking them online and t...
A company that tracks consumers on the internet has settled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it deceived consumers by tracking them online and through their mobile applications, even after consumers took steps to opt out of such tracking.
Turn Inc., of Redwood City, California, a company that enables sellers to target digital advertisements to consumers, said it "agreed to the order to avoid a lengthy and costly litigation process and to continue our single-minded focus on serving our global brand and agency customers."
In addition, the agency charged that Turn’s opt-out mechanism only applied to mobile browsers and did not block tailored ads on mobile applications as the company claimed.
“Turn tracked millions of consumers online and through mobile apps even if they had taken steps to block or limit tracking,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC’s order will ensure the company honors consumers’ privacy choices.”
The proposed FTC consent order bars Turn from misrepresenting the extent of its online tracking or the ability of users to limit or control the company’s use of their data. It also requires Turn to provide an effective opt-out for consumers who do not want their information used for targeted advertising and place a prominent hyperlink on its home page that takes consumers to a disclosure explaining what information the company collects and uses for targeted advertising.
Turn said in a statement on its website that it had ended the disputed practices in 2015 and grumped about the trouble and expense of responding to the FTC complaint.
"After a nearly two-year process and extended negotiations, we look forward to avoiding further distraction and expense so that we can continue to serve our customers. The settlement validates the steps we took early in 2015, when Turn terminated the partnership and ceased using the Verizon Wireless identifier," the company said.
Combining the two can help strengthen bones, ligaments, and tendons, study finds12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
You may laugh like a bowlful of Jello when you read this, but a new study finds that eating a gelatin supplement and adding a burst of intensive exercise c...
Obama permanently bans offshore drilling in Atlantic and Arctic areas
Proponents hope the move will be hard to overturn by future administration12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown of California penned a letter to President Obama asking him to step up measures to protect the West Coast from off...
Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown of California penned a letter to President Obama asking him to step up measures to protect the West Coast from offshore drilling. Although the POTUS had introduced a measure that would ban the practice off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington until 2022, Brown hoped that Obama would make the ban permanent to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and preserve the coastline.
While that particular topic has not yet been broached, Obama did take steps to reduce offshore drilling – but on the other side of the country. Acting jointly in a partnership with Canada, Obama has indefinitely blocked offshore drilling in 31 Atlantic canyons, according to NPR. The same action was taken in the U.S. Arctic waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and Canada is reportedly doing the same for all Arctic Canadian waters.
“Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are proud to launch actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity,” a White House press release states.
Obama was able to push through the action by citing a 1953 law, called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, that empowers the president to “withdraw U.S. waters from future oil and gas leasing,” according to Bloomberg. The total area affected by the mandate includes 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic and a combined 115 million acres in the Arctic.
Environmentalists have applauded the move, saying that the measure will help protect coastal residents in both the U.S. and Canada. However, members of the oil and gas industry are less than pleased with the decision and say that the permanency of the ban is a fiction.
“Blocking offshore exploration would weaken our national security, destroy good-paying jobs and could make energy less affordable for consumers. Fortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent ban, and we look forward to working with the new administration on fulfilling the will of American voters on energy production,” said Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute.
Moving away from fossil fuels
While a Republican-held Congress and the new administration of President-elect Trump could prove detrimental to the ban in the long-run, detractors say that the statute that Obama cited is not constructed for a reversal by the president. That means that untangling the move could potentially take years to make its way through the courts.
“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth. They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited,” the White House said in a statement.
“By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large scale oil and gas leasing production in the region – at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.”
Many ads show babies surrounded by soft bedding, sleeping in positions other than on their back12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
To protect babies from SIDS, it’s important that parents and caregivers place babies to sleep in a safe position and environment. In addition to putting ba...
Gas prices rising sharply in the Midwest
But the price in the most expensive states is actually going down12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Gasoline prices are still relatively low but are rising nationwide, at a time when they are normally headed lower.This week, prices in the Midwest have...
Gasoline prices are still relatively low but are rising nationwide, at a time when they are normally headed lower.
This week, prices in the Midwest have moved sharply higher, outpacing the increases in the rest of the country. In fact, some of the nation's most expensive states for gasoline have actually seen prices at the pump go down.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price for self-serve regular is $2.25 a gallon, up only three cents in the last week but 12 cents more than a month ago. Last year at this time, the national average price was just under $2 a gallon.
Sharp rise in the Midwest
In the Midwest, Michigan is seeing the largest increase in prices at the pump, with the statewide average rising nine cents a gallon, to $2.38, since yesterday. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy, Tweeted that a plunge in temperatures caused problems at the Exxon Mobil refinery near Joliet, Ill., sending spot gasoline prices higher in the region, particularly in Chicago.
The current statewide average price of gasoline in Illinois is $2.36 a gallon, up nine cents from a week ago.
As for the rest of the country, the rising price of oil is mostly responsible for the unseasonable rise in prices at the pump. There is still a glut of oil on the world market, but AAA reports oil prices are rising on speculators' expectation that OPEC's recent agreement curtailing production will reduce supplies in the future.
Falling prices on the West Coast
Motorists on the West Coast still pay some of the highest fuel prices in the nation. Hawaii, which is always the most expensive, leads at $2.95 a gallon. But elsewhere, western consumers have seen prices actually come down in recent days.
Motorists in Idaho are paying 18 cents a gallon less this week while prices have dropped eight cents a gallon in Nevada.
One reason for this is a surge in West Coast refinery output. The Energy Information Administration reports gasoline production in the region reached a one-month high of 1.6 million barrels a day, and inventories remain at a 15-week high.
The nation's cheapest fuel is still found in the South and Southeast. Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee all have statewide averages of $2.05 a gallon or less.
Researchers say cancer is especially 'financially toxic'12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Illness doesn't take just a toll on health, though that understandably is the primary focus.There is also a financial toll to getting sick, including a...
Sales of existing homes rise in November
The increase was the third in a row12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sales of previously-owned homes rose in November for the third time in three months, due largely to a sales surge in the Northeast.The National Associa...
Sales of previously-owned homes rose in November for the third time in three months, due largely to a sales surge in the Northeast.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- rose 0.7% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.61 million.
That's the highest sales pace since February 2007 and up 15.4% from the year before.
"The healthiest job market since the Great Recession and the anticipation of some buyers to close on a home before mortgage rates accurately rose from their historically low level have combined to drive sales higher in recent months," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Furthermore, it's no coincidence that home shoppers in the Northeast -- where price growth has been tame all year — had the most success last month."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $234,900, an increase of 6.8% from November 2015 and the 57th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
The median is the point at which half of the homes sold cost more and half cost less.
Total housing inventory at the end of last month dropped 8.0% to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale. That's down 9.3% from a year ago and represents 18 straight months of declines. Unsold inventory is at a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace -- down 0.3% from October.
"Existing housing supply at the beginning of the year was inadequate and is now even worse heading into 2017," Yun noted, adding, "Rental units are also seeing this shortage. As a result, both home prices and rents continue to far outstrip incomes in much of the country."
Sales by region
- Existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 8.0% last month to an annual rate of 810,000 and are now 15.7% above a year ago. The median price rose 3.3% from November 2015 to $263,000.
- Sales in the South were up 1.4% to an annual rate of 2.22 million for a year-over-year surge of 11.6%. The median price was $206,900 -- up 9.2% from a year ago.
- In the Midwest, sales dropped 2.2% to an annual rate of 1.33 million, but the numbers are still up 18.8% from the same month last year. The median price advanced 6.5% from a year earlier to $206,900.
- Sales of previously-owned homes dipped 1.6% in the West to an annual rate of 1.25 million in November, although they're up 19.0% from a year ago. The median price shot 8.6% higher from a year earlier -- to $345,400.
Mortgage applications post first gain since November
Contract interest rates are the highest in more than two years12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mortgage applications have risen for the first time in four weeks.After posting three straight declines, applications were up 2.5% in the week ending D...
Mortgage applications have risen for the first time in four weeks.
After posting three straight declines, applications were up 2.5% in the week ending December 16, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The average loan size for purchase applications was $312,000 -- its second-highest survey level.
The Refinance Index jumped 3% from the previous week, with the refinance share of mortgage activity rising to 57.9% of total applications from 57.2% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 6.5% of total applications -- its highest level since February 2016. The average loan size for purchase applications reached its second-highest survey level at $312,000.
The FHA share of total applications slipped to 11.5% from 11.6% the prior week, the VA share inched up to 12.0% from 11.9%, and the USDA share of total applications was 0.8%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose 13 basis points -- from 4.28% to 4.41 % -- its highest level since May 2014, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) advanced increased to its highest level since April 2014 -- 4.36%, from 4.29% -- with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.24 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA jumped 13 basis points to 4.15%, its highest level since April 2014, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs went from 3.52% to 3.64%, the highest level since January 2014, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs surged 17 basis points to 3.45%, its highest level since September 2013, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Aria Child recalls strollers
A gap in the folding side hinge can pinch a caregiver’s hand12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Aria Child Inc. of Dedham, Mass., is recalling about 29,000 gb Qbit lightweight strollers.A gap in the stroller’s folding side hinge can pinch a caregi...
Aria Child Inc. of Dedham, Mass., is recalling about 29,000 gb Qbit lightweight strollers.
A gap in the stroller’s folding side hinge can pinch a caregiver’s hand during unfolding, posing a laceration hazard. In addition, the stroller can fold unexpectedly during use, posing an injury and fall hazard to the caregiver and child.
The firm has received five reports of consumers being pinched by the stroller hinge mechanism, resulting in four consumers needing stitches for cuts.
In addition, there were 71 reports of the stroller unexpectedly folding during use, resulting in 12 minor bumps or bruises to a child or caregiver and one fractured wrist and elbow to an adult due to a fall.
This recall involves the gb Qbit lightweight stroller for children up to 50 pounds. The recalled strollers have 4 sets of two wheels, a five-point harnessed restraint system, a full-sized reclining seat, a storage basket, a removable cup holder and a travel storage bag. They can also be used as a travel system with infant carriers.
The strollers are mostly black with an accent color. The “gb” red box logo is printed on the harness and on both sides of the stroller legs and “Qbit” is printed in white on the stroller legs.
The model number and date of manufacture are printed on a sticker on the rear leg of the stroller, directly above the wheels, next to the storage basket.
The strollers, manufactured in China, were sold at Babies R US and other retail stores nationwide and Albeebaby.com, Amazon.com, Dmartstores.com, Medbroad.com and other online retailers from May 2015, through November 2016, for about $180.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers and contact Aria Child for a free replacement stroller.
Consumers may contact Aria Child toll-free at 888-591-5540 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.ariachild.com and click on “Qbit Lightweight Stroller Voluntary Recall Information” for more information.
Williams-Sonoma recalls Meyer Lemon Poppy Quick Bread
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Williams-Sonoma of San Francisco, Calif., is recalling limited quantities of Williams-Sonoma Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread.The product may be cont...
Williams-Sonoma of San Francisco, Calif., is recalling limited quantities of Williams-Sonoma Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
The following product, shipped to Williams-Sonoma retail stores nationwide from August 2016-present, is being recalled:
- Williams-Sonoma Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread, NET WT. 1-LB. 2-OZ, Packaged in a yellow paper bag, SKU 7839186 (located on price sticker), BEST BY: JAN2018 02118:A1 OR JAN2018 02018:A1 (located on the back flap)
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discontinue use and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company by email at email@example.com or phone at 1-844-526-4666, 7am-midnight (ET) daily.
Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe vehicles recalled
An accessory trailer hitch wiring harness may malfunction12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 5,669 model year 2016-2017 Tucsons manufactured May 19, 2015, to November 14, 2016, and 2017 Santa Fe vehicles manufactu...
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 5,669 model year 2016-2017 Tucsons manufactured May 19, 2015, to November 14, 2016, and 2017 Santa Fe vehicles manufactured November 28, 2015, to November 14, 2016.
The affected vehicles may be equipped with an accessory trailer hitch wiring harness that, due to a malfunction of the tow hitch module, may result, in the trailer brake lights being constantly illuminated. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, " Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment."
If the trailer brake lights stay illuminated while being used, other drivers may be confused, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected accessory trailer hitch wiring harnesses, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 13, 2017.
Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 153.
Houdini Inc. recalls Blue Cheese Savory Twists
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/21/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Houdini Inc. of Fullerton, Calif., is recalling limited quantities of its 7-oz. Boxes of Blue Cheese Savory Twists.The products may be contaminated wit...
Houdini Inc. of Fullerton, Calif., is recalling limited quantities of its 7-oz. Boxes of Blue Cheese Savory Twists.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No injuries or illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products are being recalled:
A limited quantity of the recalled products was distributed nationwide to consumers through Houdini Inc.’s direct to consumer division Wine Country Gift Baskets (catalog / internet) and Houdini Inc,’s wholesale division from September 1, 2016, to December 12, 2016.
What to do
Consumers with questions concerning this recall may contact Houdini customer care at 866-712-5910 Monday – Friday between 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (PST).
Social media has mobilized activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
“If you do not like what you’re seeing, please share it,” Kevin Gilbert says, narrating a video he filmed with his...
1.1 million Jeeps and other models have already been recalled12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal safety regulators are opening an investigation into a "rollaway" problem that affects newer Ram pickups and Dodge SUVs. A similar issue with Jeep G...
They are urging the FTC to claw back profits, saying fines are meaningless to Google12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
VW reaches deal with Canadian diesel owners
The company will pay C$2.1 billion to buy back 105,000 polluting diesel vehicles12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
U.S. consumers have expressed their fair share of outrage over Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Since last September, when news first broke on the defeat de...
U.S. consumers have expressed their fair share of outrage over Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Since last September, when news first broke on the defeat devices, the company has faced a barrage of litigation from all sides.
In October, a court approved the company’s $15 billion settlement in the U.S. that covered consumers who bought or leased Volkswagen or Audi 2.0-liter TDI “clean diesel” cars. While the U.S. is obviously not the only country that Volkswagen must worry about when it comes to making reparations, the company made progress by recently reaching an agreement with our neighbors to the north.
Reuters reports that Volkswagen has agreed to a C$2.1 billion agreement with Canadian diesel owners. The deal, which was struck on Monday, will buy back approximately 105,000 polluting diesel vehicles in the country.
Additionally, Volkswagen will pay a C$15 million civil administrative monetary penalty connected to the buyback. Approval hearings for the full deal are scheduled to be held in two Canadian courts in March. Reports suggest that most owners of affected vehicles should receive anywhere from C$5,100 to C$5,950 in compensation on top of the estimated value of their vehicle if they choose to turn it in.
“Volkswagen’s primary goal has always been to ensure our Canadian customers are treated fairly, and we believe that this proposed resolution achieves this aim,” said Maria Strenstroem, CEO and President of Volkswagen Group Canada.
Volkswagen is expected to announce a deal in the near future that also addresses 80,000 polluting 3.0-liter vehicles in the U.S., with experts saying that the company may incur an additional $200 million in fines based on the estimated amount of diesel pollution. That’s a small drop in the bucket, though, considering that the company may face billions in fines going forward if it is found guilty in federal and state investigations.
Feedback can boost job fulfillment, survey finds12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
A recent survey by Clutch found that Millennials are more likely than GenXers or Boomers to quit their job in the next six months and revealed that it’s a...
An attorneys general coalition contacted the employers and urged them to make the change12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Six major retailers have agreed to stop using "on-call" shift scheduling following an investigation by a multi-state coalition of attorneys general, who sa...
Military Credit Services didn't properly disclose loan costs, feds charge
It's the CFPB's second action against the company12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Military Credit Services LLC is in trouble again. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued the company today for making loans with improper dis...
Military Credit Services LLC is in trouble again. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued the company today for making loans with improper disclosures.
The CFPB, along with the states of North Carolina and Virginia, sued the company in May 2014 for similar violations, and the company was ordered to revise its contract disclosures in 2015. In today’s action, the CFPB ordered the company to ensure that its contracts comply with the law. It also required the company to hire an independent consultant to review its practices and to pay a $200,000 civil penalty.
“Today’s action sends a clear message that lenders cannot ignore their responsibilities under the law,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This is the Consumer Bureau’s second action against Military Credit Services for improper disclosures. We are imposing further penalties, and we will continue to closely monitor their compliance in the future.”
Military Credit Services is a Virginia-based company that extends credit to consumers through retailers nationwide and, through a commonly owned company, collects debts owed under the credit contracts.
The CFPB found the company violated federal law by failing to properly disclose the terms of preauthorized transfers and interest rates on the loans it offered. Without those legally required disclosures, consumers cannot make informed decisions about important financial decisions they face.
Under the order released today, Military Credit Services is required to:
- Ensure that its contracts comply with applicable laws.
- Hire an independent consultant with specialized experience in consumer-finance compliance to conduct an independent review of the company’s issuance and servicing of credit.
- Pay $200,000 to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
Consumers will no longer be able to earn miles for one company by flying with the other12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Alaska Airlines’ merger with Virgin America has done a fair job of shaking up the airline industry. Not only is the combined company now the fifth-largest...
Pew report finds consumers still hit by excessive overdraft fees
Study urges regulators to act12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A report by the Pew Research Center has found that, despite reforms to the financial services industry, consumers are still getting hit with overdraft char...
A report by the Pew Research Center has found that, despite reforms to the financial services industry, consumers are still getting hit with overdraft charges.
The report says these charges can occur on debit transactions, checks, and ATM withdrawals, with the consumer usually oblivious to the issue until a couple of days later. By then, he or she may have incurred a series of overdraft charges of up to $35 each.
“Further, the cost of overdraft programs is borne disproportionately by a small share of financially vulnerable consumers,” the authors write. “According to research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), less than one-fifth of account-holders – those who incur three or more overdrafts per year – pay more than 90% of all overdraft fees.”
Service charges have doubled
Despite changes in the law, which now require consumers to “opt-in” for banks' overdraft coverage programs, Pew researchers found service charges on deposit accounts, which include overdraft and NFS fees, have more than doubled while interest income has gone down over the last three decades.
Researchers also say most of the largest U.S. banks with consumer checking accounts charge as much as $35 each time an overdraft occurs.
“Many of the largest U.S. banks with consumer checking accounts fail the meet Pew's recommended Best Practices for overdraft programs,” the authors write. “More than 40% of these banks process transactions from largest to smallest by dollar amount, which can reduce the account balance more quickly and result in overdrafts [rather] than other methods, such as posting transaction chronologically.”
More regulatory oversight
Pew urged regulators to take another look at how banks administer overdraft fees, making sure they are completely transparent and designed for the occasional, accidental overdraft.
In an analysis of the current policies employed by 45 banks, Pew found that 42 of them, rather than declining a consumer's purchase, allows the consumer to “opt-in” to overdraft coverage, whereby the bank covers the purchase for which there are no funds, but charges a fee for that service.
All 45 of the banks in the study allow consumers to rack up at least $90 in fees each day. Many, the study found, allowed much higher daily fees.
The report concludes that these practices will persist unless regulators act, noting that it is clear that fees have become an ever-larger part of banks' revenue.
Consumers' best protection against overdraft fees is to refuse to “opt-in” to a bank's overdraft coverage. Consumers will still be hit with a fee when they write checks for more than is in their accounts, but debit purchases will be declined at the point of sale.
Study suggests loosening the age limits on kidney donors
Donors over 65 are only accepted on case-by-case basis12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you need a kidney transplant, you have to wait for a donor who has a healthy organ and is a good match.Oh yeah, one other thing. The donor needs to...
If you need a kidney transplant, you have to wait for a donor who has a healthy organ and is a good match.
Oh yeah, one other thing. The donor needs to be a certain age. Currently, organs from donors older than 65 are often turned down and are only accepted on a case-by-case basis.
But now a new study suggests these age limits on donors prevent life-saving kidneys from getting to patients who need them. Writing in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers argue that even kidneys from 80 year-old donors can function for years.
The researchers say kidneys from older people are routinely rejected because of age. But with a current shortage of available organs, they say it's time to rethink that age limit.
The study, conducted in Italy, examined information on more than 600 kidney transplants in which the donor was beyond the usual age cut-off. Some were 60 years-old or older, while others were between the ages of 50 and 59 but had certain risk factors.
Comparable survival rates
They performed a follow-up nearly five years later and found the survival rates were comparable among all age groups, even those over 80. However, some of the patients that received the oldest kidneys had undergone second transplants.
