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Texas police say one couple swiped personal data right from consumers' unlocked cars04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
One of the keys to preventing identity theft is in your pocket or purse. It's your car key. All the fancy online programs, firewalls, and apps are fine, bu...
The document lays out how to recognize symptoms and treat athletes at all levels04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
In a recent report, we detailed the tragic death of a young high school football player who passed away after suffer...
A visit to the artist's home should not be missed04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
A visit to the home and gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny is a step back in time. As you view the multitudes of perspectives, you can visualize Monet at h...
Parents can assgn chores and pay when they'e completed04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Kids lining up to receive an allowance from their parents is a scene that has been played out for generations.These days, however, it might go down a l...
The group's complaint to FTC says that Uber tracks former riders who deleted app04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A consumer group has lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), charging that Uber Technologies tracked consumers who had once used the co...
The deadliest run is along Florida's Atlantic coast04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
To improve your odds against being involved in a fatal car crash, avoid Route 1 in Florida. That stretch of road had more fatal accidents than any highway...
Two representatives are demanding that the agency take action against St. Jude Medical04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a warning letter sent by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that addressed defibrillators made by St...
Travel site picks some age-appropriate destinations04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Family vacations can either be a stressful nightmare or a bonding experience to create lasting memories. They're sort of what you make of them.With tha...
The man allegedly used client funds to finance 25 homes and investment properties04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
An insurance agent has pleaded guilty to scamming his customers out of $8.2 million in what one assistant U.S. attorney said was among the biggest Ponzi sc...
The rear differential may leak oil04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor North America is recalling roughly 228,000 model year 2016 and 2017 Toyota Tacomas in the U.S.The recalled vehicles have rear differential...
A child seated in the carrier can slip through the leg openings04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Osprey Child Safety Products and Osprey Packs of Cortez, Colo., is recalling about 88,000 Poco child carriers sold in the U.S. and Canada.A child seate...
Low inventory is blamed for the pullback04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After surging to the highest level in nearly a year during February, pending home sales have slackened a bit.The National Association of Realtors (NAR)...
The vehicles could suffer a loss of steering04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 10,832 model year 2013-2016 G550 and G63 AMGs and 2016 G65 AMGs.The steering coupling may have been insufficient...
A dip in consumer spending fueled the slowdown04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's not a particularly encouraging picture.Growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an anemic annual rate 0.7% in the first quarter after e...
The clamping bolts that secure the stem to the fork steerer can break04/28/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chromag Bikes is recalling about 100 Chromag bicycle stems.The clamping bolts that secure the stem to the fork steerer and/or the handlebars can break,...
An open letter to a senator, a surprise call from a 'head honcho dude,' and a messy '6' that places his payments in jeopardy04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Go to the Department of Education website, and the prospect of getting your student loans forgiven looks like a tantalizingly real possibility. All that th...
United takes exception to a report saying Dao was chosen at random04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
United Airlines is setting an example for the rest of the industry, though perhaps not quite in the way it would have chosen. United's unceremonious draggi...
Employees will be given more power to resolve issues on the spot04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Call it a lesson learned. United Airlines has been subjected to a firestorm of consumer and policymaker wrath since it forcibly removed a Kentucky physicia...
The move could alienate tourists and generate public backlash04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For many years, lovers of art have been able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see some of their favorite masterpieces at no cost. However, that m...
A federal judge in Kansas has named three lawyers to lead the case against Mylan NV04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A nationwide class action claims that Mylan NV coerced consumers into buying two-packs of EpiPens at wildly exaggerated prices. A federal judge in Kansas y...
CreditCards.com says the average interest rate is now 15.74%04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers who are carrying a credit card balance are paying a little more each month, even if they don't add a penny to their total debt.The average cr...
The company says the beef it bought was laced with horsemeat and euthanizing drugs04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Pet owners may remember a recall initiated earlier this year by Evanger’s after the pet food company said that certain lots of its “Hunk of Beef” product w...