“The results of this study support the use of extended criteria donors, even donors older than 80 years, but they have to be accurately selected and managed with dedicated protocols,” the authors write.
A kidney transplant is an option when a patient's kidneys fail. The other option is dialysis. The National Kidney Foundation says patients often opt for the transplant because they feel it affords them greater freedom and quality of life.
Patients receiving a transplanted kidney may receive one from a deceased donor or from a family member, since it is possible to survive with a single kidney.
The National Kidney Foundation says the chances a transplanted kidney will function properly in the recipient's body are high – between 89% and 95%. It says success rates have improved in recent years.
We have a checklist of things you need to do12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
While the deadline for filing your 2016 federal income return is still several months off, there are some things you should be doing now in preparation. ...
Consumers see cash as defense against holiday hackers
But survey shows plastic remains the payment of choice12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If more consumers doing last minute Christmas shopping are paying with cash, it could mean they are trying to stick to their budget in the final shopping f...
If more consumers doing last minute Christmas shopping are paying with cash, it could mean they are trying to stick to their budget in the final shopping frenzy.
Or, it could be a defensive move, an effort to prevent getting caught up in a retailer's data breach.
Thales, an IT and cybersecurity firm, reports most consumers would change their shopping behavior in some ways if they knew a particular retailer had suffered a system hack. While 20% of consumers in a Thales survey said they would avoid shopping at the store, the majority – 55% – said they would continue shopping at the retailer but would pay using cash.
The return to old fashioned currency bucks the recent trend of electronic payments that has caused some to speculate on the eventual demise of cash. But the Thales survey makes clear that consumers view cash as a firewall against their data being compromised.
Still using plastic
That's not to say that consumers have abandoned electronic payments. Far from it. The survey found that more than 90% of holiday shoppers will use a credit card, debit card, or mobile wallet to pay for at least some of their purchases.
And while mobile wallet use is on the rise, it has a long way to go to catch up with plastic, and even cash. Only 16% of shoppers said they planned to pay with their smartphones this holiday season.
In a promising sign for consumers' financial health, the survey found more shoppers plan to use debit cards and cash over credit cards. Since debit card purchases come directly out of a consumer's bank account, it suggests there could be less of a shopping hangover when credit card bills arrive in January.
Cash is still an important tool
Cash might not be king, but Jose Diaz, director of payment strategy at Thales e-Security, says it remains an important tool for consumers, not only for budgeting but in protecting against theft.
"These survey results offer a stark reminder that a serious data breach could stop many consumers from shopping at a merchant's store or at the very least move them back to cash payments," Diaz said.
As for the future, Diaz predicts greater use of mobile for both browsing and buying during the holidays. In the next five years, he also sees a sharp rise in the use of mobile wallets.
Tropical Fruit Supreme, Pineapple Nut Delight, and Pistachio Crème recalled
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ron’s Home Style Foods is recalling Tropical Fruit Supreme, Pineapple Nut Delight, and Pistachio Crème.The products may be contaminated with Salmonella...
Ron’s Home Style Foods is recalling Tropical Fruit Supreme, Pineapple Nut Delight, and Pistachio Crème.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
Tropical Fruit Supreme, Pineapple Nut Delight, and Pistachio Crème were distributed in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma to foodservice distributors and retail supermarkets.
The following products, packaged in plastic containers and shipped to foodservice distributors and retail supermarkets in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at (800) 856-3131, M-F 8am-4pm CST.
Model year 2017 Chevy Malibus with air bag issue recalled
The air bag inflator could separate and propel air bag debris into the cabin12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
General Motors is recalling 113 model year 2017 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured on November 10, 2016.The right-hand rear side air bag inflator manifold...
General Motors is recalling 113 model year 2017 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured on November 10, 2016.
The right-hand rear side air bag inflator manifold may have insufficient welds which could cause the inflator to separate and propel air bag debris into the cabin during a crash.
In addition, the inflator could fail to function during a crash, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear side air bag modules, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 16146.
Toyota recalls model year 86 vehicles
It may possible to remove the key in gear positions other than “Park.”12/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor North America is recalling 94 model year 2017 Toyota 86 vehicles.Connectors for the automatic transmission key interlock may not have been...
Toyota Motor North America is recalling 94 model year 2017 Toyota 86 vehicles.
Connectors for the automatic transmission key interlock may not have been connected during pre‐delivery service prior to sale. If this was not connected, it is possible to remove the key in gear positions other than “Park,” and could increase the risk of vehicle roll-away and a crash. Models with a key fob and ignition button are not affected.
What to do
Toyota will contact all known owners of the recalled vehicles by first class mail starting in January and instruct them to return the vehicle to a Toyota dealer to have the ignition key interlock function confirmed and -- if necessary -- the delivery mode connector will be connected at no charge.
Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1‐800‐331‐4331.
It often comes down to a lack of competition12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
U.S. consumers spent $457 billion on prescription drugs in 2015, as the cost of medicine became one of the top consumer issues.The issue isn't going aw...
Parents are more lax about their children's safety when traveling, poll finds
Researchers found that many common safety precautions were neglected on family trips12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s a general rule that safety always comes first when you’re a parent. Making sure your little one is strapped in during car trips and taking all the rig...
It’s a general rule that safety always comes first when you’re a parent. Making sure your little one is strapped in during car trips and taking all the right medicine as part of the daily routine becomes second nature to most, but the results of a new poll show that this vigilance seems to take a break when families are on vacation.
Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a poll and found that parents tended to be much more lax about safety when traveling for the holidays. They stress that it is just as important for parents to be attentive to safety on trips as they would be at home.
"Parents are typically vigilant about safety measures, making sure toddlers are always in car seats and that medications and cleaning supplies are locked up or out of reach. But they may be less fastidious while on vacation, leaving medications in open suitcases or on hotel tables or not childproofing a relative's house," said Sarah Clark, M.P.H. and the poll’s co-director.
Neglecting safety precautions
The researchers found that car safety was particularly lacking for small children while traveling, especially when families decided to take a taxi or call for a pick-up on a ride-sharing app. Fifteen percent of parents who answered the poll said they decided not to use a car seat for their toddler on every car ride of a trip.
"Car crashes are a leading cause of injury and death among toddlers, which is why it's critical that parents plan ahead to make sure their child is properly restrained during every car ride on vacation. Planning for car seats can be inconvenient in certain destinations, but going without is never worth the risk," said Clark.
Additionally, the researchers say that 25% of parents weren’t careful about how they stored certain medications while traveling, with many just leaving them in open suitcases where a child could easily get to them. Thirty-three percent also said they didn’t properly secure cleaning supplies or other dangerous items when staying in a hotel, and another 33% said they neglected to check the hot water temperature where they were staying.
"Traveling with a toddler can be a daunting task. Many parents spend quite a bit of time planning ahead to avoid meltdowns by scheduling days around naps and packing items that will keep their kids entertained. It's just as important that parents plan for measures to keep kids safe on the road," said Clark.
In order to keep children safe while traveling, Clark and her fellow researchers have made several suggestions that parents should consider. They include:
- Bringing a car seat or renting one while traveling;
- Asking family, friends, or hosts to store medication, cleaning supplies, or other dangerous substances out of reach;
- Packing portable safety devices, such as cabinet latches or baby gates to use as barriers; and
- Conducting a thorough review of any place the family is staying for potential safety hazards;
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has published the full report here.
Researchers say good taste isn't the cause of weight gain
Palatable tastes don't drive long-term overeating, study finds12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
While we may be more likely to overindulge in tasty food such as cookies or chips, new research suggests that one's preference for good-tasting food doesn'...
While we may be more likely to overindulge in tasty food such as cookies or chips, new research suggests that one's preference for good-tasting food doesn't in and of itself lead to weight gain.
Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center recently found that good taste does play a role in determining what we choose to eat, but it doesn't determine how much we eat over the long-term.
“Most people think that good-tasting food causes obesity, but that is not the case,” said the study’s lead author Michael Tordoff, PhD, a physiological psychologist at Monell.
Previous studies have suggested that overeating good-tasting food is what causes laboratory rodents to become obese, but Tordoff and his colleagues wanted to find out if taste itself is what drives overeating. As it turns out, liking food that tastes good isn't what leads to excessive weight gain.
Role of taste
In a new study involving mice, the researchers examined the role of taste in driving overeating. They found that having a fondness for food with high sugar and fat content doesn't necessarily cause weight gain and obesity.
After establishing that mice strongly prefer food with nonnutritive sweet or oily tastes, the investigators fed mice one of three diets: the first group was fed plain rodent chow, the second group got chow with added sucralose, and the third group was fed rodent chow with added mineral oil.
At the end of six weeks, the researchers found that the groups fed the sweet or oily chow were no heavier or fatter than the animals fed the plain chow. The team ultimately concluded that taste alone doesn’t drive overeating and weight gain.
“Even though we gave mice delicious diets over a prolonged period, they did not gain excess weight. People say that ‘if a food is good-tasting it must be bad for you,’ but our findings suggest this is not the case." Tordoff said, adding that "it should be possible to create foods that are both healthy and good-tasting."
The findings are published online in the journal Physiology & Behavior.
African scammers netted tens of millions of dollars by defrauding vulnerable consumers12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Seven individuals from Nigeria and South Africa have pleaded guilty to participating in a large-scale international online fraud conspiracy that victimized...
Black-box warning will no longer be required after study finds reduced risk of side effects12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Pfizer's quit-smoking drug Chantix has had good years and bad years. But it's closing 2016 on a high note, with the FDA lifting the requirement that the dr...
Users of the original app will still be able to access their archive of videos12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Back in October, Twitter started making some major cuts to try to minimize costs. It laid off around 9% of its workforce and announced that it would be dis...
New survey finds that Millennials want bucket list experiences, not just destinations12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Positive experiences can bring about feelings of gratitude, and feelings of gratitude can spark higher life satisfaction. These were the conclusions of a r...
Defendants allegedly used bogus copyright suits to extort money from victims12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal indictments charge two attorneys with running a scheme that victimized consumers who had supposedly downloaded pornographic movies from file-sharin...
Researchers renew concern over teens' use of e-cigarettes
While conceding the risks are less than cigarettes, they worry about the increased number of users12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The U.S. Surgeon General recently warned that American teens are risking their health with their increasing use of cigarettes.Now, researchers at Texas...
The U.S. Surgeon General recently warned that American teens are risking their health with their increasing use of cigarettes.
Now, researchers at Texas A&M University are echoing that concern after drilling deeper into the Surgeon General's report.
They point to the very rapid growth in e-cigarette use between 2010 and 2015. By last year, surveys showed that 40% of high school students had tried an e-cigarette at least once and 16% had used one in the past 30 days.
The only saving grace, says Amy Fairchild, associate dean of academic affairs at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, is teens appear to be smoking fewer cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in November 2015 that teen use of cigarettes had hit an all-time low.
“The consequences of combustible tobacco use are well known and serious, while e-cigarettes—while not risk free—represent a far lesser harm,” she said.
Where are teens getting e-cigarettes?
A concern, however, is the easy access teens appear to have to e-cigarettes. When they first hit the market a few years ago, they were completely unregulated. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authority to regulate them and has set age limits on their purchase.
The FDA has set the age limit at 18, while a few states, such as California, have set higher age limits on sales. But researchers say that doesn't seem to be stopping very young teens – those in middle school – from obtaining the devices.
Fairchild suggests increasing the tax on e-cigarettes – making them more expensive – as a way to deter use by young people.
“Kids are extremely price sensitive,” she said. “There is evidence to suggest that you can tax e-cigarettes and other less risky smokeless products out of their hands. At the same time, if the tax is lower than for combustible cigarettes, current smokers aren’t also stripped of a financial incentive to switch to reduced risk products.”
While e-cigarettes have fewer toxic chemicals than tobacco, but they do contain chemicals, and Fairchild says there is concern that we don't have a complete picture of the potential harm they could do.
But the effects of the nicotine these devices contain is pretty well known. Fairchild says nicotine can harm brains that are still developing, meaning anyone under age 25 should steer clear of it.
In rating, Toyota and the Honda CR-V come out on top12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There are many ways for consumers to judge cars before buying them. Until gasoline prices plunged a couple of years ago, fuel economy was a major considera...
Automaker will begin test them on Michigan highways12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
No sooner had Michigan approved legislation to legalize autonomous vehicle testing and deployment on state roadways than General Motors (GM) announced it w...
Quoted an annual percentage rate that was misleading, complaint alleges12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Pawn shops are often presented as an alternative to expensive payday loans, but that doesn't mean you don't have to be careful. Case in point: the Consumer...
Survey finds more bosses will be giving bonuses this year
That little something extra can take many forms12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Here's something to put a little ho-ho-ho in your holiday: A new survey from outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas finds an improved econom...
Here's something to put a little ho-ho-ho in your holiday: A new survey from outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas finds an improved economy and corporate profits will work their way down to the employee level.
In other words -- BONUSES.
The survey of roughly 100 human resources execs in November found 66% indicating that their companies will be awarding some type of year-end bonus/gift. That's 16% more than those who said the same last year.
And while 30% said there will be no year-end award of any type, that's down 14% from 2015.
“The economy has been steadily improving since the Great Recession ended in 2010. This last year was no exception,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “As it continues to improve, employers will have to rely increasingly on bonuses and other perks to hold onto valuable employees.”
There are bonuses and bonuses
Challenger points out that most workers don't enjoy the type of five- and six-figure bonuses lavished upon Wall Street bankers. “For the vast majority of workers, three and sometimes four figures are likely to be the standard,” he said, adding, “Some may not even get a cash award, but instead receive a gift card, gift basket or some other type of material object. Our survey shows that the structure of the bonus or gift varies widely.”
According to the survey, 15% of employers provide a non-monetary gift to all employees, such as a gift basket or extra vacation day. Another 11% plan to give employees a small monetary award of $100 or less.
At the same time, about 40% give larger monetary awards that vary year-to-year and worker-to-worker. These can be based on the overall performance of the company, the performance of the individual, or some combination of the two.
Why the increase?
A major factor fueling year-end bonuses is the fact that after-tax corporate profits steadily increased throughout the year, after falling to a 17-quarter low to close out 2015.
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show third-quarter profits of nearly $1.7 trillion -- were up 5.2% from the same period a year ago.
With profits on the rise, about 18% of survey respondents said their companies were upping the amount of year-end bonuses. Still, most employers (73%) plan to keep bonus levels unchanged from last year.
“Despite the lack of six-figure Wall Street-like bonuses,” Challenger said, “most employees still appreciate the year-end bonus. Mostly, they want to know that their hard work is recognized and appreciated.”
Airline on-time performance in October equal to the month before
Domestic tarmac delays were kept to a minimum12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
October was a pretty good month for airlines in terms of the on-time arrival rate.The carriers reported a rate of 85.5%, according the the Department o...
October was a pretty good month for airlines in terms of the on-time arrival rate.
The carriers reported a rate of 85.5%, according the the Department of Transportation (DOT) -- the same as the month before, but down 1.5% from the rate achieved a year earlier.
Cancellations were a different story, with the reporting airlines scratching 1.0% of their scheduled domestic flights in October -- up 0.7% from September and 0.5% from October 2015.
In addition, there were just two tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.
Both extended tarmac delays are being investigated by the DOT.
The DOT's consumer report also includes information on chronically delayed flights and the causes of flight delays, as well as a tally of aviation service complaints regarding issues including problems with baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, and disability.
The complete report may be found on the DOT website.
Old Dutch recalls various flavored potato chip products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Old Dutch Foods of St. Paul, Minn., is recalling a limited number of flavored potato chip and tortilla chip products.The products may be contaminated w...
Old Dutch Foods of St. Paul, Minn., is recalling a limited number of flavored potato chip and tortilla chip products.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported.
Product was distributed nationwide through grocery and other retail stores.
The following products, distributed nationwide through grocery and other retail stores, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of them immediately.
Consumers may contact Old Dutch Foods consumer care toll free at 1-877-228-2273 between 9:00am and 5:00pm (CST).
H-E-B recalls raw shelled pistachios
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
H-E-B is recalling both bulk and packaged raw shelled pistachios that may be contaminated with Salmonella.There have been no reports of illness to date...
H-E-B is recalling both bulk and packaged raw shelled pistachios that may be contaminated with Salmonella.
There have been no reports of illness to date and all product has been removed from stores.
The following products, sold in H-E-B and Central Market Texas stores, are being recalled:
The recalled products come in prepackaged plastic containers containing raw pistachios with labels reading Shelled Pistachios or Central Market Shelled Pistachios, as well as pistachios found in the bulk section with SunRidge Farms labels reading: Women’s Vitality Mix, Pistachio Nuts and Dark Chocolate Pistachios.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions or concerns may contact H-E-B customer service at 1-855-432-4438, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CST).
An early case is a rare victory in a slow system12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Pelvic mesh, or trans-vaginal mesh, the controversial medical device made famous by those late-night infomercials that personal injury attorneys use to see...
CarMax and other dealers promise not to do it again. Not enough, Congresswoman argues12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
CarMax Inc. and two other major car dealers have admitted they sold used cars with unrepaired safety recalls despite touting the supposed rigor with which...
The dollar is strong and the attractions are numerous. What are you waiting for?12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
With the strength of the United States dollar, Europe and Great Britain are affordable travel destinations right now. Canada, with an even better exchange...
The rules on safety, health, environmental, and financial issues have been "devastating," House Freedom Caucus says12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Cigar regulations, transgender bathrooms, and alternative fuels are just a few of the least favorite things on a list put together by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-...
Insurance companies are offering more products to provide protection12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The latest Yahoo revelation that hackers compromised a billion email accounts back in 2013 just underscores the dangers of having any information stored on...
Rate of infants born with opioid withdrawal has risen dramatically in rural areas
New study suggests more support is needed for opioid addicted moms in rural areas12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
A new study suggests that the number of infants born affected by opioids is rising faster in rural communities than in cities. Findings from the study were...
A new study suggests that the number of infants born affected by opioids is rising faster in rural communities than in cities. Findings from the study were published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.
After tracking newborns treated for opioid-related issues for over a decade, researchers found that there has been a dramatic spike in the number of opioid-related complications among rural pregnant women and their babies.
The rate of newborns diagnosed with “neonatal abstinence syndrome” (NAS), a condition marked by withdrawal symptoms as a result of being exposed to opioids in utero, has risen nearly 80% more in rural areas compared to urban areas, the study found.
Focusing on rural communities
The researchers found that rate of infants born dependent on opioids grew from 1.2 cases per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 7.5 cases per hospital births in 2013 in rural areas. During the same year, but in urban areas, the rate of NAS cases rose from 1.4 per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 4.8 per 1,000 hospital births in 2013.
The findings “highlight a need to focus on the unique needs of rural communities and to understand why the opioid epidemic has disproportionately affected rural communities,” said study co-author Dr. Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Newborns with NAS are more likely to have seizures, low birth weight, and breathing, sleeping, and feeding problems. These symptoms are “manifested by central nervous system irritability, autonomic overreactivity, and gastrointestinal tract dysfunction,” according to the CDC.
Supporting addicted moms
In addition to geographical disparities in rates of NAS, the findings revealed a difference in the amount of support available to rural infants and mothers compared to their urban counterparts.
While urban mothers and infants typically have wider access to treatment and addiction services, the study found that rural moms and infants with opioid-related diagnoses were more likely to be from lower-income families, have public insurance, and be transferred to another hospital following delivery.
In order to improve outcomes for newborns affected by NAS, doctors will “need to consider what kind of support moms with opioid disorders have in rural communities,” says lead author and Mott pediatrician Nicole Villapiano, M.D.
“If we can provide resources to the areas that need them the most, we can do more on the frontlines to address the opioid crisis for our most vulnerable patients,” she added
Villapiano suggested two ways of boosting support for rural moms with opioid addiction: first, increasing the number of rural doctors authorized to prescribe treatment drugs like buprenorphine. Second, expanding rural mental health and substance abuse services.
If a baby is born with symptoms of opioid withdrawal, the study's authors note that it's imperative that community hospitals be adequately staffed and equipped with the resources needed to treat both mothers and infants.
What parents can do to raise a smart consumer
Kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to be smart shoppers, study finds12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
As a parent, you may wonder what the future holds for your child. While there’s no crystal ball that can tell you what kind of career your son or daughter...