A study finds that consumers with central obesity are at greater risk of all-cause mortality04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s easy to lose count of the number of studies that have warned consumers about the dangers of obesity. From increased risk of cardiovascular disease to...
Trulia says if you know what to look for, it's easy to identify04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you have a dog and are planning to move, you may have more to think about than the number of bedrooms and the commute time to the office. You'll want to...
Average per-person cost is now $1,400 a year04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Health insurance is supposed to cover medical expenses. That, after all, is what it's for. But at a time when premiums are rising, consumers are finding th...
The cost of the royal treatment for mom could hit $23.6 billion04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Consumers plan to bring it on for mom this year.The annual Mother's Day spending survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper I...
We have some does and don'ts for scoring04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's a jungle out there.An improving economy coupled with hard-to-find talent have driven the number and quality of internship applications higher....
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Fineberg Packing Co., of Memphis, Tenn., is recalling approximately 8,822 pounds of ready-to-eat ham that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes....
The products may contain pentobarbital04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Party Animal is recalling all lots of its 13-oz. cans of Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food (Lot #0136E15204 04, best by July 2019) and 13-oz. cans of Coco...
The roof-mounted spoiler may detach during driving04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 411 model year 2016-2017 E300 and model year 2017 E300 4MATIC vehicles.The recalled vehicles have a roof-mounted...
The products may be contaminated with metal objects04/27/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Uncle John’s Pride of Tampa, Fla., is recalling approximately 139,909 pounds of ready-to-eat smoked meat and poultry sausage products.The products may...
The plan would eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
President Trump is unveiling a tax reform plan that would sharply cut taxes for businesses as well as most individual taxpayers. In perhaps the most far-re...
Ajit Pai wants to give broadband jurisdiction back to the Federal Trade Commission04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today unveiled his plans for scrapping net neutrality rules enacted by the Obama-era FCC.Pai...
Pew Charitable Trust report outlines the ways04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There is a move afoot in Congress to roll back an Obama administration rule that regulates prepaid cards, that work like a debit card but aren't linked to...
You might have to wait longer for your tax refund and possibily change vacation plans04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Don't look now, but Congress is about to play chicken with the White House over keeping the lights on once again. This time, the shoe is on the other foot....
An extra bedroom or bathroom could add a hefty amount to your mortgage04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Scanning the real estate horizon for a larger home? The extra square footage might cost more than you think. According to a recent study by Zillow, fam...
SNAAC mostly loans to servicemembers buying used cars04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
An auto lender that specializes in making car loans to servicemembers is in trouble with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) again. The CFPB to...
A U.S. District Judge has given plaintiffs leave to amend their case04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Last October, a class action suit was filed against Comcast in which plaintiffs said they were charged $10 extra per month for “broadcast TV” and “regional...
Researchers say many products are camouflaged to seem healthy but can cause lasting damage04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
So, you’ve decided to go on a diet. That’s great news, and it really should help you get healthier and shed some pounds. But what are you going to eat? If...
Researchers say consuming more potassium, magnesium, and calcium is more important04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Consumers with high blood pressure are often told that they should cut back on their salt intake. But is taking that step really helping in the long run?...
You can spend a little and make a big difference04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Besides spring cleaning, this is the season for home improvement projects. If you've priced some of the more popular ones -- like a kitchen or bathroom upd...
Details are scarce, but the company says it will notify customers who may have been affected04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The sour taste of Chipotle's food-borne illness problems still lingers, and now there's another fly in the salsa. The chain's payment system has been hacke...
The latest S and X models don't have automatic emergency braking enabled04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Tesla has had a rather rocky relationship with Consumer Reports. At times, Tesla models have been top picks by the magazine's experts, but the romance does...
Researcher says e-commerce and AI are creating a perfect storm for retail jobs04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There's a common expression, "don't quit your day job," when your new venture doesn't seem quite ready for prime time.But if your job is in retail, the...