As a parent, you may wonder what the future holds for your child. While there’s no crystal ball that can tell you what kind of career your son or daughter will have, you might be able to determine whether they’ll grow up to be a smart shopper.
A new study finds that the fate of kids’ future shopping habits may rest in the hands of his or her parents. Researchers found that a child's parents -- not other adults or organizations, such as churches -- have the biggest impact on the way kids interact with the world around them in adulthood.
To raise a smart and informed consumer, parents may simply need to pick the right parenting style. In an analysis of data from 73 studies nationwide, researchers found that kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to consume healthier foods, make safer choices, and enter adulthood armed with the skills and attitudes needed to be smart consumers.
Parenting style differences
To find out which parenting styles were most effective in teaching kids how to be wise shoppers, the study authors examined the effects of four basic parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, neglecting, and indulgent.
Authoritative parenting was found to produce the best outcomes. An authoritative parent tells children what they want them to do while also explaining why, which the researchers describe as “restrictive” and “warm” communication. Kids raised by authoritative parents are usually expected to act maturely and follow family rules but are also allowed a bit of autonomy.
Authoritarian parents are restrictive too, but they differ from authoritative parents in terms of warmth. These parents are "more likely to tell a child what to do and not explain why," explained researcher Les Carlson, a professor of marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Neglecting parents tend to be hands-off, offering little guidance for their children’s development and monitoring activities only to a limited extent. The final parenting style studied was the indulgent parenting style, in which parents are lenient and kids are given adult rights without being expected to take on responsibilities.
Restrictions are important
Parents are often more permissive with their children these days, but the researchers say there’s something to be said for restrictions. The meta-analysis found that kids with restrictive parents were less likely to engage in “negative consumer socialization outcomes” such as cyberbullying, theft, vandalism, drug use, and feelings of having an unattractive body shape.
“We found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is okay to be restrictive with kids," Carlson said in a statement. He added that it’s also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important.
To put your child on track towards becoming a smart consumer, Carlson suggests doing activities such as shopping together. Parents can take their child shopping and guide them in decisions, or talk to them about why they’re skeptical of advertising they may see in a store.
Teaching children how to filter information in this way can help them grow up to become informed consumers, he says.
The study has been published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
The health drink company allegedly misled 'affiliates' about the amount of money they could make12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Back in August of 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acted against the Vemma Nutrition Company, alleging that it was luring college students and othe...
They could be more important since the Fed is hiking rates12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Now that the Federal Reserve has hiked its short-term interest rate for only the second time in a decade, the interest rate on your credit card balance is...
Is Wall Street getting ahead of itself?
Some economists suggest the pace of economic growth will remain slow12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Since the day after election day, Wall Street has been on a tear, with the major stock averages moving into record territory day after day.Analysts say...
Since the day after election day, Wall Street has been on a tear, with the major stock averages moving into record territory day after day.
Analysts say much of the advance has been due to a change in economic outlook. A Trump administration is expected to spend more on infrastructure and lower the corporate tax rate. That, in turn, is expected to spur economic growth.
Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin is on record predicting sustained economic growth of 3% or more.
But the euphoria may be a bit premature, some analysts caution. The stock market, specifically, has already priced in the economic growth that has yet to be achieved. And the economic advancement might not be as easy as it sounds.
John Connaughton, an economist at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte takes a somewhat contrarian view. He expects the same slow pace of economic growth to continue for a while.
“During the first half of 2016, the North Carolina economy seemed to experience slower growth than during the previous 18 months,” he said. “What has been happening in North Carolina during the first half of 2016 is not dissimilar to what has happened in the U.S. It seems that after seven years of economic expansion, the economy has begun to slow.”
Many consumers who are struggling to keep up may be surprised to learn that the U.S. economy has been expanding for 89 months. It's just been at a very slow pace.
But Connaughton says the current economic expansion is the fourth-longest on record, going back to 1854. And despite the post-election rise in business and consumer confidence, he doesn't expect much to change, in the way of economic growth, in the coming year. Economic headwinds, he says, include falling productivity and the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation.
Economists largely skeptical
An early December poll by Reuters found the Trump bump that has boosted the stock market hasn't really changed economists' outlook, who note that recessions are regular occurrences, even if the expansion has been less than robust.
The economists in the poll correctly predicted the Federal Reserve's decision this week to hike short term interest rates. Fed Chair Janet Yellen held out the prospect of three additional hikes in 2017, suggesting a more optimistic outlook for economic growth.
But at the same time, Yellen left herself some wiggle room, suggesting the Fed could always hold off on normalizing rates if economic growth doesn't measure up to rosy expectations.
American Airlines fined $1.6 million for tarmac delays
Travelers were stranded on runways for hours and not allowed to leave12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
If you’ve ever been trapped on a plane waiting for take-off, then you know just how infuriating and helpless the situation can be. Your frustration may hav...
If you’ve ever been trapped on a plane waiting for take-off, then you know just how infuriating and helpless the situation can be. Your frustration may have been compounded by missing connecting flights in other cities, and more than a few invectives against the airline company may have crossed your mind.
While it may have felt grossly unfair at the time, the Department of Transportation (DOT) takes tarmac delays very seriously, and it recently punished American Airlines for keeping travelers on runways for too long. USA TODAY reports that the company has been fined $1.6 million by the DOT for tarmac delays that occurred between 2013 and 2015. The fine was announced on Wednesday.
“Our tarmac rule is meant to prevent passengers form being trapped in aircraft on the ground for hours on end. We will continue to take enforcement action as necessary to ensure passengers are not kept delayed on the tarmac for lengthy periods of time,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The delays in question occurred over a three-year period at three different airports, including 20 flights in Charlotte on February 16, 2013, six flights in Dallas/Fort Worth on February 27, 2015, and one flight in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 22, 2015. The lion’s-share of the delays that occurred in Charlotte were due to a snowstorm and affected approximately 860 passengers.
DOT charges that American Airlines failed to anticipate the problematic situations to prevent the long delays. It says that passengers were forced to wait for hours on planes and were not allowed to leave.
American Airlines responded to the fine by saying that it would fully cooperate with the agency and that it takes its responsibility to its customers seriously. It also explained its actions in Charlotte by saying that it was trying to get passengers to their destination on a day when many other flights were being canceled.
“It is the opinion of American that US Airways’ decision to bring aircraft into CLT was the best result possible in this unexpected and difficult situation, as evidenced by the fact that all affected passengers were en route to their final destinations before noon the next day,” the company said in a statement.
The DOT has divided the fine to ensure that American is more prepared at the airports where the delays occurred. Of the $1.6 million, $602,000 will be credited in compensation provided to passengers on the delayed flights and $303,000 will be credited for acquiring, operating, and maintaining equipment to monitor weather conditions in Charlotte and Dallas. The department said the airliner will have 30 days to pay the remaining $695,000.
Toyota dominates the top 10 list12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers are driving cars for longer periods of time than in years past, but they tend to drive certain makes and models longer than others.The automo...
A reversal of fortune for home construction
The outlook for new construction dimmed as well12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
New home construction hit a roadblock in November following October’s surge.The Commerce Department reports housing starts plunged last month to a seas...
New home construction hit a roadblock in November following October’s surge.
The Commerce Department reports housing starts plunged last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,090,000, Not only is that down 18.7% from October’s downwardly revised rate, but it’s 6.9% below the same month a year earlier.
Groundbreaking for single-family homes dropped 4.1% to a rate of 828,000, and the rate for multi-family units was 259,000 -- a drop of almost 44%.
Building permits, a sign of developers’ construction plans for the months ahead, were also lower -- down 4.7% to an annual rate of 1,201,000.
Permits for single-family starts inched up 0.5% to a rate of 778,000. Authorizations for multi-family unit construction totaled 384,000 -- a plunge of 15.8%.
The full report may be found on the Commerce Department website.
Trek recalls bicycle lights
The bicycle light can operate intermittently12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wis., is recalling about 600 bicycle lights.The bicycle light can operate intermittently when paired with a remot...
Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wis., is recalling about 600 bicycle lights.
The bicycle light can operate intermittently when paired with a remote transmitter, reducing the visibility of and for the rider, posing an injury hazard.
The firm has received seven reports of the lights functioning intermittently when paired with a remote transmitter. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Trek Bontrager Flare RT and Ion 700 RT bicycle lights. Both models of lights come in black. “Bontrager” and “Transmtr” are printed on the front of the Bontrager Flare RT lights and the date code is printed on the back.
“Ion 700 RT,” “700 Lumen” and “Transmtr” are printed on the side of the Ion 700 RT lights and the date code is printed on the bottom under the charging port cover.
The recalled lights have the following date code:
The lights, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at bicycle stores nationwide and online at www.trekbikes.com from July 2016, through October 2016, for between $60 and $240.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled lights with a remote transmitter and return the lights to the store where purchased or contact Trek to receive a free replacement bicycle light.
Consumers may contact Trek at 800-373-4594 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.trekbikes.com and click on “Safety & Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.
Bingo Deals recalls chicken toys
The toys can break into small plastic pieces, posing a choking hazard12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Bingo Deals is recalling about 2,700 egg-laying chicken toys.The toys contain small eggs, and the chicken can break into small plastic pieces, both pos...
Bingo Deals is recalling about 2,700 egg-laying chicken toys.
The toys contain small eggs, and the chicken can break into small plastic pieces, both posing a choking hazard to children.
No incidents or injuries are reported.
This recall involves the Bump 'N Go Walking Egg Laying Chicken with light, sound and music. The battery-powered plastic toy is a yellow chicken with an orange head and orange wings. The chicken toy includes three white plastic eggs that are placed into the back of the chicken and then released from the bottom.
The chicken measures 7 inches wide by 6 inches tall by 7 inches deep. The eggs measure one inch wide by one inch tall by one inch deep. “QQ Chicken” is printed on the wing. A small yellow chicken sits on the chicken’s back.
The toys, manufactured in China, were sold online at Amazon.com and Bingo Deal’s website www.prextex.com from July 2015, through June 2016, for about $20.
What to do
Consumers should immediately take the chicken toy and eggs away from children and contact Bingo Deals for a full refund. Bingo Deals is contacting consumers who bought the toy directly.
Consumers may contact Bingo Deals toll-free at 888-429-1679 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (ET) on Friday, by email Recall@prextex.com or at Bingo Deal’s website www.prextex.com and click on Recall Safety at the top of the page.
Brand Castle recalls The Mix Monkey Bread Mix
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella12/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Brand Castle of Bedford Heights, Ohio, is recalling limited quantities of The Mix Monkey Bread Mix. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella...
Brand Castle of Bedford Heights, Ohio, is recalling limited quantities of The Mix Monkey Bread Mix.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
There have been no reported illnesses to date.
The recalled product has a UPC code of 8-44527-03278-2 and is packaged in a 16-oz. box with a sticker on the back of the package indicating the below Lot#/Date Code.
It was sold to a single retailer in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Io2wa, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesotat, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Soucth carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discontinue using it and return it to the retailer for a full refund discard it or contact reach out to Brand Castle with roof of purchase for a full refund.
Consumerswith questions may contact Brand Castle at 216-292-7700, ext.211 Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm (EST) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experts warn users to tighten up their accounts' security and watch out for future scams12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
When Yahoo confirmed details of its massive data breach of 500 million accounts back in September, consumers were aghast at how the company could have let...
The laissez-faire attitude of social media has been blamed for spreading lies and untruths far and wide12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Facebook has come up with a fact-checking scheme to reduce the flood of fake news posted on its site. It is deputizing reputable, third-party fact-checking...
Complaint alleges conspiracy to squash competition and inflate prices12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Drug prices remain a red hot consumer issue as 20 states have filed a federal lawsuit against six generic drug makers, including Mylan Pharmaceuticals, cha...
He pushed through net neutrality rules, privacy restrictions for ISPs, and tried to banish set-top cable boxes12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will step down Jan. 20, he said today, clearing the way for Republicans to take control of the agenc...
Consumers should be sure to adjust their thermostats and unplug devices before traveling12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s no secret that the end of the year can be costly on consumers’ electric bills. Cranking up the heat to stay warm and putting up festive lights comes w...
Here's how to tell if a toy is too loud for a child12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Before buying a toy for a child, you might check the age recommendation and make sure that no small parts present a choking hazard. Making sure the toy is...
The settlement will provide refunds for tens of thousands of students12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
DeVry University has agreed to pay $100 million settlement to settle a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit alleging that it misled prospective students...
The agency recently issued proposed new guidance for supplement makers12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is pushing the Food and Drug Administration to take stronger action to ensure that dietary supplements available to A...
What parents can do keep holiday excitement from affecting kids' sleep
Consistency can help prevent meltdowns, says Saint Joseph's University sleep expert12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Santa may know when they’re awake, but that doesn’t stop kids from being too excited to sleep this time of year. To keep seasonal excitement from leading t...
Santa may know when they’re awake, but that doesn’t stop kids from being too excited to sleep this time of year. To keep seasonal excitement from leading to overtired kids, Saint Joseph’s University sleep expert Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., recommends making sure routine changes don’t affect kids’ sleep schedules.
“Skimping on the bedtime routine or doing your routine in another location, such as reading stories in front of the fireplace, will often backfire,” Mindell says. In order to ensure that your little one’s holiday spirit isn’t dampened by inadequate sleep, it’s crucial to set the stage for a good night’s rest.
In the mornings
Mindell says parents can keep mornings running smoothly by, again, practicing consistency. She recommends keeping kids’ morning routines the same, even on days when holiday activities are planned.
Dealing with electronic gifts
Smartphones and tablets are often popular gifts. If your child receives his or her first screen device during the holidays, Mindells suggests setting limits right from the start.
Mindell recommends having the whole family plug in their gadgets at the end of the day for changing, either in the kitchen or in another common area of the house.
California Gov. Brown asks Obama to permanently ban offshore drilling on the West Coast
Supporters want to make it harder for a temporary ban to be overturned by President-elect Trump12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last month, President Obama unveiled a plan that would ban offshore oil drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington until 2022. The notio...
Last month, President Obama unveiled a plan that would ban offshore oil drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington until 2022. The notion was denounced by many Republican members of Congress, who said that it would effectively oust the U.S. as a leader in global energy.
“Today’s plan will chart a path of energy dependency for decades to come. We should be building on our position as a global energy leader, but we are punting it to Russia as Obama appeases the environmentalists pulling his strings,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).
However, there are many other leaders who would see the plan made permanent before Obama leaves office. One of them is California Governor Jerry Brown, who has asked Obama to cement the plan so that it won’t be easily overturned by President-elect Trump.
“California is blessed with hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline; home to scenic state parks, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and thriving communities. Clearly, large new oil and gas reserves would be inconsistent with our overriding imperative to reduce reliance on fuels and combat the devastating impacts of climate change,” Brown said in a letter to Obama.
Brown announced his proposition and asked for support from the governors of Oregon and Washington at an event that launched a new organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. The International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification is made up of advocacy groups, businesses, and several nations, such as France, Chile, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.
Brown says that the group’s work will be critical going forward after Trump’s recent election; the President-elect has previously denied evidence related to global climate change and has picked officials who are also skeptics.
"Whatever problems we have today, they will pale to the stresses that we are going to have by rising sea levels, the threat of tropical diseases, and all manner of extreme weather events,” said Brown.
Oil companies have opposed the plan to ban offshore drilling on the West Coast, saying that doing so would lead to importing more oil and perhaps worsening environmental outcomes.
“If offshore production is banned it will force us to import more oil from foreign sources. That oil is produced under less stringent environmental regulations, and its transportation to California will create an increase in greenhouse gases and other pollutants,” said the Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry group, in a statement.
According to U.S. News, the White House has declined to comment on Brown’s request thus far.
More than 10% of homeowners still under water
Zillow reports Chicago and Las Vegas have the most negative equity12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The U.S. housing market has recovered. The median home price is now about where it was at the time of the housing market crash.But like politics, all r...
The U.S. housing market has recovered. The median home price is now about where it was at the time of the housing market crash.
But like politics, all real estate is local. Not every housing market has recovered at the same pace and there's still plenty of pain left over from the popping of the housing bubble.
Real estate marketplace Zillow reports about 5.3 million homeowners were under water – meaning they owed more on mortgages than the homes are worth – in the third quarter of the year. That amounts to about 11% of homeowners with mortgages.
While that is discouraging for those homeowners who have not been able to sell or refinance for the last decade, it's a marked improvement from the height of the housing crash. In 2012, an estimated 15.7 million homeowners were under water.
Rising home prices helped some get their heads back above the surface, but not all. Many are no longer under water because they eventually lost their homes to foreclosure.
Chicago and Las Vegas the most under water
Today, Zillow says the thriving West Coast housing markets have the fewest under water homeowners. But Chicago and Las Vegas have the highest levels of negative equity. Seventeen percent of Chicago home owners are trapped in a negative equity situation while 16.8% of Las Vegas homeowners are in that boat.
"In addition to the individual homeowners who are underwater, negative equity affects the housing market as a whole, so this is good news not only for these owners, who are now able to either sell their home or at least regain some financial stability, but also for buyers who may find more options now,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “I expect homes will gain value steadily, for solid economic reasons, and that negative equity rates will continue to fall."
While some homeowners have regained positive equity, it might not yet be enough to allow them to sell. Zillow says having less than 20% equity in a property probably isn't enough to cover Realtors' fees, other closing costs, and a downpayment if they are purchasing another home.
As tax season approaches so do the scam artists
We have things to look out for and things to do12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Among the most lucrative areas for con men and scam artists is the federal income tax season. And as usual, there's an array of evolving tax scams related...
Among the most lucrative areas for con men and scam artists is the federal income tax season. And as usual, there's an array of evolving tax scams related to identity theft and refund fraud.
“Whether it's during the holidays or the approach of tax season, scam artists look for ways to use tax agencies and the tax industry to trick and confuse people,” said Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen. “There are warning signs to these scams people should watch out for, and simple steps to avoid being duped into giving these criminals money, sensitive financial information or access to computers."
The leading scams
- Requesting fake tax payments: The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.”
- Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax”: If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
- Sending a fraudulent IRS bill for tax year 2015 related to the Affordable Care Act: Generally, this scam involves an email or letter that includes fake CP2000 notices that include a payment request to be sent to a Post Office Box address.
- Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals: In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including Social Security numbers.
Spotting the scam
Keep in mind that the IRS will NEVER:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer or initiate contact by e-mail or text message. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
What to do
If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Search the web for telephone numbers that scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
- If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to email@example.com.
A consumer group says Uber's CEO should be arrested12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
If a human being with a valid driver's license is sitting behind the steering wheel of a self-driving car, does the car need a special permit? California s...
And many of these jobs don't require a four-year college degree12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The CEO of U.S. Steel announced last week that his company intends to rehire some 10,000 steelworkers laid off in the latest economic downturn.Now, ano...
The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. Should you care?
The impact on most consumers should be slight12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As was widely expected, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee announced Wednesday that it is raising its short term interest rate a quarter percentage...
As was widely expected, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee announced Wednesday that it is raising its short term interest rate a quarter percentage point.
It's only the second interest rate hike in a year and the second in a decade. Yet when Fed Chair Janet Yellen said at a news conference the Fed could hike rates as many as three times in 2017, the stock market swooned.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was fewer than 70 points away from crossing the 20,000 level for the first time, closed 118 points lower. Investors took the comments to mean that the era of cheap money was finally ending.
But what's it mean to the average consumer who isn't a stock market investor? Should you care that the Fed is finally “normalizing” interest rates?
Maybe, but just a little.
First, the Fed's action is most likely to affect consumers who carry a credit card balance. Lenders peg their credit card rates to the Fed's short term rate, and within an hour of the Fed's announcement, US Bank said it is raising its Prime Rate a quarter point, to match the Fed's increase.
Credit card rates will rise
If the Fed hikes rates three more times next year at a quarter-point at a time, you could expect your credit card interest rate to go up a full percentage point, when you factor in the quarter-point increase announced Wednesday.
Mortgage rates are already going up, but not because of the Fed's action. Rather, the bond market is producing higher yields on U.S. Treasury bonds because of the belief that the incoming Trump Administration's policies will cause inflation to rise while spurring economic growth. Mortgage rates are linked to the yield on the 30 year Treasury note.
The Fed wants to increase rates to keep inflation in check, which of course is a benefit to consumers, who do not want to see prices start to rise unless wages also go up.