Besides expensive drugs, families usually face a decline in income04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Cancer is a dreaded disease. Though survival rates have improved in recent years, the treatment is long, painful, and expensive.The recent focus on the...
Contract interest rates were headed lower last week04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A rebound in mortgage applications from the previous week's decline.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 2.7 percent in the we...
The vehicle scored well in all five crashworthiness tests04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the 2017 Kia Cadenza is worthy of it's highest safety award.The large-sized car e...
March marked the third straight increase04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
So far, so good for new home sales in March.The Commerce Department reports new single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted...
The non-slip rubber grips on the bottom of the booties can detach04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Zutano Global of New Bedford, Mass., is recalling 38,000 infant Cozie booties.The non-slip rubber grips on the bottom of the booties can detach, posing...
The products may be undercooked04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
WFSP Foods of Decatur, Ala., is recalling approximately 42,147 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken breast products.The products may be undercooked, producin...
The products may be contaminated with Salmonella04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Frito-Lay is recalling select Jalapeño Flavored Lay’s Kettle Cooked potato chips and Jalapeño Flavored Miss Vickie’s Kettle Cooked potato chips.The pro...
The vehicle’s electronic speed control can fail and short circuit04/26/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Horizon Hobby of Champaign, Ill., is recalling about 19,000 ECX Circuit, Ruckus and Torment remote-controlled model vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada....
What consumers can do to avoid purchasing a dangerous item04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Spring cleaning can unearth quite a few items to sell at yard or garage sales. But while one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, second-hand buyers...
The dealers have signed settlements and paid a fine04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Car buyers often assume that the dealer has taken care of any outstanding safety recalls on the car they're buying, but that is frequently not the case and...
It's illegal to sell products that claim to cure diseases without FDA approval04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It would be great if you could buy an over-the-counter drug online that would cure cancer, but it's not quite that simple, despite the claim...
But researchers say the discrepancies were mostly minor04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Scientists at George Washington University used a sophisticated genetic measurement technique to study seafood prepared at various restaurants in the natio...
AG's from 21 states have written to Betsy DeVos to voice their discontent04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this month, the Department of Education took a big step towards deregulating the student loan repayment process. Under new Secretary Betsy DeVos, t...
Fake $50 coupons are showing up in timelines04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Regardless of what you see on your Facebook feed, Lowe's is not giving away $50 gift cards for Mothers' Day.Scammers are posting a fake coupon on Faceb...
Nitrite in beets boosts the effects of your workout, scientists say04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Disruption is all around us, from Amazon changing the face of retail to media moving from radios and TVs to mobile devices.Add this to the list: scienc...
Study finds 82% have a smartphone and 60% talk on it while driving04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Distracted driving is a big problem in the U.S. Safety advocates attribute the surge in traffic deaths in recent years to drivers using their cell phones....
Money-related woes can affect the health of an unborn baby, study suggests04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Raising a kid isn’t cheap. From diapers to daycare, the costs associated with raising a child can amount to a hefty sum -- somewhere in the neighborhood of...
Researchers find that picking hours and setting the pace of work benefits employees04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Does your job afford you flexible working hours or the ability to work at your own pace? If so, then a new study suggests that you probably have higher job...
Current businesses conditions are seen as less favorable04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After posting solid gain in each of the two previous months, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index slipped in April.The closely-watched baro...
Low inventories are a major factor04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices -- a leading measure of home prices -- posted yet another year-over-year increase in February.The National Home...
Loose engine oil cooler lines could cause an oil leak in the engine compartment04/25/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
BMW of North America is recalling 97 model year 2017-2018 M760Li xDrive vehicles.The recalled vehicles have engine oil cooler lines that may loosen cau...
Disruption is everywhere but with the right strategy, you can make it through04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
An 1867 Matthew Arnold poem, Dover Beach, speaks of being "on a darkling plain ... where ignorant armies clash by night." That mi...
Complaint alleges Intel chip in the CM700 causes network delays04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Attorneys in San Francisco have filed a class action suit against electronics equipment maker Netgear, claiming its CM700 high-speed cable modem is defecti...
The company continues to downsize in an effort to cut costs and return to profitability04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Sears Holdings has been in a downward spiral for some time now. On numerous occasions, we’ve reported on the company’s downsizing efforts.At the beginn...
New research suggests preschoolers with regular bedtimes may be less likely to become obese04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Establishing a regular routine might do more than preserve a parent’s sanity by taking some of the chaos out of life with children. According to a new stud...
However, researchers say that gaps still remain across different demographics04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It looks like overall reading skills are trending upwards among our youngest school-aged children. Results from a nationwide study conducted at The Ohio St...
The automaker could face up to $10 billion in new death and injury claims04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The Supreme Court has refused to give General Motors blanket immunity from lawsuits by families of consumers killed and injured by defective ignition switc...
The tuition might not be cheaper, but you might save in the long run04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
With the cost of college tuition rising much faster than the rate of inflation, and college loans loading students down with crushing debt, many students a...
Researchers say that taking time to breathe and meditate can make a big difference04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Earlier this year, we reported on a study that showed how college students can reduce stress by being more self-compassionate. The central idea was that fr...
Researchers calls for more complex tests for inner ear damage04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you suspect you're suffering from hearing loss, you book an appointment with a specialist to get tested.More than likely that test will be an audiog...
55-plus housing developments are springing up everywhere04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
They're springing up everywhere. Spacious condos in developments with every conceivable amenity and creature comfort. Surrounded by walls and accessible on...
Consumers were told they could make $5,000 per week stuffing envelopes04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
You would think that envelope-stuffing scams went out with bargain offers to sell the Brooklyn Bridge. But apparently not; the Federal Trade Commission has...
Turn, a digital advertising company, has bowed to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it continued tracking consumers even after they opted out of...
The sales pace was the best in more than a decade04/24/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sales of previously-owned homes jumped in March to their highest pace since February 2007, as severe supply shortages resulted in the typical home being sn...
We have some tips to help you make the process as painless as possible04/23/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It's springtime and there are so many fun things that go with it: allergies, housecleaning, and perhaps most traumatic of all -- relocating.Americans a...
Witnesses say the flight attendant hit a mother holding a baby with a stroller04/23/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Just two weeks after United Airlines set off a social media firestorm by forcibly removing a passenger from a flight, American Airlines finds itself in dam...
A loan might improve monthly cash flow but it can also pave the way to more debt04/22/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When consumers rack up lots of debt on several different accounts, they often find the various monthly payments take a huge bite out of monthly cash flow....
A paralyzed man has been unable to find work after Dish Network fired him for using the drug04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
The broadcasting corporation Dish Network is headquartered in Colorado, where residents first voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2000. Yet it's perfect...
Who says you have to go somewhere to relax and try new things?04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
Vacations are meant to give us a break from our normal work or school routines; an opportunity to relax and recharge our batteries. Many people choose to t...
If you don't have one, you're probably not alone04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As more Baby Boomers get closer to retirement every day, policymakers worry that too many of them are not prepared.To be prepared, you need a strategy...
Complaint alleges distributors and retailers are responsible for the opioid crisis04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The opioid drug crisis in the U.S. has grown by leaps and bounds. States have seen their drug treatment costs soar as more consumers become hooked on the p...
The researchers found common trends for different demographics across several sites04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
What kind of person are you when it comes to your social media persona? Are you the selfie-taker who posts daily? The frequent commenter on others’ posts?...
Even -- or perhaps especially -- advertisers worry about ads cluttering up the web04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Believe it or not, the advertising industry is now talking up the idea of ad blockers.Concerned that annoying and intrusive ads are driving away web us...
Garage doors rank among top home improvements for 201704/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Most home improvement tweaks boost your home’s value to some extent, but determining which upgrades are the best investment can be difficult. When it c...