More return on savings
Consumers who are trying to save money might also benefit from rising interest rates. Bank's have paid almost nothing for nearly a decade because of the low interest rate environment. But that could be about to change.
Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, says the yield on the 10-year bond could hit 3% soon, and if it does he predicts investors will sell stocks and buy bonds because of the guaranteed 3% return. Bond rates, in turn, influence what banks pay on deposits.
In the short run, consumers should not feel the effects of the Fed's December rate hike much at all. As for the anticipated additional hikes next year, the Fed left itself plenty of wiggle room to change its find. After all, last December it also suggested it could raise rates three more times in 2016. And as we saw, it's first hike of the year came yesterday.
Builder confidence hits highest point in 11 years
The number of initial jobless claims is lower12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes wrapped up 2016 on a high note.According to the National Association of Hom...
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes wrapped up 2016 on a high note.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), the level of confidence shot up seven points to a level of 70 in December -- the highest reading since July 2005.
“This notable rise in builder sentiment is largely attributable to a post-election bounce, as builders are hopeful that President-elect Trump will follow through on his pledge to cut burdensome regulations that are harming small businesses and housing affordability,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. “This is particularly important, given that a recent NAHB study shows that regulatory costs for home building have increased 29% in the past five years.”
The HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair," or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low."
Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
All three HMI components posted solid gains in December. The component gauging current sales conditions increased seven points to 76 while the index charting sales expectations in the next six months jumped nine points to 78. The component measuring buyer traffic rose six points to 53 -- the first time this gauge has topped 50 since October 2005.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose six points to 51, the Midwest posted a three-point gain to 61, the South was up a point to 67, and the West posted a two-point gain to 79.
“Though this significant increase in builder confidence could be considered an outlier, the fact remains that the economic fundamentals continue to look good for housing,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “The rise in the HMI is consistent with recent gains for the stock market and consumer confidence. At the same time, builders remain sensitive to rising mortgage rates and continue to deal with shortages of lots and labor.”
First-time applications for state unemployment benefits were down again last week.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 254,000 in the week ending December 10, down 4,000 from the previous week and the 93rd consecutive week of initial claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1970.
The four-week moving average, which is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, rose 5,250 from the previous week to 257,750.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
Rising housing and gas costs send consumer prices higher in November
Food prices held steady12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Consumer prices edged higher in November, due largely to upticks in the cost of housing and gasoline.The Department of Labor (DOL) reports its Consumer...
Consumer prices edged higher in November, due largely to upticks in the cost of housing and gasoline.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports its Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up a seasonally adjusted 0.2% last month, putting the rate of inflation for the last 12 months at 1.7%.
Energy and food costs
The cost of energy was up 1.2% in November following a surge of 3.5% the month before. A big chunk of that was the result of gasoline costs which were up 2.4%. Electricity prices were unchanged, while the cost of natural gas fell 0.4%. Over the past year, energy prices are up 1.1% -- the largest 12-month increase since July 2014.
Food prices were unchanged for the fifth month in a row during November,, with grocery prices down 0.1% and restaurant prices up 0.1%. The cost of dairy products fell 0.6%, fruits and vegetables costs were down 0.2%, the category called “other food at home” was off 0.3%, and prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs dipped 0.1%. Nonalcoholic beverage prices rose 0.3%, while the cost of cereals and bakery inched 0.1% higher percent. Grocery prices over the past year are down 2.2% , while restaurant prices, in contrast, were up 2.3% over the past 12 months.
The cost of goods less the volatile food and energy categories -- the “core rate” of inflation - was up 0.2% in November and 1.7% for the 12 months ending November.
For the month, housing costs rose 0.3%, motor vehicle prices jumped 1.0%, and education prices increased 0.2%. Medical care prices were unchanged in November, with the cost of physicians' services up 0.6% and prescription drug prices down 0.6%. Clothing costs, prices for household furnishings and operations, and airline fares all fell.
The complete report may be found on the DOL website.
Fourth Street Barbecue recalls mac & cheese dinner cups
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Fourth Street Barbecue is recalling Cheese Club Express Mac & Cheese 4-cup dinner and Double Takes Macaroni & Cheese 2-cup dinner.The products may be c...
Fourth Street Barbecue is recalling Cheese Club Express Mac & Cheese 4-cup dinner and Double Takes Macaroni & Cheese 2-cup dinner.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, distributed nationwide through retail stores, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products not consume them.
Consumers seeking a replacement or refund may call the customer hotline at 724-483-2056, Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST).
The lithium-ion battery packs can overheat12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
World Trading of Valencia, Calif., is recalling about 1,900 self-balancing scooters/hoverboards.The lithium-ion battery packs in the self-balancing sco...
New Hope Mills recalls crepe mix
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella12/15/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
New Hope Mills of Auburn, N.Y., is recalling limited quantities of New Hope Mills Crepe Mix.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.The fol...
New Hope Mills of Auburn, N.Y., is recalling limited quantities of New Hope Mills Crepe Mix.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
The following product is being recalled:
- New Hope Mills Crepe Mix; NET WT. 1 LB., 4 OZ.; packaged in a brown paper bag; UPC 074703601529 (located on back label); BEST BY: 07/19/17:A1 (located on the back flap)
The recalled product was shipped to distributors and retailers in the New York and Pennsylvania areas between August 23, 2016 and September 20, 2016.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discontinue its use and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at (315) 252-2676, Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:30 pm (EST) or by email at QA@newhopemills.com.
A popular tourist stop at the Western gateway to Texas promises free steak12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Anyone driving through Texas from the west, especially along Route 66, has seen the signs: "Free 72 oz. Steak," they say. It's no...
Judge says turning over a password is a matter of surrender and not testimony12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
At the beginning of 2016, controversy over phone privacy reached critical levels when Apple went head-to-head with the FBI over unlocking the contents of a...
Researchers say reaction times were 40% slower than usual in both cases12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Distracted driving is a very real problem that consumers face on our nation’s roadways. Safety advocates often point to smartphones and cell phones as bein...
Alaska Air, Virgin America are joined together as one
Alaska completed its takeover of Virgin just a week after the feds approved the deal12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
At long last, Alaska Air has had its way with Virgin America, closing on the merger that was approved by the U.S. Justice Department last week and creating...
At long last, Alaska Air has had its way with Virgin America, closing on the merger that was approved by the U.S. Justice Department last week and creating the nation's fifth-largest airline.
Alaska celebrated the deal with a special flight carrying company brass from Seattle to San Francisco in an airplane painted in a commemorative red, purple, and blue livery, symbolizing the joining in holy mergerdom of the duo and spinning the deal as an example of how odd couples sometimes come together.
"Like bacon on a donut, electricity and guitars, or Labradors and poodles, we’re an odd couple that works well together. We may seem like an unexpected pair – but our differences complement each other," Alaska Air's wordsmiths gushed.
“Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are different airlines, but we believe different works – and we’re confident fliers will agree,” Brad Tilden, Alaska Air CEO, said in a statement. “The two airlines may look different, but our core customer and employee focus is very much the same.”
Virgin America is consistently rated at or near the top in rankings of domestic carriers and has a rabid following despite its relatively small size and limited route structure. Virgin's routes are mostly east-west while Alaska mostly flies up and down the West Coast.
Put the two together and you have an airline family that may seem odd but commands a lot of West Coast traffic that can be blended with Virgin's transcontinental routes to form a compelling match-up, at least in theory.
Alaska executives are cognizant of the apprehension some Virgin customers feel, and Tilden said the Virgin America brand will remain in place with its current name and “with no immediate changes to the onboard product or experience,” the company said in a statement.
“We appreciate that there is great interest in the future of the Virgin America brand among customers and employees alike,” said Tilden, “This is a big decision and one that deserves months of thoughtful and thorough analysis. We plan to make a decision about the Virgin America brand early next year.”
The combined operation creates an expanded route network with nearly 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations in the United States, Mexico, Canada,
What to do
Passengers don't need to do anything just yet. The corporate merger is complete, but the actual operational merger of the carriers is months away. Reservations on both airlines will continue to be honored, flights will operate normally, and both reservations systems will remain online until further notice.
The company claims that the bankruptcy laws protect it from its predecessor's errors12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
All else having failed, General Motors is appealing to a higher power to shield it from further litigation over its faulty ignition switches that have been...
College-sponsored bank and credit card accounts may be pricey
Report finds that many schools put their bottom line ahead of students' best interests12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Colleges and universities are often more focused on their bottom line than on their students' financial well-being, the Consumer Financial Protection Burea...
Colleges and universities are often more focused on their bottom line than on their students' financial well-being, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns in a report released today, which raises new concerns about costly fees and risky features that can be attached to certain college-sponsored credit and banking accounts.
“Deals between big banks and schools can drive students into accounts that contain high fees,” said Director Richard Cordray. “Many young people struggle to manage money while at school and we urge schools to put students’ financial interest first.”
The CFPB’s analysis of roughly 500 marketing deals between schools and large banks found that many deals allow for risky features that can lead students to rack up hundreds of dollars in fees per year. The CFPB also issued a bulletin today reminding colleges and universities that they are required to publicly disclose marketing agreements with credit card companies.
“Colleges across the country continue to make deals with banks to promote products that have high fees, despite the availability of safer and more affordable products,” said CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman. “Students shouldn’t get stuck with the bill when their school inks a deal for an account that’s not in their best interest. ”
A worse deal
The report found that about 10 million students attend a college or university that has made a deal with a financial institution where the college directly markets or allows the promotion of checking or prepaid accounts, often endorsed with a college logo or linked to a student identification card.
Research has shown that financial products sponsored by colleges or universities can contain high or unusual fees, which can be a worse deal for students than what they can find shopping around on their own. Since Congress passed new consumer protections for credit cards in 2009, marketing partnerships between colleges and universities and financial institutions have largely shifted from credit cards toward sponsored debit and prepaid accounts.
The CFPB’s analysis of marketing agreements at 500 schools found that some of the nation’s largest colleges and universities continue to maintain deals with large banks that allow for the marketing of products that may not be in the best financial interests of their students, since many of them contain costly features.
Dozens of bank deals with colleges fail to limit costly fees. The Bureau found that dozens of deals with banks for school-sponsored accounts do not place limits on account fees, such as overdraft fees, out-of-network ATM fees, or other common charges.
Some students may pay hundreds of dollars per year in overdraft fees. This is particularly concerning given that a growing body of evidence suggests that small financial shocks—such as a few hundred dollars— can cause significant financial hardship for students and even deter college completion.
Deals provide financial benefits for banks and schools but offer few, if any, financial benefits for students. The Bureau found marketing agreements between colleges and banks often contain extensive details about how the school and the bank can profit but do not require banks to offer safe and affordable accounts—and may drive students to high-cost products.
Some schools fail to disclose key details of marketing deals with banks, even though they are required to do so.
More information is available at: consumerfinance.gov/students
Researchers say clinicians should encourage families to set limits on all screen devices, not just TVs12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Adolescents who spend hours per day staring into a tablet, smartphone, or computer are more likely to become obese, a new study suggests. Researchers f...
FTC and states claimed company deceived members and failed to protect data12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The 2015 data breach at AshleyMadison.com, which caused widespread embarrassment and perhaps even some marital stress, is the subject of a $1.6 million set...
How to stay healthy during your holiday travels
Saint Louis University germ expert says packing a pillowcase and staying hydrated can help thwart germs12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
For many, the holiday season is synonymous with travel. If you’ll be leaving home to visit family or take a holiday vacation, you might wish there were a w...
For many, the holiday season is synonymous with travel. If you’ll be leaving home to visit family or take a holiday vacation, you might wish there were a way to keep sickness from striking during your travels.
While you can’t plan when you get sick, there are actions you can take to increase your odds of staying well while traveling. Donna Duberg, assistant professor of biomedical laboratory science at Saint Louis University, has a few tips for keeping germs at bay.
She also suggests washing your hands for about 20 seconds after going to the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
On planes and at hotels
In addition to practicing good hand hygiene and staying hydrated, Duberg says these strategies can also help you stay healthy while traveling:
- Avoid the aisle seat. Sitting in an aisle seat exposes you to more people; more people often means more coughing, sneezing, and germ-sharing in general. If you’ll be flying or traveling by train, bring along disinfectant wipes so you can wipe down seat trays and armrests.
- Give your hotel room a once-over. Before unpacking, Duberg recommends making sure your hotel room smells fresh and doesn’t look dirty. If there is trash in waste baskets, dust on the window blinds, or grime on the carpet, your room might be germy. If staying at a hotel, consider bringing your own pillow or pillowcase and cleaning the TV remote before touching it.
- Keep up with personal hygiene. Try to avoid touching your “T-zone” (your eyes, nose, and mouth -- areas of the face where germs can easily enter the body). Keep germs from hitching a ride on your hands by coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands. Finally, be sure to stay on top of your daily hygiene routine. Don’t forget to take a daily shower, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes every day.
It may be harder to buy a first home in 2017
The lack of starter homes on the market is pushing prices higher12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers hoping to buy their first home will likely encounter additional challenges in 2017, according to a report by real estate marketplace Trulia.T...
Consumers hoping to buy their first home will likely encounter additional challenges in 2017, according to a report by real estate marketplace Trulia.
They already face significant headwinds. Incomes haven't gone up much over the last few years while rents have risen dramatically. That's made it harder for consumers currently renting their home to save money for a down payment.
The Trulia report finds that in the third quarter of the year, first-time buyers saw the number of “starter” homes in their affordability range plunge 12.1% when compared to the same period of 2015, the largest drop in three years.
Prices are rising
At the same time, competition for these entry-level homes has pushed their prices higher. First-time buyers will be required to pay an extra 1.9% of their income to purchase the average starter home.
It's part of a national trend of declining inventories of homes for sale. People who currently own these entry-level houses do not feel confident enough to move up to a larger home, so they are not putting their houses on the market.
Compounding the problem, home builders are producing fewer new homes. The rate of home construction is about half of what it was before the housing crash. Of the homes that are being built, fewer are in the entry-level price range.
Housing inventory falls 9.1%
Nationwide, Trulia reports housing inventory declined for the sixth straight quarter, down 9.1% from a year ago. Broken down among different housing price-points, would-be buyers saw the biggest decline in starter and trade-up home inventory. Even more expensive home inventory is down, though not nearly as much.
Here's the problem in a nutshell: Trulia estimates the typical first-time buyer will have to spend more than 38% of his or her income to purchase the typical starter home.
Homes are simply less affordable, and this decline in affordability for a starter home is more than twice that as homes at the next level. If you already own a home and want to move up, Trulia estimates you would only have to spend 25.5% of your income each month.
Outlook for 2017
Trulia's chief economist Ralph Mclaughlin says all of this will affect the housing market next year.
"Tight inventory will still be a big obstacle to homeownership in many markets in 2017, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll see the bottom of the current housing shortage as the year progresses,” Mclaughlin said. “That said, buyers might not see price relief if President-Elect Trump's to-be-seen policies boost demand without boosting supply."
If interest rates rise as expected, Mclaughlin said that could actually provide some relief, cooling demand and reducing the competition for entry-level homes.
NerdWallet study says average household owes more than $16,00012/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Numbers crunchers who follow consumer debt are growing increasingly concerned about rising levels of credit card debt.As we reported last week, persona...
Fewer teens, but more grandparents, getting wasted
Researchers see a big increase in binge drinking by Baby Boomers12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A new national study has found that teenagers' use of alcohol has declined significantly over the last 20 years. But a second study has found that their gr...
A new national study has found that teenagers' use of alcohol has declined significantly over the last 20 years. But a second study has found that their grandparents are getting wasted at a much higher rate.
University of Michigan researchers say they are concerned that more teens are using marijuana, but young people are not drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes nearly as much as in years past. Aside from marijuana, illicit drug use is also on the decline.
"That's still a lot of young people using these dangerous drugs without medical supervision, but the trending is in the right direction," said Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator. "Fewer are risking overdosing as teenagers, and hopefully more will remain abstainers as they pass into their twenties, thereby reducing the number who become casualties in those high-risk years."
Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are not only smoking more weed, as we reported last week, but are consuming more alcohol. Researchers examined self-reported past-month binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder in adults over 50. They said they found “significant increases” in past-year alcohol use, past-month alcohol use, past-month binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders.
Boomers on a bender
In a demographic breakdown, the study found that men were more likely to binge drink and suffer from alcohol use disorders than women. However, researchers were concerned that binge drinking and alcohol use disorder was also up among women.
“As females age, they tend to experience a larger impact of physiological changes in lean body mass compared to men,” said Dr. Benjamin, a geriatrician and health services researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research “Thus, they may experience the adverse effects associated with consuming alcohol even in lower amounts.”
The researchers were particularly alarmed by the increase in binge drinking among older women. Not only can it lead to serious health problems, they say it “can also lead to socially embarrassing or regretful behavior.”
While the liquor cabinet will need closer monitoring while the grandparents are home alone, the grandchildren are more likely to behave themselves. In the Michigan study, fewer teens reported using any illegal drug other than marijuana in the prior 12 months than at any time since 1991.
While the rate shows a drop of about one percentage point in each grade in 2016, they reflect a much larger decline over the longer term.
The first flame retardant-free car seat will be available next year12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
A new study finds that toxic flame retardants are still used in many car seats sold in the U.S., but improvements have been made since 2014. While manufact...
Tepid retail sales in November
Auto sales were something of a drag last month12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Retailers hoping that October's increase in retail sales was a harbinger for November have got to be disappointed.The Commerce Department reports last...
Retailers hoping that October's increase in retail sales was a harbinger for November have got to be disappointed.
The Commerce Department reports last month saw sales inch up a tiny 0.1% to $465.5 billion following the revised advance of 0.6% in October.
Still, sales in November were up 3.8% on a year-over-year basis.
Advancers and decliners
There were no real standouts when it came to sales gains during the month. Bar and grill establishments took the honors with a sales increase of 0.8%. Other gainers included furniture & home furnishing stores (+0.7%) and food & beverage stores (+0.4).
Among the month's losers were sporting goods, hobby, and book & music stores with a 1.0% sales decline, miscellaneous store retailers (-0.8%), and auto & other motor vehicle dealers (-0.5%).
Excluding the volatile auto sector, sales were up 0.2%
The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.
Rising services costs push November wholesale prices higher
Food prices advanced while the cost of energy declined12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand -- what we call wholesale prices -- rose 0.4% in November, the second increase in three months.The incr...
The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand -- what we call wholesale prices -- rose 0.4% in November, the second increase in three months.
The increase followed no change in October and a 0.3% gain in September, and translates into a year-over-year advance of 1.3% -- the largest increase since the 12 months ended November 2014.
Services prices on the rise
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 80% of last month's increase was due to a rise of 0.5% in prices for services, the largest since January's 0.9% increase. A quarter of that came from a surge in costs for apparel, jewelry, footwear, and accessories retailing (+4.2%).
Increases were also posted in prices for fuels and lubricants retailing; machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesaling; food and alcohol retailing; food and alcohol wholesaling; and inpatient care.
Prices for guestroom rental, on the other hand, were down, as were the costs of cleaning supplies and paper products retailing and portfolio management.
Cost of goods inches upward
Goods prices rose 0.2% last month, half the increase registered in October. Food costs were up (+0.6%), thanks to rises in the prices of beef and veal, fresh fruits, and melons which offset dips in fresh and dry vegetables prices.
Conversely, energy costs declined 0.3%, with gasoline prices plunging 2.9%.
The cost of goods less foods and energy -- the “core rate” of wholesale inflation -- was up 0.2%.
The full report is available on the BLS website.
Mortgage applications drop for third straight week
Contract interest rates were mostly higher12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's three declines in three weeks for mortgage applications.Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show a 4% drop in mortgage applications in the...
It's three declines in three weeks for mortgage applications.
Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show a 4% drop in mortgage applications in the week ending December 9.
The Refinance Index was down 4% as well, although the refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 57.2% of total applications from 56.2% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 6.2% of total applications, the FHA share rose to 11.6% from 11.3% the week before, the VA share slipped to 11.9%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.9%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) inched up one basis point from 4.27% to 4.28%, its highest level since October 2014, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) rose to its highest level since September 2014 -- 4.29% from 4.22% -- with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA edged up two basis points to 4.02%, with points decreasing to 0.33 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs dipped to 3.52% from 3.53%, with points decreasing to 0.38 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell 11 basis points to 3.28%, with points unchanged at 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
King Meat Services recalls beef products
The recalled products were misbranded12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
King Meat Services of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 50,991 pounds of beef products.Government inspectors observed establishment employees...