A lawsuit claims that a music engineer who worked on the unreleased tracks had no right to make them public04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s been nearly a year since renowned pop artist Prince passed away from an opioid overdose. Fans mourned the music icon’s death by rushing to sites like...
Georgia researchers say you don't need energy drinks04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers spend lots of money on energy drinks and coffee to get an extra energy boost. But it turns out it's an unnecessary expense.At least that's wh...
But a new survey shows there are a lot of things consumers check more04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you want to stay on top of your finances, you need information. Fortunately, the information is at your fingertips.First, you should be checking you...
Employees were instructed to discreetly wire money by the chain's 'vice president'04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Unfortunately, scam phone calls are still going strong in the U.S. A survey released earlier this year showed that 11% of the population lost money to a ph...
Consumers are urged to be on the lookout for IRS tax scams04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
You answer the knock on the door from someone who says he's from the Internal Revenue Service. But is he? How can you be sure?The Internal Revenue Serv...
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert regarding the brownie mix dessert included in the b...
ASPCA report names top pet toxins of 201604/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
While you probably already know that chocolate isn’t meant for man’s best friend, other pet toxins may surprise you. For example, did you know that ibuprof...
The retailer is stepping up its efforts to appeal to health-conscious consumers04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
In response to consumer demand for personal care products with fewer chemicals, CVS Pharmacy has pledged to remove parabens, phthalates, and the most commo...
'The district,' as locals call it, is also known as Washington, D.C.04/21/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It's often said that Americans don't know much about other countries. It could also be said they don't know much about this country.Latest case in poin...
Lawmakers are asking environmental groups about controversial oil and gas projects coming to Florida04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
When a Wikileaks email dump last year revealed that leaders of the Democratic Party worked to tilt their pr...
Meanwhile, the mortgage interest tax deduction could be in the crosshairs04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The election of Donald Trump coincided with a gradual rise in mortgage rates, which had been at near record-low levels for much of 2016.But in recent w...
Customer complaints about service, pricing are taking their toll04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Verizon has set a new record, although it's not one they were aiming for. The company posted its first-ever net loss of wireless subscribers during the fir...
Consumers allegedly paid extra for safety features and an enhanced autopilot program that were faulty04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Consumers who buy a new car these days expect to have all the latest technology at their fingertips, and things can get messy when automakers don’t follow...
Consumer group says they might not be appropriate for every claim04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Judging by television commercials for major insurance companies, nearly every one of them now has an app you can use to report a claim.Minutes after an...
FDA issues new warnings about giving codeine and tramadol to children
The danger of an overdose is much higher than with most adults, the agency warns04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
There's a lot of concern about opioid abuse by adults, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are also serious risks associated with giving...
There's a lot of concern about opioid abuse by adults, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are also serious risks associated with giving opioids to children.
The agency said today that it is changing the labeling requirements for two types of opioid medications often given to children -- codeine, found in some prescription pain and cough medicines and some over-the-counter cough medicines, and tramadol, found in some prescription pain medicines.
"We are requiring these changes because we know that some children who received codeine or tramadol have experienced life-threatening respiratory depression and death because they metabolize these medicines much faster than usual, causing dangerously high levels of active drug in their bodies," said the FDA's Douglas Throckmorton, M.D.
"This is especially concerning in children under 12 years of age and adolescents who are obese or have conditions that may increase the risk of breathing problems, like obstructive sleep apnea or lung disease," Throckmorton said. Respiratory depression can also occur in nursing babies, when mothers who are ultra-rapid metabolizers take these types of medicines and pass it along to their children through their breast milk, he said.
Throckmorton noted that since 2013, prescription codeine labeling has contained a Boxed Warning and Contraindication for children up to age 18 years of age regarding the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression following the use of codeine for pain management after the removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy).
Now, labels for both codeine and tramadol are being updated to include additional Contraindications and Warnings; among the updates are Contraindications for use of codeine or tramadol in all children younger than 12 years of age, warnings about their use in children 12-18 years of age with certain medical conditions, and a stronger warning recommending against their use in nursing mothers.
In addition to these labeling changes, labeling for tramadol-containing products will also get a Contraindication for post-operative pain management in children up to age 18 years of age who have undergone tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, which is already in labeling for codeine products.
"We urge health care providers, stakeholders and the public to read the Drug Safety Communication that we issued today, which provides more detailed information," Throckmorton added. "We understand that there are limited options when it comes to treating pain or cough in children, and that these changes may raise some questions for health care providers and parents. However, please know that our decision today was made based on the latest evidence and with this goal in mind: keeping our kids safe."
Researchers say products that use clear labels like 'non-GMO' have an advantage over competitors04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
To many consumers, it’s no longer enough to know that the food you’re buying is a great deal or on discount. In fact, some Millennial consumers are willing...
Even some full and mid-size models are below the average price04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
New car prices have continued to rise, with the average transaction price now $35,000 or more.That puts the average vehicle -- remember, $35,000 is jus...
Lack of sleep makes it harder for anxious and depressed people to view the world positively
Study findings indicate that getting sleep is vital when it comes to managing the conditions04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Those who suffer from depression or anxiety may find that getting through each day is a daily struggle. Working up the drive to perform even the simplest t...
Those who suffer from depression or anxiety may find that getting through each day is a daily struggle. Working up the drive to perform even the simplest tasks might take large amounts of energy, and naturally it would be easy to develop a negative outlook on the world.
Now, a new study suggests that lack of sleep may be behind the negative emotional responses that many anxious and depressed people feel. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) point out that anxiety and depression often lead to sleeping problems that may affect an area of the brain that regulates how we react to the world around us.
"Our research indicates sleep might play an important role in the ability to regulate negative emotions in people who suffer from anxiety or depression,” said lead researcher Heide Klumpp, assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC.
The study assessed 78 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 who had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and/or a major depressive disorder. Using a device called an actigraph, the researchers measured participants awake time in bed over a six-day period to evaluate sleep efficiency. Before the evaluation, participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire gauging their sleep over the past month and to take part an emotion-regulation task involving reappraisal.
Reappraisal is an exercise where participants are asked to look at an image – in this case a scene of violence such as a war or accident photo – and try to look at it in a more positive way. For example, an image of a woman with a bruised face might be seen as an actress wearing makeup for a role rather than a survivor of violence.
"Reappraisal is something that requires significant mental energy. In people with depression or anxiety, reappraisal can be even more difficult, because these disorders are characterized by chronic negativity or negative rumination, which makes seeing the good in things difficult," explains Klumpp.
Less sleep stresses the brain
The questionnaire revealed that three out of four participants met the criteria for significant sleep disturbance, while the actigraph showed that most the group suffered from insomnia. When comparing data on all the tasks, the researchers found that those who reported poorer sleep on the questionnaire had less brain activity in a particular area of the brain during the reappraisal task. However, those who had more awake time in bed and lower sleep efficiency according to the actigraph had higher brain activity during the reappraisal task, indicating that their brains had to work harder to carry out the task.
"Because the questionnaire and actigraph measure different aspects of the sleep experience, it is not surprising that brain activity also differed between these measures. The questionnaire asks about sleep over the previous month, and answers can be impacted by current mood. Plus, respondents may not be able to accurately remember how they slept a month ago. The actigraph objectively measures current sleep, so the results from both measurements may not match," explains Klumpp.
The researchers say that their findings indicate that sleep plays an important role when it comes to regulating negative emotions, and that those who suffer from anxiety and depression could be at a disadvantage because their conditions tend to inhibit sleep.
Hiring this year should equal the 2016 pace04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
It won't be long before college students will be lining up by the thousands to receive their diplomas -- and then start the search for gainful employment....