King Meat Services of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 50,991 pounds of beef products.
Government inspectors observed establishment employees removing the marks of inspection of the original beef suppliers and replacing them with the King Meat Services, Inc. (Est. 426) mark of inspection.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following beef items, produced from November. 1, 2016, to December 5, 2016, are being recalled:
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONE – IN SHORT RIB CHOICE OR HIGHER,” with product code 991012.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS RIBEYE LIP – ON 13 LBS DOWN,” with product code 991027.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS RIBEYE LIP – ON 13 LBS UP,” with product code 991028.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS RIBEYE LIP – ON 16 LBS UP,” with product code 991031.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS CHUCK SHORT RIB CHOICE OR HIGHER,” with product code 991164.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS PASTRAMI PLATE,” with product code 991166.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS CHUCK SHORT RIB SELECT OR HIGHER,” with product code 991170.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS CHUCK SHORT RIB,” with product code 991171.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONE – IN SHORT RIB SELECT OR HIGHER,” with product code 991176.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF ANGUS BONELESS BRISKET,” with product code 991181.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONE – IN SHORT RIB NO ROLL,” with product code 991182.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS SHORT RIB NO ROLL,” with product code 991183.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS CHUCK SHORT RIB NO ROLL,” with product code 991184.
- Boxes of vacuum-packed packages containing “BEEF BONELESS LIP – ON RIBEYE HEAVY,” with product code 991187.
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “Est. 426” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors, retail locations and food service locations in California.
What to do
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Yu Sun, at (323) 835-8989.
TreeHouse Foods recalls macaroni and cheese cup products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
TreeHouse Foods is recalling certain macaroni and cheese cup products containing cheddar cheese seasoning that may be contaminated with Salmonella.No i...
TreeHouse Foods is recalling certain macaroni and cheese cup products containing cheddar cheese seasoning that may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, distributed nationwide through retail stores, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may call (800) 756-5781, Monday-- Friday, 7:00 a.m.-- 6:00 p.m. (CST).
Shearer's Foods recalls products made with ingredients supplied by a Valley Milk Products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/14/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Shearer's Foods of Massillon, Ohio, is recalling all products made with milk ingredients supplied by secondary supplier Valley Milk Products.The produc...
Shearer's Foods of Massillon, Ohio, is recalling all products made with milk ingredients supplied by secondary supplier Valley Milk Products.
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported.
The following products, distributed nationwide, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of them immediately.
Consumers with questions may contact Shearer's consumer affairs department toll free at 1-800428-6843 Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (ET).
The tech company reportedly plans to license its software to traditional automakers12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you just purchased a new car, chances are by the time you're ready to replace it, you will be able to buy a car that drives itself.But it probably w...
San Francisco mayor nixes legislation that would limit short-term rentals
The veto is a welcome news to companies like Airbnb12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
This past October, we reported on the difficulties that Airbnb was having in New York. The company had sued the state after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a...
This past October, we reported on the difficulties that Airbnb was having in New York. The company had sued the state after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would lead to $7,500 fines if consumers in the state rented their apartments for less than 30 days and were not present.
The law is meant to curb the behavior of landlords, who had been using services like Airbnb to rent out their lodgings over short periods of time for more money rather than providing apartment-seekers with long-term rental agreements. While that suit is ongoing, Airbnb has won a similar battle in San Francisco.
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee has vetoed legislation forwarded by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that would enact a 60-day cap on short-term vacation rentals in the city, according to Courthouse News. Before his decision, he told the San Francisco Chronicle that such legislation would make rental laws “more difficult and less effective,” and would encourage people to “illegally rent units.”
Part of the solution
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors originally drafted the bill to try to combat high rents and keep landlords from renting out apartments over short periods of time, much like they have been in New York. Airbnb has announced its support of the veto, saying that it hopes to be a part of the city’s long-term solution.
“We hope Airbnb, and our host community, will be included in the new working group. We remain committed to working with city leaders on solutions that protect housing and simplify the process to enable San Franciscans to share their homes,” said public policy manager David Owen.
Previously, Airbnb had challenged a city ordinance that banned it from collecting fees for rental properties not registered in San Francisco. However, a federal judge upheld the ordinance, which imposes a $1,000 fine and opens up misdemeanor charges for each day that an unregistered booking can be found on Airbnb and other similar sites.
Researchers say that providing interventions could help improve health outcomes12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Going to college to earn a bachelor’s degree can be an arduous journey. It involves hours of study and preparation for papers, tests, and presentations, an...
Aggressive words can take a toll on the quality of service a person gets, study finds12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
By the time you’re frustrated enough to give customer service a call, being nice may be the last thing on your mind. But choosing your words carefully coul...
The technology could save lives and help traffic move more smoothly12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Federal safety regulators today proposed new connected-car technology that would enable cars and trucks to "talk" to each other in an attempt to reduce acc...
Phony ad sought right-wingers to appear in a car commecial12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It wasn't exactly fake news, but it was damaging anyway. A phony casting call claimed to be recruiting "Alt-Right believers/thinkers" for a Cadillac comme...
Gasoline prices poised to move sharply higher in 2017
Oil prices rising because non-OPEC producers agree to cut production12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers have enjoyed relatively low gasoline prices for more than two years, thanks to a huge oil glut that drove down prices.But consumers should pr...
Consumers have enjoyed relatively low gasoline prices for more than two years, thanks to a huge oil glut that drove down prices.
But consumers should prepare to pay more to fill up their cars and trucks next year. While all attention was focused on whether OPEC could agree to cut production, and whether members would cheat, little attention was paid to non-OPEC members, like Russia. In something of a surprise, these countries have agreed to significantly reduce output.
As a result, the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey reports the national average price of self-serve regular has risen 14 straight days, to $2.21 a gallon today. That's up only three cents from a week ago and only four cents from a month ago.
What does 2017 hold?
But the question for consumers is where will it go over the next few months. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, has been active on Twitter in recent days, holding out the prospect that some parts of the country could see a return to $3 a gallon gas.
“Deal to cut more oil production drives gasoline prices even higher,” DeHaan Tweeted.
A GasBuddy analysis notes the trend at gas stations has been toward rising prices, strongly influenced by the major rise in crude oil. At $53 a barrel, oil is nearly $10 higher than it was a month ago.
“And the pain isn’t likely to subside soon,” GasBuddy reports. “Over the weekend, some non-OPEC member countries also agreed to cut oil output, led by the Russians, lending more support to the price of oil and causing them to jump again to start the week.”
Expensive states see lower prices
Oddly, the Western states, where gasoline tends to be most expensive, hasn't felt the effects of higher oil prices. In fact, AAA reports this region is the only part of the country where prices have gone down in the last week.
DeHaan says consumers accustomed to lower prices and now driving large SUVs may be the first to feel the effects, but notes there could be countervailing forces that keep prices at the pump from returning to the painful “bad old days.”
In a Tweet, he says the U.S. rig count jumped by 5% in one week, suggesting U.S. oil producers, hurt by two years of lower oil prices, are getting back in the game. Their output could keep U.S. oil supplies from getting too tight and causing hardships for motorists.
California Naturel is eight percent dimethicone12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
California Naturel promotes its sunscreen as "all natural" even though eight percent of it is dimethicone, a synethic ingredient, the Federal Trade Commmis...
The benchmark average has soared nearly 8% since election day12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The stock market continues on the more than month-long rally it enjoyed since election night, when Donald Trump upset all conventional wisdom and won the p...
Researchers want to look more closely at brain and nerve diseases associated with falls12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Kids tend to fall down a lot. When they do, they usually get up, dust themselves off, and keep going, no worse for wear.Senior citizens also fall down...
Completed foreclosures post sharp annual decline in October
The national foreclosure inventory was down as well12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Both completed foreclosures and the national foreclosure inventory posted sharp year-over-year declines in October.Property information provider CoreLo...
Both completed foreclosures and the national foreclosure inventory posted sharp year-over-year declines in October.
Property information provider CoreLogic reports the number of completed foreclosures nationwide dropped by 10,000 from October 2015 to 30,000 in this past October -- down 24.9% from October 2015 and 74.7% from the peak of 118,287 in September 2010.
The foreclosure inventory, which represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process and completed foreclosures, plunged 31.5 %.
Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.5 million completed foreclosures nationally. Since home ownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.5 million homes lost to foreclosure.
As of October, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 328,000, or 0.8%, of all homes with a mortgage. A year earlier, it was 479,000 homes, or 1.2%.
"Housing and labor markets improved over the past year, setting the stage for further declines in foreclosure rates across much of the nation," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Home values posted an annual gain of 5.8% through September in the CoreLogic Home Price Index, and payroll employment rose 2.4 million for the year through October."
The number of mortgages in serious delinquency -- 90 days or more past due including loans in foreclosure or REO -- declined by 24.8% from October 2015 to October 2016. One million mortgages, or 2.5%, were in serious delinquency, the lowest level since August 2007. Declines occurred in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
"Loan performance varies by the health of the local economy and housing market. Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming, three states with energy-related job loss, experienced a rise in serious delinquency rates while all other states had a decline," said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Although there were large declines in foreclosure rates in New York and New Jersey, both states experienced the highest serious delinquency rates in the nation, reflecting lagging home values in most neighborhoods and an unemployment rate above the national average."
- On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures declined by 27.5% to 30,000 in October from the 41,000 reported for September. As a basis of comparison, completed foreclosures averaged 22,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.
- On a month-over-month basis, the October foreclosure inventory was down 3.6% compared with September 2016.
- The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in October were Florida (51,000), Michigan (29,000), Texas (26,000), Ohio (23,000), and Georgia (20,000). These five states accounted for 36% of completed foreclosures nationally.
- Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in October: the District of Columbia (212), North Dakota (278), West Virginia (407), Alaska (622), and Montana (660).
- Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory rate in October: New Jersey (2.8%), New York (2.7%), Maine (1.7%), Hawaii (1.7%), and the District of Columbia (1.6%).
- The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate in October 2016 were Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah, and Michigan -- all at 0.3%.
A retail hiring bust in November
Hiring in the sector was at a six-year low12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
November was not -- to put it gently -- a good month for hiring by the retail sector.An analysis of employment data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gr...
November was not -- to put it gently -- a good month for hiring by the retail sector.
An analysis of employment data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says employment in the sector was down 9.3% from a year ago, growing by just 371,500 jobs last month. That's the lowest November employment increase since 2010.
October was equally anemic with the addition of 150,300 retail positions, 23% lower than in October, 2015.
All told, retail job gains for October and November were down 14% from the same period the previous year, totaling 521,800.
The toll of online shopping
“As more and more shoppers move online, there is less need for extra workers in the brick and mortar stores,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Even on Black Friday, once notorious for early morning mob scenes at department stores, a growing number of Americans are staying home and finding great deals on the internet.”
In fact, Adobe Digital Insights reports online orders on Black Friday shot up nearly 22% -- to roughly $3.3 billion in sales.
Seasonal hiring may be in retail, but it is picking up elsewhere. That's particularly true for transportation and warehousing, where 96,200 workers were added in October and November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Ain't over 'til it's over
“Holiday job seekers should not stop looking for opportunities, even though it is December,” Challenger noted. “They must cast a wider net to include employers outside of the retail sector. However, even retailers continue to add throughout the holidays as high turnover in the industry requires nearly-constant recruiting activities.”
Last December, retailers added 134,500 workers.
Deep River Snacks recalls Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Deep River Snacks is recalling certain Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips.The buttermilk powder used in the seasoning may contain traces of Salmonella....
Deep River Snacks is recalling certain Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips.
The buttermilk powder used in the seasoning may contain traces of Salmonella.
No illnesses or adverse health effects resulting from these events have been reported to date.
The following product, distributed nationally through retail and foodservice outlets, is being recalled:
The item UPC number can be found on the back of the bag underneath the bar code.
The best by date is printed on the front of the bag, in the upper right quadrant near the Deep River Snacks logo. The best by date is printed in the format: DD MMM YYYY (e.g. 10 DEC 2016).
What to do
Customers who have purchased the recalled product should immediately discontinue use of it.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 860-434-7347, Monday through Friday between 9am – 5pm (EST).
Blue Ridge Beef recalls frozen pet food products
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes12/13/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Blue Ridge Beef of Eatonton, Ga., is recalling two (2) of its frozen pet food products which may be contaminated with Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytoge...
Blue Ridge Beef of Eatonton, Ga., is recalling two (2) of its frozen pet food products which may be contaminated with Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes.
The FDA has received two complaints associated with these products, including one complaint of two kitten illnesses and one complaint of a puppy death.
The following products, sold in 2-lb. chubs, are being recalled:
The recalled products were distributed to retail stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should stop feeding them, return them to the place of purchase for a full refund or dispose of them.
Consumers with questions may email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 176,000 gallons of crude oil recently leaked into a North Dakota creek, keeping up a troubling pattern12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
On December 6, as protesters near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation celebrated a recent victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline and vowed to continue...
Only a quarter of current Takata airbag recalls have been completed12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal safety regulators are trying to speed up repairs for the millions of cars recalled because of defective Takata airbag inflators that can rupture an...
'It's a pyramid scheme,' state officials warn12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The holiday season is a less-than-ideal time to lose hundreds of dollars, but that’s exactly what has been happening to consumers who buy into an online gi...
Shopping online? This extension helps you support companies that are doing good
DoneGood shows you ethical, eco-friendly alternatives12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and many consumers may be heading online to complete their shopping. But while it’s certainly easy to click “add...
Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and many consumers may be heading online to complete their shopping. But while it’s certainly easy to click “add to cart,” it’s not always easy to find out if your money is going to a corporation with ethical business practices.
DoneGood, a new browser extension for Chrome, is making it easier for eco-conscious consumers to verify that they’re buying a product from a socially responsible company.
The way it works is simple: while you’re searching for a particular gift on Amazon or Google, the extension works in the background to see if a product similar to the one you’re looking at can be purchased from a company with ethical and sustainable manufacturing techniques.
The extension is free, takes just a few seconds to install, and the company says it could trigger a domino effect of good.
Buying a DoneGood alternative can yield both moral and monetary rewards while giving smaller companies with ethical business practices a boost, says co-founder Cullen Schwarz.
In our supply and demand economy, increasing the demand for sustainable and ethical practices is key. Casting your vote for reponsible practices is as easy as spending money at companies that share your values, says Schwarz.
“We believe the most powerful tool for change is the money we spend. We want to help people find better products that they can feel good about, make the world better, and save money at the same time,” he told Mother Nature Network.
There’s also a DoneGood iOS app (Android coming soon), which lets users browse products based on the issues they support. Users can see, for instance, which companies focus on which issues simply by browsing by filters such as “Green,” “Cruelty-free,” or “Minority/women-owned”.
Researchers say fiber-rich diets based on legumes can help you eat less and feel full12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
With the end of the year steadily approaching, some consumers may already be thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, if you – like many...
FTC puts the cuffs on Instant Blood Pressure app12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A company that sold an app called Instant Blood Pressure has agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that it deceived consumers with claims t...
The FTC warns that there are numerous types of fraud to avoid this time of year12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
As we’ve reported on numerous occasions, the holidays are a time when scammers try their hardest to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. The increased...
Besides huge fines, your insurance rates could skyrocket12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Got a lot of holiday parties on your calendar this month? There are plenty of good reasons not to over-indulge at the punch bowl, especially if you plan to...
Flu vaccination rate running behind last year
Health officials worry that older consumers are skipping the shots this year12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As the U.S. enters flu season, consumers should have gotten their flu shots by now, to provide protection over the winter and spring, when flu outbreaks ar...
As the U.S. enters flu season, consumers should have gotten their flu shots by now, to provide protection over the winter and spring, when flu outbreaks are heaviest.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Americans have been slow to roll up their sleeves. Fewer than two out of five people so far have opted for the vaccine.
The health agency, naturally, wants more people to get vaccinated. It says the vaccine prevented an estimated five million cases of the flu last season.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says she's pleased that many people have already taken advantage of the vaccine, but she is also concerned that the coverage rate is running behind last year.
A proven tool
"We have a tool that is proven to prevent flu illness and hospitalization but millions of people are not taking advantage of it,” she said. “Too many people are unprotected."
The CDC is especially concerned about the vaccination rate among older adults. While the rate for children is running close to last year's, CDC estimates have found flu shots among older adults is lagging. Flu poses the biggest threat to the very young and very old.
"It's too soon to say whether vaccination in people 50 and older will rebound this season. We certainly hope it will," Messonnier said.
The CDC estimates that about a third of people between ages 50 and 64 have medical conditions that put them at high risk of serious flu complications. While a flu shot might not prevent someone getting the virus in every case, it usually lessens its negative effects.
The flu is not just a health threat. As we reported back in October, the illness carries very real, and very steep, financial costs. Researchers report that American consumers spent $5.8 billion on medical costs connected to the influenza virus. In fact, consumers spent roughly $9 billion in 2015 on treating diseases that can be prevented with a vaccination.
CDC statistics suggest a majority of American adults passed up on a flu shot last year. The agency is concerned that the preliminary numbers show that, at least so far, more are avoiding the vaccine this year.
That, the agency warns, could have serious repercussions, both economically and healthwise.
Feds rap four tobacco manufacturers for sales practices
FDA says flavored cigarettes were labeled as little cigars or cigars12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Four tobacco manufacturers -- Swisher International, Cheyenne International, Prime Time International, and Southern Cross Tobacco Company have run afoul of...
Four tobacco manufacturers -- Swisher International, Cheyenne International, Prime Time International, and Southern Cross Tobacco Company have run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their sales policies.
The agency has sent warning letters to the four, accusing them of selling flavored cigarettes that are labeled as little cigars or cigars -- a violation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The letters addressed sales of products under the “Swisher Sweets,” “Cheyenne,” “Prime Time,” and “Criss-Cross” brands in a variety of what the FDA calls “youth-appealing flavors,” including grape, cherry, wild cherry, and strawberry.
“Flavored cigarettes appeal to kids and disguise the bad taste of tobacco, but they are just as addictive as regular tobacco products and have the same harmful health effects,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “Because about 90% of adult daily smokers smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18, continued enforcement of the ban on cigarettes with characterizing flavors is vital to protect future generations from a lifetime of addiction.”
The 2009 Tobacco Control Act banned cigarettes containing certain characterizing flavors, such as candy or fruit flavors, to reduce the number of youth who start to smoke and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products.
While labeled as little cigars or cigars, FDA has determined the products meet the definition of cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act because they are likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as cigarettes based on their overall presentation, appearance, packaging, and labeling.
In addition, since the products meet the definition of a cigarette, the agency determined that the products are adulterated because they contain a natural or artificial characterizing flavor, or they are misbranded if they only purport to do so.
The FDA has ask the four firms to respond to the warning letters within 15 working days of receiving the letter. The agency says that failure to obey federal tobacco law may result in further action, including -- but not limited to -- civil money penalties, criminal prosecution, seizure, and/or injunction.
The agency says it expects many of these products will remain available for purchase by consumers at retail establishments while it works with the manufacturers to ensure the products are in compliance with the requirements of the law.
National chains are accused of inflating the original price of things on sale12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed lawsuits against four major retail chains, accusing them of artificially inflating the prices of some items...
Here are some tips for avoiding the pitfalls12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Among the weekend's new movie releases was “Office Christmas Party,” a seasonal comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman.The movie plays the...
2017 tax filing season just around the corner
This time, you'll have an extra three days12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's almost time to drag out that shoe box full of receipts.The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says tax season will begin Monday, January 23, with the...
It's almost time to drag out that shoe box full of receipts.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says tax season will begin Monday, January 23, with the acceptance of electronic tax returns.
The IRS expects more than 80% of tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax return preparation software with more than 153 million individual tax returns filed in 2017.
The agency will also begin processing paper tax returns the same day, but notes there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.
A new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. In addition, taxpayers should be aware it'll take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions.
Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27.
“For this tax season, it’s more important than ever for taxpayers to plan ahead,” notes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “People should make sure they have their year-end tax statements in hand, and we encourage people to file as they normally would, including those claiming the credits affected by the refund delay.”
Delayed filing deadline
The deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15 date. April 15 falls on a Saturday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday -- April 17.
However, Emancipation Day -- a legal holiday in the District of Columbia -- will be observed on that Monday, bumping the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 18. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation.
Publix Premium Pancake and Waffle Mixes recalled
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Publix Super Markets is recalling certain Publix Premium Pancake and Waffle Mixes.The milk powder used as an ingredient may contain Salmonella.Ther...
Publix Super Markets is recalling certain Publix Premium Pancake and Waffle Mixes.
The milk powder used as an ingredient may contain Salmonella.
There have been no reported cases of illness to date.
All lot codes of the following items are affected by this recall:
The mixes were sold at Publix stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products may return the product to their local store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Publix at 1-800-242-1227 or online at www.publix.com.
Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZs recalled
A front seat belt anchor cable could fail12/12/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 603,392 model year 2013-2016 Ford Fusions manufactured November 2, 2012, to July 31, 2014, and 2013-2015 Lincoln MKZs manuf...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 603,392 model year 2013-2016 Ford Fusions manufactured November 2, 2012, to July 31, 2014, and 2013-2015 Lincoln MKZs manufactured November 14, 2012, to July 31, 2014.
In the event of a crash, heat from the deployment of a seat belt pretensioner may cause a front seat belt anchor cable to fail.
If the driver or front passenger seat belt cables cannot properly restrain the front seat occupants, the individuals would be at an increased risk
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will apply a protective coating to the seat belt cable, free of charge. Remedy parts are currently unavailable. Owners will be notified of the safety issue beginning on January 20, 2017.
Remedy parts are expected to be available by the second quarter of 2017, and at that time, owners will be mailed a second notice.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16S42.
People of all faiths, ethnicities, tribes, and beliefs came together to work as one12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
The makeshift city at Oceti SakowinFrom Palestine to Standing Rock We Are United. Juntos Protejamos. Mni Wiconi. Artwork and signs of solidarity from...
Washington state sues Monsanto over use of PCBs
The suit alleges that the company knew the dangers of PCBs but produced and sold them anyway12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The state of Washington has taken aim at Monsanto – the agrochemical company that has caught the ire of millions over its use of biochemicals. According to...
The state of Washington has taken aim at Monsanto – the agrochemical company that has caught the ire of millions over its use of biochemicals. According to a report from Consumerist, the state has sued the company because of its decades-long use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
PCBs were banned in 1979 after they were found to be toxic, but Washington officials say Monsanto was aware of their harmful effects well before that time and continued producing them anyway, leading to the pollution of state waterways. Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the chemical is so pervasive that it can be found nearly everywhere.
“Monsanto is responsible for producing a chemical that is so widespread in our environment that it appears virtually everywhere we look — in our waterways, in people and in fish — at levels that can impact our health. It’s time to hold them accountable for doing their fair share as we clean up hundreds of contaminated sites and waterways around the state,” he said.
Prior knowledge of dangers
In its lawsuit, the state spells out the negative effects that PCBs can have on the environment and people. “In humans, PCB exposure is associated with cancer as well as serious non-cancer health effects, including injury to the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. In addition, PCBs harm populations of fish, birds and other animal life,” the complaint states.
It goes on to say that Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs for over 40 years, between 1935 and 1979. It alleges that the company knew the chemicals were toxic but “concealed these facts and continued producing PCBs until Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act,” which banned PCB production in 1979.
As evidence, the state points to a 1967 company memo where company officials stated that there was “no practice course of action that can so effectively police the uses of the products to prevent environmental contamination.” Still, it continued to manufacture and push sales of the chemicals for more than a decade.
Profits over people
The suit cites another report that makes it clear that Monsanto put profits before the health of citizens. In a report to the Corporate Development Committee, Monsanto says that discontinuing production of Aroclor – the brand name under which PCBs were sold – was unacceptable, saying that “there is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out.
If successful in its suit, the state will look to claim hundreds of millions in damages. Damages will be assed based on the damage done to natural resources, the economic impact made on the state and its residents, and any future costs associated with the presence of PCBs.
Update: In a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs, Scott S. Partridge -- Vice President of Global Strategy at Monsanto -- defended the company and addressed the lawsuit:
“This case is highly experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer," he said.
"PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades, and Washington is now pursuing a case on a contingency fee basis that departs from settled law both in Washington and across the country. Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit and will defend itself vigorously."
Don’t let thieves spoil your trip
There are steps you can take before leaving home and while traveling12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
It was a sunny day in Madrid, the perfect day to linger outside. While walking through the alleys we found a charming café in a plaza and ordered a half ca...
It was a sunny day in Madrid, the perfect day to linger outside. While walking through the alleys we found a charming café in a plaza and ordered a half carafe of local wine. I felt comfortable as we perused the menu; I had my credit card and ID secure in a wallet around my neck, tucked into my top. Even while sitting, my handbag strap was secure across my body.
Suddenly, we heard shouting, and as it grew louder we could see movement at the end of the alley. Our waiter said demonstrators were marching down the main street, but we felt safe tucked away in the plaza. Just then, there was rapid movement and a loud disturbance to my left. It looked as if two young women, moving between the tables, were distributing flyers, and I thought maybe it had to do with the demonstration. But the couple next to us started screaming and one of them was hitting the young women.
The ruckus ended as quickly as it began. One of the women had grabbed a cell phone from the table next to us. The couple, from Madrid, acted quickly and grabbed the cell phone back while slapping and chasing the women.
I have been a pickpocket victim myself and preach the importance of securing your valuables. While I do follow my own advice, it is easy to get caught up enjoying yourself and let your guard down.
Safety tips before leaving home
Leave your valuable jewelry at home. Do not take or wear any items that would leave you brokenhearted should they be stolen.
Make copies of the credit cards you plan to take, passport, medical insurance card, and photo ID.
Alert your bank and credit card company of your travel plans.
Download the free State Department Smart Traveler app. The app provides frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more.
Locate and retain the phone numbers for the U.S. Embassy and nearest consulate offices in the countries/areas you will be visiting.
Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enroll their trip. Once registered, the Embassy can communicate information about safety concerns, contact you in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or family), as well as help family and friends reach you in an emergency.
Keep the State Department’s emergency numbers handy. They will provide help (sometimes limited) for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444).
Staying safe while traveling
Secure your passport, cash, and extra credit cards in your hotel safe. If there is no room safe, ask at the front desk to use the hotel safe or lock them up in your suitcase.
Carry a copy of your passport when out and about. It will serve as your ID.
Bring one credit card, some cash, and your debit card while touring. Keep these safe in a travel wallet you wear around your neck and secure under your top or in a money belt tucked inside your waistband. Avoid putting anything in your pockets unless they are on the inside of a vest or jacket.
Always carry a handbag or backpack in the front. Keep one hand on the strap.
Use a numerical code to lock your phone, iPad, and computer.
Do not leave your cell phone, iPad, or camera sitting on a table or any other surface.
Always keep your cell phone, iPad, and camera secure when not in use, in a zippered pocket or a bag; don’t make it easy for a thief to steal it right from your hand.
Most important, be aware of your surroundings, and while you should immerse yourself and enjoy, always remain diligent when it comes to security. Pickpockets and thieves are everywhere and just waiting for an opportunity to make you their next victim.
Net Neutrality's days may be numbered
Likely nominee to head the FCC has been a foe of commission 'over-reach'12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Net neutrality is one of those issues that might start a bar-room brawl in Washington, D.C., but it's not something that gets the blood boiling in most pre...
Net neutrality is one of those issues that might start a bar-room brawl in Washington, D.C., but it's not something that gets the blood boiling in most precincts of the country. Nevertheless, it and related measures handled by the Federal Communications Commission are pocketbook issues that aren't far behind the price of gas and mortgage rates for American families.
The Obama Administration's FCC has taken an activist stance on Internet matters, choosing to apply regulations to what had for most of its life been a Wild West sort of place, where just about anyone could do just about anything.
Most notably, and most controversially, the FCC in March 2015 voted 3-2 to declare that broadband service was a utility and could therefore be regulated. It imposed rules designed to prohibit carriers from treating some traffic differently from others.
One of the dissenting votes came from commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican who is generally considered to be the leading candidate to head the commission when the Trump Administration rolls into town. Pai has opposed much of what the FCC has done under current chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.
Though a Republican, Pai was nominated to the FCC by President Obama in 2011. A Harvard Law graduate, he is the son of immigrants from India and grew up in Parsons, Kansas.
"Days are numbered"
He is particularly dismissive of the net neutrality regulations and in a speech last week said the rule's "days are numbered."
"I’m hopeful that beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility," Pai said in his speech to a Free State Foundation luncheon, arguing that the net neutrality rules were adopted without any evidence that they were needed.
"There was no evidence of systemic failure in the Internet marketplace. As I said at the time, 'One could read the entire document . . . without finding anything more than hypothesized harms.' Or, in other words, public-utility regulation was a solution that wouldn’t work for a problem that didn’t exist."
Besides net neutrality, Pai is thought to be unsympathetic to plans to break cable systems' monopoly on set-top boxes and to outlaw local regulations banning municipal broadband networks.
Pai singled out the set-top box proposal, which he said was being formulated in the dark.
"Right now, the FCC provides information selectively to favored insiders. To give one example, if you are in the good graces of the FCC’s leadership, you can receive detailed information about the set-top box proposal. But if you aren’t, you’re left in the dark," he said.
Michigan allows self-driving cars, hoping to take back the R&D lead from California
There's been a tug-of-war over whether self-driving cars are cars or computers with wheels12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Michigan is rolling out the welcome mat for self-driving cars, hoping to take back California's early lead as the proving ground for autonomous vehicles. G...
Michigan is rolling out the welcome mat for self-driving cars, hoping to take back California's early lead as the proving ground for autonomous vehicles. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation today that lets cars without steering wheels or brake pedals travel on Michigan roads.
It goes considerably farther than that, also allowing companies to operate Uber-style autonomous ride-hailing services and even to sell self-driving cars to consumers once they have passed the testing and certification process.
California has been back-pedaling somewhat, under pressure from consumer groups who say it has been too eager to let companies like Google conduct their R&D; efforts on public roads.
Federal safety regulators have also shifted gears, declaring in September that automakers would have to achieve what the Department of Transportation (DOT) is calling a "robust design" to ensure that self-driving cars are safe before they can be sold or operated on public roads.
The DOT said it may also ask Congress to require that automakers get approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) before introducing new models -- similar to the way the Federal Aviation Administration now grants airworthiness certificates to airplanes.
That's a significant shift in what had been more of a laissez-faire approach that let automakers and companies like Google and Uber put just about any kind of autonomous car on the road as long as there was a licensed driver on board.
But as with so many federal matters today, there's considerable doubt that the incoming Trump Administration will be as likely as the incumbents to put the brakes on the technology. Then there's the little matter that Michigan was key to Trump's upset victory in November.
East vs. Midwest
Besides state pride, there's the whole question of whether autonomous vehicles are cars driven by computers or computers with wheels. Michigan is the traditional home of the car business, while California's Silicon Valley drives the software sector, and Michigan is determined to remain the capital of the automobile industry, autonomous or otherwise.
Snyder says his state's liberal new rules will speed up the development process while ensuring safety.
“By establishing guidelines and standards for self-driving vehicles, we’re continuing that tradition of excellence in a way that protects the public’s safety while at the same time allows the mobility industry to grow without overly burdensome regulations,” Snyder said as he signed the legislation at the Automotive Hall of Fame Museum, where he was flanked by a Ford Model-T on one side and a self-driving Fusion on the other.
“Michigan put the world on wheels and now we are leading the way in transforming the auto industry,” Snyder said. “We are becoming the mobility industry, shaped around technology that makes us more aware and safer as we’re driving. By recognizing that and aligning our state’s policies as new technology is developed, we will continue as the leader the rest of the world sees as its biggest competition.”
Automakers beamed their approval. "The enactment of this legislation affords Michigan the opportunity to be at the forefront of the next major transition in the automotive industry and should serve as a model for other states," GM said in a statement, according to an Automotive News report.
FCA, Ford, Toyota, Google, Uber, and Lyft have also applauded the measure.
So far, only 10 states including Michigan have enacted laws allowing autonomous vehicles on their roadways. The District of Columbia also allows self-driving cars to creep along its clogged streets and avenues, but whether or when the other 40 states will do so remains to be seen.
If calls are allowed, proposed federal rule would require airlines to notify passengers in advance12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Should phone calls be allowed on airliners? Federal rules currently prohibit it, but that could change under a proposal from the U.S. Transportation Depart...
Participating consumers will enjoy a shopping experience with dimmer lights and no music12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Consumers who choose to go to brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday already know what to expect when the doors finally open. The press of people, accompa...
Your credit card probably already provides one12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
No doubt as you check out with your holiday purchases this month, the clerk will pitch you on buying some kind of extended service plan. It will provide co...
Companion animals are often central members of patients' social circles, study finds12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Pets often bring immeasurable joy to those who care for them, but their role doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that pet ownership can help the elderly,...
Bristol-Myers Squibb settles drug marketing charges with 43 states
States claimed company pushed Abilify for unapproved uses12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Major drug companies have been in the cross-hairs of both consumers and politicians in recent months, with President-elect Donald Trump recently echoing De...
Major drug companies have been in the cross-hairs of both consumers and politicians in recent months, with President-elect Donald Trump recently echoing Democrats' complaints that drug prices are too high.
So the attorneys general of 43 states are pointing to this week's settlement with pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) as a way of bringing prices back to earth and better policing drug companies' marketing practices.
The suit against the drug company did not specifically address the prices charged for drugs, but rather an unapproved use, which the suit claimed indirectly influenced costs to both consumers and government medical aid programs.
The drug in question is Abilify, which is approved to treat schizophrenia. But the state officials charged Bristol-Myers Squibb deceptively marketed Abilify to older consumers to treat symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They point out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Abilify for that use.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that could have posed health risks.
'Potentially harmed older patients'
“This is another example of a big pharmaceutical company ignoring serious health concerns to boost its profits,” Madigan said. “BMS’ practices potentially harmed older patients in order to increase the company’s bottom line.”
The terms of the settlement will restrict Bristol-Myers Squibb's marketing of any drugs containing the active ingredient in Abilify. The company will also limit financial incentives to sales representatives and health care providers.
“Drug companies should not market their drug for off-label uses or make claims that are not supported by scientific evidence,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Consumers must be able to rely on their doctor’s advice for medication without having to worry about drug companies manipulating their advertising to promote their products at the expense of patients.”
In addition to abiding by the agreed-to restrictions, Bristol-Myers Squibb will pay $19 million, to be divided among the 43 states.
Group says fake microSDHC cards pose a threat to consumers' data12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Buyer beware is good advice to consumers in general, but especially when purchasing items online from an individual or company you know little about. Th...
The retailer is closing more stores to cope with mounting losses12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart department stores, reported third quarter earnings that were a disappointment to just about everyone, i...
To avoid vet bills, experts recommend keeping furry companions away from these gifts12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
‘Tis the season to give and receive gifts, but some gifts may be as unwanted as they are dangerous to pets. For every pet who makes a snack out of a gift b...
No need to be a paperwork pack-rat12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
What must I keep? What can I toss?What must I keep? What can I toss?Questions about how long to keep tax returns and other documents face many...
Taylor Farms Northwest recalls meatloaf products
The product contain milk, fish, beef and pork not declared on the labels12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Taylor Farms Northwest of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 79 pounds of meatloaf products.The Turkey Meatloaf with Kale contains milk and fish (...
Taylor Farms Northwest of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 79 pounds of meatloaf products.
The Turkey Meatloaf with Kale contains milk and fish (anchovies), allergens not declared on the label.
The Homestyle Meatloaf contains beef and pork, which are not declared on the label.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following items, produced on December 4, 2016, are being recalled:
- 20 units of 16-oz. aluminum loaf pans with plastic lids containing 1 piece of “Turkey Meatloaf with Kale” with a sell by date of 12/10/2016.
- 59 units of 16-oz. aluminum loaf pans with plastic lids containing 1 pieces of “Homestyle Meatloaf” with a sell by date of 12/10/2016.
The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 34834” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Oregon and Washington.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Kerri Tate at (253)-548-5174.
Masterbuilt recalls LP gas smokers
The smoker’s gas hose can disconnect posing a fire hazard12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Masterbuilt Manufacturing of Columbus, Ga., is recalling about 41,300 Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smokers sold in the U.S and Canada.The smoker’s gas hose can d...
Masterbuilt Manufacturing of Columbus, Ga., is recalling about 41,300 Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smokers sold in the U.S and Canada.
The smoker’s gas hose can disconnect posing a fire hazard.
The company has received five reports of the PVC gas hose becoming disconnected during use, including one report of property damage from a fire. There have been no reports of injuries.
The recalled Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smoker comes in green or stainless steel with a Cabela’s logo, or black with Masterbuilt logo. The three-piece cylindrical body design consists of a lid, center body, and base which sits on the LP gas burner stand.
It also has a porcelain flame disk bowl, water bowl, cooking grates, 10-quart pot and basket, thermometer, burner, a PVC hose and weighs about 32 pounds.
The smokers, manufactured in China, were sold at Army, Air Force Exchange, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and other stores nationwide and online at www.Amazon.com from April 2011, to October 2016, for about $150 to $200.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled smoker and contact Masterbuilt for a free replacement rubber LP gas hose.
Consumers may contact Masterbuilt at 800-489-1581, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.masterbuilt.com and click on Support then choose Contact on the upper right hand corner of the page for more information.
Various BMW vehicles with possible airbag, seat belt issue recalled
Passenger airbags, safety belt pre-tensioners may not activate properly12/09/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
BMW of North America is recalling 91 model year 2011 BMW 528i, 528xi, 535i, 535xi, 550i and 550xi vehicles manufactured March 1, 2010, through August 31, 2...
BMW of North America is recalling 91 model year 2011 BMW 528i, 528xi, 535i, 535xi, 550i and 550xi vehicles manufactured March 1, 2010, through August 31, 2011.
The vehicles may have received a replacement Sensor Cluster Unit (SCU) during a service visit with an acceleration sensor that may have been incorrectly programmed. As a result, the SCU may not accurately determine if activation and deployment of the airbags, safety belt pre-tensioners and head restraints is necessary in the event of a crash.
Depending on the severity of the crash, inadequate activation of the driver and/or passenger airbags, safety belt pre-tensioners and active head restraints may increase the risk of injury.
What to do
BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the SCU, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in December 2016.
Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.
With 1 in 6 teens saying they have used e-cigs, it's time for action, new report argues12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Back in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry, released a report that documented in exhaustive detail the health risks...
The new owners would have to post a hefty letter of credit to protect taxpayers and students12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The University of Phoenix is one step closer to being sold and going private. The U.S. Education Department approved the $1.14 billion sale of parent compa...
It's the second time in two years that regulators have tried to restrict sales of untested supplements12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
With some arm-twisting by the U.S. Justice Department, supplement seller GNC has agreed to stop selling any supplement or ingredient that the Food and Drug...
Lawmakers show skepticism, but not opposition, at Senate hearing12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Back in October, when AT&T; announced an agreement to purchase Time Warner, candidate Donald Trump blasted the proposed deal, saying he would do everything...
A federal report expounds on the life-long benefits of teaching children to control their emotions and behavior12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
One of the most important skills that we can learn when we're growing up is the ability to self-regulate – or control and monitor our own emotions, thought...
Vegan and vegetarian diets are healthy for people of all ages as long as they're balanced, new guidelines say12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet during pregnancy isn’t harmful to a developing baby as long as an expectant mother’s meals are well-balanced.Tha...
The 2.7 million refunds average $31 for customers who were falsely billed12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is providing over $88 million in refunds to more than 2.7 million AT&T; customers who had third-party charges added to t...
Consumers on track to add $80 billion in credit card debt in 201612/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Amid the recent optimism about the economy and record-setting stock market performance comes a harsh dose of reality. Consumers are becoming more deeply mi...
Travelers taking a transcontinental flight may be treated to a free meal on an upcoming trip12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
At the beginning of the month, we reported the results of a study by New York’s Hunter College that assessed which airlines had the best food. While Virgin...
Here are some of the most common ones to look out for12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The holidays are always a busy time for scammers, and the reason is simple. It's the time of year consumers are most likely to open their wallets.Most...