Caramia Furniture recalls Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests
The products may tip-over if not securely anchored to the wall04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Caramia Furniture of Brampton, Ontario Canada, is recalling about 759 Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests sold throughout...
Caramia Furniture of Brampton, Ontario Canada, is recalling about 759 Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests sold throughout Canada.
The recalled products may tip-over if not securely anchored to the wall, posing an entrapment hazard. There have been no fewer than a half dozen such recalls in the U.S., this year alone.
Ikea recently agreed to pay a $50 million settlement for tip-overs involving the deaths of six children and toddlers, and in 2015 implemented a repair program that includes a free wall anchoring kit for certain tipover-prone pieces of furniture.
The current recall involves the Jaxson and Cameron six-drawer dresser, night table, and tall boy chest. The six-drawer dresser measures (52 inches x 18 inches x 34 inches; the two drawer night table is 25 inches x 16 inches x 26 inches; and the four drawer tall 36 inches x 18 inches x 44 inches.
The six-drawer dressers and the two-drawer night tables were sold in white, cottage white, and espresso colors. The four-drawer tall boy was sold in cottage white and espresso.
The affected products, sold between November 2013 and October 2015 on their own and as part of collections containing other unaffected products, have the following item codes:
|Item||Colour||Jaxson Item #'s||Cameron Item #'s|
|Tall Boy||Cottage White||JAXS-TB-CW1||CAM4D-007|
|Night Table||Cottage White||JAXS-NT-CW1||CAM2D-007|
The item code and date code can be found on a label on the top right corner at the back of the product or on the product packaging.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should move them to an area where children cannot access them and contact Caramia Furniture to obtain free tip over restraint kits to secure the dresser and night table to the wall.
Consumers with questions may call Caramia Furniture toll-free at 1-877-728-0342, Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (EST) The also may order a free tip over restrain kit from the company's web site.
Getting to your vacation destination this summer may cost less
Many European destinations provide double-digit discounts over last summer04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Air travel may not be getting any more pleasant, but it may cost less this summer -- at least, some destinations are cheaper.Travel comparison site Che...
Air travel may not be getting any more pleasant, but it may cost less this summer -- at least, some destinations are cheaper.
Travel comparison site Cheapflights.com has analyzed this summer's fares and found huge discounts over last year's record low ticket prices. It highlights five destinations offering double-digit discounts over last summer.
Barcelona, Spain -- 41% less
There's a lot to do in Barcelona, especially if you're an art lover or an admirer of fine wines. The newly opened L9 metro line makes getting from the airport to the city center a lot easier. New attractions include Ferrari Land and the opening of Sant Pau's newly restored Sant Salvador hall.
Venice, Italy - 31% less
There are always plenty of good reasons to visit Italy, including great food and wine. This summer, Venice hosts the new Viva Vivaldi multimedia show at the Museo Diocesano d'Arte Sacra. Also on tap are the Festa di San Marco, a water parade of row boats, and the Venice Film Festival.
Lisbon, Portugal -- 26% less
Summer is always beautiful in Lisbon, and this summer it's also less expensive to get there. The city is rich in history and architecture. High on most visitors' list is St. George's Castle and a walking tour of the Alfama neighborhood, with its narrow, cobblestone streets.
Knoxville, Tennessee -- 17%
You don't have to fly to Europe this summer to save money on airfare. Cheapflights.com reports getting to Knoxville, Tenn., at the edge of the Smokey Mountains, is also cheaper this summer. The region hosts a variety of music festivals this summer, while mountain trails and lakes draw visitors who love the great outdoors.
Dublin, Ireland, 16% less
The capital of Ireland has always been a popular destination because of its beauty and affordability. Now, getting there from 20 U.S. airports costs less as well. This summer offers Bloomsday in celebration of James Joyce, Taste of Dublin, and the Dublin Writers Festival.