Expects more infrastructure spending and business-friendly tax rates12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
While the unemployment rate has plunged over the last few years and the economy appears to be at full employment, the labor participation rate is still ver...
Study finds that optimistic women have a lower risk of dying from certain diseases12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Are you a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of person? If so, a new study suggests that you could have many healthy years ahead of you.Researchers from the Harvar...
Job market holds steady in October
The year-over-year gain in employment was about 2.5 million12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The number of job openings was little changed at 5.5 million on the last business day of October, according to the Bureau...
The number of job openings was little changed at 5.5 million on the last business day of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Openings were up in health care and social assistance, but down in professional and business services, federal government, and mining and logging. The number of job openings was little changed in all four regions of the country.
There wasn't much change in the number of hires in October -- 5.1 million -- about the same as the month before for a hires rate of 3.5%.
The number of hires was little changed for total private and for government, with hires down by 26,000 in state and local government education and little change in all other industries. The number of hires also was little changed in all four regions.
Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations and is referred to as turnover.
There were 4.9 million total separations in October, comprised of 3.0 million quits, 1.5 million layoffs and discharges other separations that was little changed from September.
Net employment change
Over the 12 months ending in October, hires totaled 62.6 million and separations totaled 60.1 million, for a net employment gain of 2.5 million. These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
A big drop last week in the number of initial jobless claims.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports there were 258,000 first-time applications for state unemployment benefits filed in the week ending December 3, down 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.
Initial claims have now been below 300,000 for 92 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1970.
The four-week moving average inched up 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised average to 252,500.
The latter measurement is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market due to its lack of volatility.
The full report may be found on the DOL website.
Model year 2007-2008 Hyundai Entourage vehicles recalled
The secondary hood latch may remain unlatched when the hood is closed.12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 41,264 model year 2007-2008 Entourage vehicles manufactured February 16, 2006, to June 30, 2008.The vehicle's the se...
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 41,264 model year 2007-2008 Entourage vehicles manufactured February 16, 2006, to June 30, 2008.
The vehicle's the secondary hood latch may corrode and bind and remain in the unlatched position when the hood is closed.
If the primary latch is inadvertently released and the secondary latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while driving, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.
What to do
Hyundai will notify all owners.
For vehicles originally sold, or ever registered, in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, dealers will replace the secondary latch.
For vehicles in any other state, dealers will inspect and either lubricate or replace the secondary latch, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 9, 2016.
Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 154.
Mercedes-Benz recalls vehicles with clearance issue
The vehicle's composite underbody panel may melt, increasing the risk of a fire.12/08/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 799 model year 2017 E400 4Matic Coupes, E400 Convertibles, E550 Coupes and E550 Convertibles manufactured June 7, 20...
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 799 model year 2017 E400 4Matic Coupes, E400 Convertibles, E550 Coupes and E550 Convertibles manufactured June 7, 2016, to September 8, 2016.
There may be insufficient clearance between the vehicle's left catalytic converter and the composite underbody panel causing the panel to melt, increasing the risk of a fire.
What to do
MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the underbody panel, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in December 2016.
Owners may contact Mercedes customer service at 1-800-367-6372.
Health insurers warn that they need relief from constantly rising pharmaceutical costs12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Drug company stock prices soared last month when Donald Trump won the presidential election, but they plunged today when Trump declared himself an opponent...
Why parents' use of media devices is just as bad as their children's
Researchers found that parents spend an exorbitant amount of time looking at screens12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The use of media devices is higher than it has ever been before, and one of the groups commonly associated with all that screen time is children and teenag...
The use of media devices is higher than it has ever been before, and one of the groups commonly associated with all that screen time is children and teenagers. It often falls to parents to try and limit the amount of screen exposure and set a good example, but a new study shows that their media use may be just as bad.
Researchers at the Common Sense Census conducted surveys on over 1,700 parents with children between the ages of 8 and 18. They found that parents spent roughly 9 hours and 22 minutes on some sort of media device. The vast majority of that time wasn’t work-related either; the researchers said that only 18%, or 1 hour and 22 minutes, of that time was work-related screen time. The rest was used on “personal screen media” – activities like watching TV, playing games, or surfing the web.
Perhaps ironically, over half of participating parents said that they were worried that their children would become addicted to technology or that it would affect their quality of sleep. Seventy-eight percent also said that they thought they were good role models when it came to media use.
“These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids’ media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids,” said James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Census.
Social media and internet use stood out as big concerns for parents in the study. Around half of the respondents said that they thought too much time on social media negatively affected physical activity, and a smaller faction said that it hurt children’s ability to focus (35%), impeded face-to-face communication (34%), and worsened behavior (24%), school performance (22%), emotional well-being (20%), and relationships with friends (20%). However, 44% of parents thought social media made friendships stronger.
Parents who were concerned about general internet use said they were “moderately” or “extremely” worried about four major things: spending too much time online (43%), over-sharing personal details (38%), accessing online pornography (36%), and exposure to violent content (36%).
Other concerns connected to media use primarily focused on addiction and health. Fifty-six percent of parents said they were worried that their children could become addicted to technology, while 34% said they were specifically worried about their children not getting enough sleep because of media devices.
While parents have all these concerns about their children’s media use, they tend to have a much more cavalier stance when it comes to their own consumption. The study found that, on average, parents spent 3 hours and 17 minutes watching TV, DVDs, or video on a daily basis. Video gaming came in at the next highest use (1:30), followed by social networking (1:06), browsing websites (0:51), and other activities on computers, smartphones, and tablets (0:44).
The researchers found that level of education and income were factors that affected media use. Parents that had a BA degree or more spent 1 hour and 33 minutes less on personal screen media than parents with a high school diploma or less. Parents who made under $35,000 per year had the most logged personal screen time with 9 hours and 15 minutes, compared to parents making between $35,000 and $100,000 (7:42) and those making over $100,000 (6:41).
While talking to parents about their media use, the researchers found that some participants were often surprised by how much time they spent on certain activities.
“I like to play Words with Friends, and sometimes I’ll find that after a while I’ll be like, oh my God, I’ve been on this for an hour, and you have to say, OK, I have to put this away. I can see how children can get hooked on playing video games or using media the entire weekend,” said one mother of a 15-year-old.
While the surveys found that many parents mediate their child’s use of technology or screen time, the findings suggest that taking the time to examine their own consumption habits could be beneficial. The full study can be found here.
Alaska Air-Virgin America deal gets clearance from feds
Alaska will be required to give up some codeshare flights with American Airlines12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The Justice Department has approved Alaska Air's acquisition of Virgin Airlines but will require that Alaska cut back on the number of codeshare flights it...
The Justice Department has approved Alaska Air's acquisition of Virgin Airlines but will require that Alaska cut back on the number of codeshare flights it operates with American Airlines.
"We couldn't be more excited about receiving DOJ clearance for our merger with Virgin America," said Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden. "With this combination now cleared for take-off, we're thrilled to bring these two companies together and start delivering our low fares and great service to an even larger group of customers."
The $4 billion deal between the nation's sixth- and ninth-largest airlines will create the fifth-largest U.S. carrier if the codesharing changes are agreed to by Alaska and approved by the courts.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., the Justice Department said the codeshare modifications are needed to ensure that Alaska will have the incentive to compete vigorously with American, as Virginidoes today.
“Smaller airlines, such as Alaska and Virgin, provide a critical competitive check on the larger carriers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Although this merger offers hope that a strengthened Alaska can be an even stronger competitor than before, because of Alaska’s extensive codeshare agreement with the world’s largest airline, the merger threatened to blunt important competition and reduce choices for consumers. Today’s settlement ensures that Alaska has the incentive to take the fight to American and use Virgin’s assets to grow its network in ways that benefit competition and consumers.”
Virgin has competed head-to-head with American on many transcontinental routes and has offered lower prices and better service and the Justice Department settlement is intended to preserve that competition. The codeshare agreement enables Alaska to market American flights on over 250 routes, creating an incentive for it to compete less vigorously, the suit argues.
Alaska said it has agreed to the "limited changes" in the codeshare agreement. The court is expected to approve the settlement and Tilden said he expected the deal to close "in the very near future." He said a private lawsuit challenging the merger is "without merit."
"We remain confident in the merits of this transaction," Tilden said. "The expanded West Coast presence and larger customer base create an enhanced platform for growth, which is good for investors, employees and especially customers – who benefit from more choices, increased competition and low fares."
Virgin America did not provide a prepared statement. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, has said he would not have approved the deal if he had had the authority to block it and has said the name Virgin America will be preserved in some manner.
Because Branson is British, he is blocked by federal law from owning controlling interest in the airline.
The wristband tracks heart rate, oxygen levels, and thermal comfort12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Peace of mind is often rather elusive for first time parents, who might find themselves constantly checking to make sure that the baby is breathing or wond...
The only problem is they haven't found an easy defense against them12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It's thought that the first car theft in history occurred in Paris in 1896 when a mechanic stole the Peugeot he had been working on. Today, more than 700,0...
Firms falsely claimed borrowers would be able to pay off all debts even though a mortgage is a debt12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has taken action against three reverse mortgage companies for deceptive advertisements, including claiming...
Baby teethers labeled 'BPA-free' often contain BPA, study finds
Researchers say even low levels of BPA can be harmful12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
To soothe teething pain, parents often hand their little one a colorful teether to sink their sprouting teeth into. But despite being labeled “BPA-free” an...
To soothe teething pain, parents often hand their little one a colorful teether to sink their sprouting teeth into. But despite being labeled “BPA-free” and “non-toxic,” many baby teethers may contain low levels of BPA.
Studies have shown that EDCs can interfere with hormones and have harmful developmental, reproductive, and neurological effects. The U.S. and other governments have banned or restricted the use of some BPA, parabens, and antimicrobials in certain baby products, such as bottles.
“Regulation is hazy because the levels are still being debated and standards are not clearly described,” Kannan told FoxNews.com.
But these regulations do not account for the accumulation of multiple EDCs, the researchers noted. Additionally, not all of the chemicals measured in the study are regulated.
Researchers say eating up to 20 grams of nuts per day can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other ailments12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Whether you prefer walnuts, pecans, or hazel nuts, eating a handful of nuts every day can cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases....
Plaintiffs claimed they were misled by the company's advertisements12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A federal judge has thrown out a would-be class action suit that alleged Mercedes-Benz misled consumers about emissions from its "BlueTec Clean Diesel" mod...
Drivers need to use extra caution, especially in parking lots12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The holiday season is filled with more hustle and bustle than usual. More people are driving on roads and highways and shopping mall parking lots are full....
FAA proposes civil penalty against Resorts World companies
The firm is accused of running unauthorized flights12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The next time you decide to fly to the islands for some sun and fun, you might want to take a close look at the airline you've chosen.The Federal Aviat...
The next time you decide to fly to the islands for some sun and fun, you might want to take a close look at the airline you've chosen.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a civil penalty of $218,700 civil against Resorts World Aviation and Resorts World Bimini.
The companies are accused of flying passengers without an FAA air carrier certificate or with pilots who had not been trained and checked for commercial operations.
According to the agency, Resorts World Aviation provided Resorts World Bimini casino players and other guests with nine for-hire flights between July 10 and July 19, 2015. The flights were between the Miami area and Bimini in the Bahamas.
The companies operated the flights when they did not hold the required FAA certificate to carry passengers for hire, according to the FAA, or the economic authorization from the Transportation Department to operate as an air carrier.
Additionally, the FAA claims pilots flying the planes did not have the required training and proficiency checks to conduct the operations involved. The agency also says the companies advertised to perform the operations despite not having FAA authorization.
The companies have asked to meet with the FAA to discuss the case.
How real is OPEC's agreement to cut oil production?
If it doesn't hold, consumers could see still lower gasoline prices12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Oil prices move up and down like the stock market, and it takes some time before those movements translate to consumers at the gas pump.Even so, many m...
Oil prices move up and down like the stock market, and it takes some time before those movements translate to consumers at the gas pump.
Even so, many motorists might have noticed gasoline prices have moved up in the last week. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is $2.19 a gallon, up four cents from last week and 17 cents from a year ago.
The main reason for the slightly higher prices is last week's agreement by OPEC that its members will reduce their output in the coming year to shrink the persistent glut of oil on world markets. The move is aimed at pushing the price of oil above $50 a barrel, which would increase profits for producers while raising fuel costs for consumers.
“Traditionally this time of year gives way to lower gas prices as a result of cheaper to produce winter-blend fuel and less demand,” AAA said in a statement. “However, due to the agreement from OPEC it is still unclear if prices will retreat considerably ahead of the upcoming holidays.”
Can the agreement hold?
But OPEC historically has had problems enforcing its production cuts, and industry analysts are already pointing to what they say are cracks in the brand new, yet to be implemented agreement. MarketWatch reports that analysts are pointing out that OPEC oil production reached a record level of 34.2 million barrels a day last month.
Analysts say OPEC was producing nearly 1.7 million barrels a day more than the amount it has set as a target, beginning in January. They say when non-OPEC countries like Russia see these figures, they may be much less likely to curtail their own oil output, which must happen in order for supplies to go down. Meanwhile, Russia also stepped up production last month.
Reuters reports Russia produced more than 11 million barrels a day in November, its highest level in nearly 30 years. Between Russia and OPEC, there was enough oil produced in November to meet half of the world's demand.
While this may be bad news for oil producers, consumers stand to benefit, especially when they fill their tanks. The modest price hikes consumers have experienced in recent weeks, it should be pointed out, are all speculative.
Gasoline futures prices have been bid higher simply on the expectation that oil is going to cost more in the future. But if oil production doesn't actually go down, eventually that sentiment will change, and it will bring gasoline prices down again.
Scammers are exploiting the fact that more consumers are expecting packages12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
With the holiday season upon us, chances are you've ordered a few things online and are expecting a package delivery or two.So if you were to get an em...
A lot is determined by how you intend to use the credit12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
You need a solid credit rating to get good access to credit, but once you're over that hurdle, what kind of debt is most advantageous?Most consumers pr...
Top trends include purple foods and pasta made from alternative grains12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
If you haven’t tried beet noodles or purple asparagus, you just might in 2017. Whole Foods is predicting that purple foods will be among 2017's biggest foo...
Mortgage applications post second straight weekly decline
Contract interest rates rose to their highest levels in two years12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mortgage applications were down for the second week in a row last week.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 0.7% in the week en...
Mortgage applications were down for the second week in a row last week.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 0.7% in the week ending December 2. The prior week’s results included an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday.
While the Refinance Index was down 1% percent from the previous week, the refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 56.2% of total applications from 55.1% a week earlier.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was 6% -- the highest level since February; the FHA share rose to 11.3% from 10.4% the week prior; the VA share went to 12.6% from 11.7%; and the USDA share of total applications rose to 0.9% from 0.8% the week before.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose four basis points -- from 4.23% to 4.27% -- its highest level since October 2014, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.41 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to its highest level since September 2014 -- moving to 4.22% from 4.18%, with points unchanged at 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA remained unchanged at 4.99% -- its highest level since July 2015, with points decreasing to 0.38 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs jumped five basis points to 3.53%, its highest level since September 2014, with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to its highest level since September 2013 -- 3.39% from 3.23% -- with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Home prices post annual gain of nearly 7% in October
Month-over-month prices were on the rise as well12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Consumers saw another nice bump in home prices during October.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home pri...
Consumers saw another nice bump in home prices during October.
Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices were up both year over year and month-over-month.
Including distressed sales, home prices nationwide posted an increase of 6.7% from October 2015 and and were up 1.1% from September.
"While national home prices increased 6.7%, only nine states had home price growth at the same rate of growth or higher than the national average because the largest states, such as Texas, Florida and California, are experiencing high rates of home price appreciation," said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic.
The CoreLogic HPI Forecast, a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables, indicates home prices will increase by 4.6% on a year-over-year basis from October 2016 to October 2017 and on a month-over-month basis by 0.2% from October 2016 to November 2016.
"Home prices are continuing to soar across much of the U.S. led by major metro areas such as Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and Denver. Prices are being fueled by a potent cocktail of high demand, low inventories and historically low interest rates," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Looking forward to next year, nationwide home prices are expected to climb another 5 percent in many parts of the country to levels approaching the pre-recession peak."
FMIF Holdings recalls Snow Monkey Goji Berry and Cacao pods
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
FMIF Holdings is recalling Snow Monkey Goji Berry and Cacao pods that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported t...
FMIF Holdings is recalling Snow Monkey Goji Berry and Cacao pods that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date from consuming Snow Monkey products.
The following products, packed in 8-oz plastic pods with sticker labels, are being recalled:
- 8 oz. Snow Monkey Subzero Superfood in Cacao delivered from online order between May and June 2016. Barcode reads ‘000000000000 Sample Only - Not for Resale’
- 8 oz. Snow Monkey Subzero Superfood in in Goji Berry delivered from online order between May and June 2016. Barcode reads ‘000000000000 Sample Only - Not for Resale’
The barcode can be found printed horizontally on the side of the label next to the nutritional facts.
The recalled products were distributed via online order between May and June 2016 in California, Missouri, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Hawaii, Oregon, Colorado, District of Columbia, Michigan, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey and New Hampshire. None of these products were sold at retail stores.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them but dispose of them.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at (951) 878-0887 weekdays, 9am-4pm (PST) or by email at email@example.com.
Mathew & Lauren collection crib recalled
The mattress support system may dislodge12/07/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards is recalling about 100 Mathew & Lauren collection cribs sold in Canada.The mattress support system may dislodge resulting in...
Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards is recalling about 100 Mathew & Lauren collection cribs sold in Canada.
The mattress support system may dislodge resulting in a change in the side height. The change in side height poses a fall hazard for the child. Thus these cribs do not meet the requirements of the Cribs, Cradles and Bassinets Regulations in Canada.
The company says there are no reports of incidents or injuries.
This recall involves Mathew & Lauren collection cribs, identified by model 8700-700. The recalled product is a crib that can be converted into a double bed. The model number can be found on the product's packaging and on a label on the inside of the side panel.
The cribs, manufactured in Canada, were sold from January 2015, to November 2016.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should immediately stop using it and contact Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards to arrange for replacement fasteners for the mattress support system.
Consumers with questions may contact Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards at 1-888-661-8201, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at http://www.mhcfurniture.com/baby-furniture/.
Company facing skeptical lawmakers and president-elect12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A lot is at stake Wednesday as AT&T; executives go before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the company's proposed acquisition of co...
CEO says he doubts President-elect Trump will push the issue12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Does Donald Trump care about highway safety? AutoNation is betting he doesn't. The new-car chain has backed down on its pledge to fix all outstanding recal...
The measure outlaws the use of gag clauses in contracts12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
With little fanfare and even less dissent, Congress has passed a bill that protects consumers' right to post reviews of businesses. The measure now awaits...
While the cuts are not a sure thing, they would largely affect workers in Southern California12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last month, American Apparel once again filed for bankruptcy and said that it would be selling off $66 million in assets and intellectual property to Canad...
Medical researchers worry about 'masked' hypertension
Blood pressure levels found to be higher than during doctors' office visits12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a growing health concern in the U.S., mainly because of lifestyle factors. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and obes...
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a growing health concern in the U.S., mainly because of lifestyle factors. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity are all contributing factors.
High blood pressure is easily treatable, but first you have to know if you are affected by it. Blood pressure is measured using a cuff that applies pressure to your arm or wrist. Unless you have one of these cuffs at home, the only time you take a reading is when you visit a healthcare provider.
Researchers at Stony Brook University and Columbia University wondered if occasional measurements at a doctor's office provided an accurate determination of whether someone suffered from high blood pressure.
They enlisted a group of patients who had normal readings on their infrequent measurements in a clinical setting and placed wearable monitors on them to measure blood pressure around the clock. They say they discovered that for some subjects, their blood pressure was outside the normal range during daily activities, even though it seemed normal at the doctor's office.
Reverse of 'white coat hypertension'
The researchers say it's the reverse of so-called “white coat hypertension,” when the slight stress of being in a doctor's office results in higher blood pressure readings. When blood pressure spikes during normal day-to-day activities, the researchers call it “masked hypertension.”
The only way to uncover masked hypertension is with around the clock monitoring, using a wearable device. The researchers say that compared to blood pressure measured infrequently in a clinic, ambulatory blood pressure is a better predictor of future heart disease.
In the study, nearly 16% of patients with normal clinic blood pressure were found to have “masked hypertension.” It was more common in men than women. Interestingly, it also affected younger, normal weight participants more than those who were older and overweight.
Debunking a widely held belief
“These findings debunk the widely held belief that ambulatory blood pressure is usually lower than clinic blood pressure,” said lead author Dr. Joseph Schwartz.
Schwartz said healthcare providers need to know that there appears to be a tendency for blood pressure during normal activities to be higher than clinic blood pressure in healthy patients who are being evaluated for high blood pressure during well-patient visits.
It's an important issue because high blood pressure, left untreated, can lead to more serious health conditions, such as heart attack and stroke.
Advocacy groups say two Bluetooth-enabled toys violate children's privacy12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Talking toys usually come preloaded with questions and phrases designed to get children talking, and there’s no telling what kids will feel compelled to di...
Sen. Chuck Schumer rails against United Airlines' baggage policy under new fare
Overhead storage should be free regardless of the ticket price, he says12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last month, United Airlines released information on its new Basic Economy fare. It immediately garnered attention from regulators and fliers due to a provi...
Last month, United Airlines released information on its new Basic Economy fare. It immediately garnered attention from regulators and fliers due to a provision that limits the amount of carry-on baggage that can be brought on the plane.
Under the new fare, fliers would only be allowed to bring one small item with them into the cabin, measuring a maximum of 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches. The items would need to be stored under the seat, and if it didn’t fit, then the flier would have to pay to check it.
While the purpose of the new rule was to cut down on boarding time and clutter in the aisles, many have come out in opposition. One of them is New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who says that the measure is “one of the most restrictive polices” that travelers have faced for some time, according to the New York Post.
“The overhead bin is one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel and the fact that United Airlines—and potentially others—plan to take that convenience away unless you pay up is really troubling. . . Air travelers are sick and tired of being nickel-and-dimed for every bag they carry and every morsel they eat by airlines that are already making sky-high profits,” he said.
Schumer says that the new policy would end up costing consumers quite a lot over the next four years, estimating that United stands to make an additional $1 billion from charges on the Basic Economy fare by 2020. In a release, he points out the unfairness of customers being locked out of lower prices unless they give up their rights to the overhead bin, calling the situation a “lose-lose.”
“No matter the ticket price, the overhead bin should be free. Period,” he said. “It seems like each year, airlines devise a new, ill-conceived plan to hit consumers and it has simply got to stop. Already, airlines charge extra for checked luggage, pillows, peanuts, and headphones and now you’ll have nowhere to store them. United Airlines should reverse this plan and allow the free use of the overhead bin for all.”
Being sleepy behind the wheel is as bad as being drunk, AAA warns
Drivers who get less than seven hours of sleep are endangering themselves and others12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, a new AAA study...
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, a new AAA study finds.
That's a big part of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has found that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. And with drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA warns drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.
"You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk."
While 97 percent of drivers told the AAA Foundation they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior that is a serious threat to their safety, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.
"Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result," said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. "Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk."
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
AAA says drivers shouldn't rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue and should instead prioritize getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) in their daily schedules.
For longer trips, drivers should also:
- Travel at times when normally awake
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
- Avoid heavy foods
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
The AAA Foundation report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. All data is from the NHTSA's National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.
Company is joining the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Hamburger chain Wendy's has always tried to set itself apart with the beef it uses to make its burgers. Its advertising proclaims its patties are “fresh, n...
As inventory builds and rates rise, sellers will have less leverage12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Over the last couple of years the U.S. housing market has transformed into something of a seller's market, especially in fast growing cities favored by Mil...
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Valley Milk Products is recalling 50-pound bags of nonfat milk powder and sweet cream buttermilk powder produced from December 10, 2015, to July 5, 2016....
Lexibook recalls baby bath seats/chairs
The bath seat can tip over while a baby is in it12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Lexibook S.A., of France is recalling about 7,00 baby bath seats and chairs.The bath seats can tip over while a baby is in it, posing a drowning hazard...
Lexibook S.A., of France is recalling about 7,00 baby bath seats and chairs.
The bath seats can tip over while a baby is in it, posing a drowning hazard to babies.
No incidents or injuries have been reported.
This recall includes all Lexibook Baby Bath Seats and Chairs. The plastic baby bath seats/chairs are intended for children 6 months and up. They have a plastic base with suction cups on the bottom, a back/arm support and a toy tray.
“Lexibook” is stamped on the back/arm support. “Made in China” and “2014 Lexibook Limited IT028/IT029 SN: 1407/VA09” are stamped on the bottom of the base. They were sold in a variety of colors.
The bat seats and chairs, manufactured in China, were sold online at Amazon.com, Unbeatablesale.com, Wayfair.com and Youngexplorers.com from January 2013, through August 2016, for between $30 and $60.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled baby bath seats and contact the online retailer where it was purchased for return instructions and to receive a full refund, or a refund in the form of a store credit or gift card, depending on the online retailer. All known purchasers will be contacted directly about the recall.
Consumers may contact the retailers as follows:
Royal Seafood Baza recalls various ready-to-eat herring products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes12/06/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Royal Seafood Baza of Staten, Island, N.Y., is recalling various refrigerated ready-to-eat herring products that maybe contaminated with Listeria monocytog...
Royal Seafood Baza of Staten, Island, N.Y., is recalling various refrigerated ready-to-eat herring products that maybe contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following items, distributed to customers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and North Carolina are being recalled:
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine with no brand name, packaged in bulk 25 lb. white plastic bucket and labeled in part “** 204250 ** HERRING ISLANDSKAYA JUMBO BY PC **” (label on the metal handle of bucket);
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine with no brand name, packaged in bulk 25 lb. white plastic bucket and labeled in part “** 204311 ** HERRING SUPER DUNAYSKAYA BY PC **” (label on the metal handle of bucket);
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine with no brand name, packaged in bulk 25 lb. white plastic bucket and labeled in part “** 204857 ** HERRING NORWAY SUPER JUMBO BY PC **” (label on the metal handle of bucket);
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine with no brand name, packaged in bulk 25 lb. white plastic bucket and labeled in part “ ** 204744 ** HERRING MALOSOLNAYA (20 in barrel) **” (label on the metal handle of bucket);
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine with no brand name, packaged in bulk 25 lb. white plastic bucket and labeled in part “** 204883 ** HERRING DUNAYSKAYA BY PC **” (label on the metal handle of bucket);
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under ROYAL Baza label, vacuum packaged in a clear bag and labeled in part “** ROYAL baza ** HERRING SUPER DUNAYSKAYA IN VACUUM BY PC * UPC 204450 000263”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under the ROYAL Baza label, vacuum packaged in a clear bag and labeled in part “** ROYAL baza ** HERRING MALOSOLNAYA IN VACUUM BY PC ** UPC 204874 000269”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 10.9 oz. (310g) plastic retail container labeled in part ** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet in Oil “Forelka Style” ** Net Wt. 10.9 oz. (310g)** UPC 825512 004915”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 16.2 oz. (460g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet in Oil “Forelka Style” ** Net Wt. 16.2 oz. (460g)** UPC 825512 004922”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 10.9 oz. (310g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Pacific Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 10.9 oz. (310g) ** UPC 825512 004939;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 16.2 oz. (460g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Pacific Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 16.2 oz. (460g)** UPC 825512 004946”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 10.9 oz. (310g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet “Matjes” ** Net Wt. 10.9 oz. (310g) ** UPC 825512 004953”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 16.2 oz. (460g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet “Matjes” ** Net Wt. 16.2 oz. (460g) ** UPC 825512 004960”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 10.9 oz. (310g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 10.9 oz. (310g)** UPC 825512 004977”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 16.2 oz. (460g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 16.2 oz. (460g)** UPC 825512 004984”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 24 oz. (680g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Holland Herring in Oil ** Net Wt. 24 oz. (680g)** UPC 825512 008128”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 46 oz. (1275g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring in Spicy Brine ** Net Wt. 46 oz. (1275g)** UPC 825512 008166”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Brine sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 46 oz. (1275g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring in Brine ** Net Wt. 46 oz. (1275g) ** ** UPC 825512 008173”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 16 oz. (454g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Herring Fillets in Oil ** Lightly Salted ** Net Wt. 16 oz. (454g) ** UPC 825512 014044”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 28.2 oz. (800g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** SUPER DUNAYSKAYA ** Herring Fillets in Oil ** Net Weight 28.2 OZ./800 g”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD label, packaged in a 9.3 oz. (265g) plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Pacific Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 9.3 oz. (265g) ** UPC 825512 110258”;
- Refrigerated, Ready to Eat Herring in Oil sold under the FRESH SEAFOOD packaged in a 16.2 oz. (460g) in plastic retail container labeled in part “** FRESH SEAFOOD ** Pacific Herring Fillet in Oil ** Net Wt. 16.2 oz. (460g) ** UPC 825512 110265”.
- The Bulk Herring products have pack dates of “11/2/16” – “11/30/16”. The Herring products packaged in retail containers have Best Before dates of: 11.30.2016 through 02.28.2017. Herring products packaged in vacuum packaged bags include Pack Dates of 11.09.16 - 11.30.16.
Herring products packaged in retail package have a 90 day shelf life, products in bulk buckets have a 28 day shelf life and products in vacuum packages have a 21 day shelf life.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Royal Seafood Baza consumer relations at 718-318-1888 on Monday – Friday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (ET).
Expenses have exceeded expectations, driving companies to drop or restrict coverage and raise premiums12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Long-term care insurance is one of those things that responsible people buy, hoping to ensure that they don't become a burden on society or their family in...
The cut-rate carrier's plans are bitterly opposed by U.S. airlines and labor unions12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Norwegian Air Shuttle has once again won approval to begin flying new routes between Europe and the United States, but labor unions and some lawmakers say...
Safety tips to keep in mind while holiday shopping for kids12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
When compiling a holiday wish list, kids don’t often stop to consider the possible safety risks of the toys they’re requesting. If you’ll be shopping for a...
The company says it will appeal, but the decision could set a costly precedent12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by a Texas jury to pay over $1 billion in damages because claimants said that the company covered up flaws in its Pinnac...
When you know these stories are designed to manipulate you, they're easier to spot12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Entertainer Elton John was compelled to shoot down two reports going viral on the internet over the weekend.To set the record straight, John said he is...
TSA should drop enrollment fee for PreCheck, study finds
Dropping the fee for frequent travelers might boost enrollment, speed up security lines12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A study finds the Transportation Security Administration could save money and speed up security lines by eliminating the $85 fee it now charges frequent tr...
A study finds the Transportation Security Administration could save money and speed up security lines by eliminating the $85 fee it now charges frequent travelers for the TSA PreCheck program.
"This is an easy case where spending some money will save the federal government more money," Sheldon H. Jacobson, a computer seience professor at the University of Illinois, said. "There is a transition period - the savings are realized over the first five years, and then in perpetuity. So if the federal government is looking for a way to save money, giving TSA PreCheck at no cost to high-volume, high-value fliers makes sense."
The study by Jacobson and graduate students Arash Khatabi and Ge Yu calculated the cost of extensive screening compared with expedited screening in terms of workforce labor hours and equipment. They found that costs saved by frequent travelers using expedited security exceeded the cost of waiving their enrollment fees for PreCheck.
The study looked at different scenarios and found that the average travel frequency of those enrolling would have to be six round trips, or 12 screenings a year.
"We only look at the direct cost savings in labor and equipment. We don't even talk about the savings in time of the passengers who would no longer have to wait hours in line," Jacobson said. "That could add tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, which would be a bonus to the economy. More people could decide to fly, because of the time and cost savings."
The benefits would extend beyond the cost, though. According to Jacobson, an expert in aviation security, submitting every passenger to heightened security actually has the adverse affect of making air travel less safe by diluting resources that should be focused on high-risk, unknown passengers. TSA PreCheck reduces the number of unknowns by pre-screening passengers.
The problem with PreCheck is that enrollment has lagged far behind the projected numbers. Jacobson said waiving the fee might boost enrollment to more effective levels.
"The strength of PreCheck is the background check. It's not the item that we're trying to stop, it's the person with ill intent who we're trying to stop," Jacobson said. "PreCheck vets people and says, 'These people are not likely to be a problem to the air system.' They make sure you are who you say you are, and that your background shows no evidence that you are going to cause a problem."
The study was published in the Journal of Transportation Security.
Researchers identify brain protein as potential target for Alzheimer's research
They believe that the disease may occur partly due to the breakdown of an important brain system12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Recently, researchers began developing a potential therapy for concussions, using an FDA-approved drug that helps reduce the harmful effects of swelling. S...
Recently, researchers began developing a potential therapy for concussions, using an FDA-approved drug that helps reduce the harmful effects of swelling. Specifically, they found that the expression of a certain membrane protein called aquaporin-4 increased dramatically after a head injury and caused damage.
While work on that project continues, other experts believe that aquaporin-4 may be a prime target for Alzheimer’s research. A study conducted by researchers from Oregon Health & Science University has revealed a connection between the protein and possible prevention of the brain disease. While it may not materialize into a lasting cure, the researchers believe that their work could contribute to future therapies and prevention strategies.
"It suggests that aquaporin-4 might be a useful target in preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Jeffrey Iliff, senior author of the study. "However, we aren't under any illusion that if we could just fix this one thing, then we'd be able to cure Alzheimer's Disease."
In a broad sense, Alzheimer’s isn’t a disease that happens all at once – it takes time and is much more progressive. There is currently no cure for it, but several therapies have been developed that may be effective in slowing it down; the researchers believe that aquaporin-4 could provide another.
Aquaporin-4’s functions as part of the brain's glymphatic system. Under certain conditions, it is the protein that allows cerebral-spinal fluid to enter the brain and wash away other proteins like amyloid and tau – the build up of which are main drivers of Alzheimer’s.
The researchers believe that when the system regulating aquaporin-4 breaks down, amyloid and tau are allowed to build up unchecked, leading to nerve damage. They tested this theory by analyzing three groups of 79 donated brains – people younger than 60 with a history of Alzheimer’s, people younger than 60 without a history of any neurological disease, and people over 60 without Alzheimer’s.
They found that aquaporin-4 levels were well organized and ordered in the brains of people without Alzheimer’s or a history of neurological disease, but older brains with Alzheimer’s had very disorganized aquaporin-4 levels. The researchers posit that Alzheimer’s may have developed in these brains due to decreased function to clear away harmful proteins.
Last year, the researchers were given a $1.4 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to continue their research and develop new imaging techniques that could capture brain processes as they happened. The team’s full study has been published in JAMA Neurology.
Increasingly, your grandparents may be taking a 4:20 break12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In the 1960s and '70s, marijuana use in the U.S. skyrocketed, primarily because Baby Boomers in huge numbers were lighting up.Now that recreational use...
FEMA reminds consumers to check the date on their smoke alarms12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
As the end of your smoke detector’s battery life draws near, a high-pitched 'chirp' will likely serve as a reminder that it’s time to install a fresh set o...
Brick-and-mortar stores will have no checkout lines12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you walk into a typical convenience store, pick up something you want, then just walk out the door, chances are you'll be arrested for shoplifting.B...
Coming soon (maybe) -- updated nutritional labels
Feds say they'll help you make better decisions12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Some changes are in the works in the nutritional labels for meat and poultry products.The Agriculture Department's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Se...
Some changes are in the works in the nutritional labels for meat and poultry products.
The Agriculture Department's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) calls its proposal “a critical step in ensuring that consumers have updated nutritional information ... when purchasing meat and poultry products.”
The proposed rule, according to the government, will improve the presentation of nutrition information to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.
"This new rule will provide more transparency on nutrition labels so that American consumers can make informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed their families," said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred Almanza. "The new nutrition facts panel will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we've put in place in recent years."
Specifically, FSIS is proposing to:
- Update the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared;
- Provide updated Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intake (RDI) values that are based on current dietary recommendations from consensus reports;
- Amend the labeling requirements for foods represented or purported to be specifically for children under the age of 4 years and pregnant women and lactating women and establish nutrient reference values specifically for these population subgroups;
- Revise the format and appearance of the Nutrition Facts label;
- Amend the definition of a single-serving container;
- Require dual-column labeling for certain containers;
- Update and modify several reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs or reference amounts); and
- Consolidate the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products into a new Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part.
Since 1980, the government has published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) every five years.
FSIS says its proposal “would assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices and help consumers follow the advice in the 2015-2020 DGA.”
The procedure is gaining on knee and hip replacements12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As people age, joints wear out. Knees tend to get replaced, along with hips. And lately, so have shoulders.Officials at Loyola University Medical Cente...
A pick-up in the economy's non-manufacturing sector
November's growth rate was a bit stronger than October's12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The non-manufacturing sector of the economy rebounded in November after a slight cooling-off the month before.The latest Non-Manufacturing Institute fo...
The non-manufacturing sector of the economy rebounded in November after a slight cooling-off the month before.
The latest Non-Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management Report On Business put the non-manufacturing index (NMI) at 57.2% last month -- 2.4% higher than in October.
This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector for the 82nd consecutive month and at a faster rate than in October. It's also a 12-month high and the highest reading since the 58.3 registered in October of 2015.
The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 61.7% -- 4% higher than October, reflecting growth for the 88th consecutive month and a faster rate in November.
The New Orders Index dipped 0.7% to 57%, and the Prices Index decreased 0.3% from October to 56.3%. Still, prices rose in November for the eighth consecutive month, but at a slightly slower rate.
The Employment Index increased 5.1% to 58.2%.
Individual industry performance
The 14 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in November were:
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
- Retail Trade;
- Arts, Entertainment & Recreation;
- Transportation & Warehousing;
- Other Services;
- Management of Companies & Support Services;
- Finance & Insurance;
- Professional, Scientific & Technical Services;
- Accommodation & Food Services;
- Health Care & Social Assistance;
- Wholesale Trade; and
The two industries reporting contraction were:
- Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; and
- Public Administration.
Bakkavor Foods USA recalls hummus products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Bakkavor Foods USA is recalling Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus and Trader Joe’s White Bean & Basil Hummus.The products may be contaminated with List...
Bakkavor Foods USA is recalling Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus and Trader Joe’s White Bean & Basil Hummus.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no confirmed illnesses to date.
The following products, which come in 16-oz. plastic tubs with SKU numbers printed on the top labels and "USE BY" date codes stamped on the bottom of the tubs, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should discard them immediately or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Bakkavor Foods at (855) 312-7504, Monday through Friday 8:00P.M. - 5:00P.M. (PST).
Pirelli recalls P Zero All Season tires
The tires may develop cracks in their lower sidewall12/05/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Pirelli Tire is recalling 1,190 P Zero All Season tires, size 275/40R19 101W, manufactured February 29, 2016, to October 29, 2016, as an original equipment...
Pirelli Tire is recalling 1,190 P Zero All Season tires, size 275/40R19 101W, manufactured February 29, 2016, to October 29, 2016, as an original equipment fitment exclusively for certain Maserati cars.
Due to an incorrect carcass component, the tires may develop cracks in their lower sidewall, possibly resulting in a loss of air.
A loss of air may result in tire failure or a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Pirelli will notify Maserati owners and the dealers that purchased the tires as replacements. Pirelli will work with Maserati to replace the tires, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in December 2016.
Owners may contact Pirelli customer service at 1-706-368-5800.
Small travel accessories make good gifts; a cruise or tour is even better12/02/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
The first time we took our daughters on a cruise, I bought everyone a bathing suit cover-up for a holiday gift. Over the years I’ve given them hanging bags...
While such incidents are distressingly common, they do seem to occur more frequently in some models12/02/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Car washes are frequently the scene of unintended acceleration cases, like one in Mansfield, Ohio, last week. Police said an employee of the Park Avenue Ca...
U.S. economy loses $411 billion every year due to a tired workforce, study finds
Researchers say sleep deprivation leads to lower productivity and higher mortality risk12/02/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Numerous studies have extolled the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep; those who do so have been found to have more energy and better overall health...
Numerous studies have extolled the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep; those who do so have been found to have more energy and better overall health due to better body self-regulation. Unfortunately, many of us continue to not get enough sleep at night, and new research suggests that health deficits are not the only thing we have to worry about.
Researchers at RAND Europe – a not-for-profit organization – have found that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy an averag