A lot of other destinations cost less this summer as well. Cheapflights.com highlights Colorado Springs, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Hilo, Hawaii; Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Spokane, Washington.
Leading Economic Index suggests growth to continue through 2017
Initial jobless claims are on the rise04/20/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) was higher in March for a fifth consecutive month.T...
The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) was higher in March for a fifth consecutive month.
The rise of 0.4% follows advances of 0.5% and 0.6% in February and January, respectively. Additionally, the index wrapped up 2016 with a gain of 0.6% in December and a 0.2% increase for November
“The March increase and upward trend in the U.S. LEI point to continued economic growth in 2017, with perhaps an acceleration later in the year if consumer spending and investment pick up,” said Conference Board Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research Ataman Ozyildirim. “The gains among the leading indicators were very widespread, with new orders in manufacturing and the interest rate spread more than offsetting declines in the labor market components in March.”
The LEI, a closely watched forecaster of economic activity, is a composite average of several individual leading indicators. It's constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component -- primarily because it smooths out some of the volatility of individual components.
The ten components of the LEI include:
- Average weekly hours, manufacturing
- Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
- Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
- ISM Index of New Orders
- Manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
- Building permits, new private housing units
- Stock prices, 500 common stocks
- Leading Credit Index
- Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
- Average consumer expectations for business conditions
A give-back in the jobless claims last week.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports first-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 in the week ending April 15 to a seasonally adjusted total of 244,000.
Initial claims fell by exactly the same amount a week earlier.
The four-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly average and considered a better reading of the labor market, came in at 243,000 -- down 4,250 from the previous week.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
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Air travelers consumer rights microsite now available
It's an easy way to learn what you should expect from your airline04/19/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has a new tool to help consumers understand their rights when traveling by air.The “flights and rights” microsi...
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The “flights and rights” microsite contains information on what airlines can and cannot do when it comes to things like flight cancellations, tarmac delays, and overbooking, just to mention a few.
Meanwhile, air travelers had an easier time getting where they were going during February.
According DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report, airlines canceled just 1.5% of their scheduled domestic flights in February. That's an improvement of 0.5% from January and 0.1% from the same period a year earlier.
On-time arrival rates were a a mixed bag, with a February rate of 82.6%. It's much better than January (76.0%), but worse than February 2016 (83.6%).
Additionally, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours during February on domestic flights, and four delays of more than four hours on international flights. All are being investigated by the DOT.
The consumer report also includes data on chronically delayed flights and their causes, and a variety of consumer complaints including problems with baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability access, and discrimination.
The complete report is available in the DOT website.
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La Granja recalls mango-flavored ice cream
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis04/19/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
La Granja INC of Doraville Ga., is recalling 4000 units of Hand crafted Paleteria, Mango Flavored Ice cream.The product may be contaminated with Salmon...
La Granja INC of Doraville Ga., is recalling 4000 units of Hand crafted Paleteria, Mango Flavored Ice cream.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The recalled product comes in a clear bag with La Granja logo, Mango Flavor Ice Cream and with expiration of 210218 (February 21, 2018) and 280218 (February 28, 2018), and the UPC code 0010439212.
It was distributed in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina through retail stores, by direct delivery.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact La Granja INC at 770-263-1060 Monday through Friday 10 am – 5 pm, (ET).
Mortgage applications continue to zig-zag
Contract interest rates drop to five-month low04/19/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After posting a modest gain a week earlier, applications for mortgages have again moved lower.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fel...
After posting a modest gain a week earlier, applications for mortgages have again moved lower.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell 1.8% in the week ending April 14. The results do not include an adjustment for the Good Friday holiday.
The Refinance Index inched up 0.2%, with the refinance share of mortgage activity rising to 42.4% of total applications from 41.6% a week earlier.
The FHA share of total applications moved to 11.0% from 10.7% the week before, the VA share slipped to 11.1% from 11.3% and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 1.0%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) was down six basis points -- from 4.28% to 4.22%, its lowest level since last November, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) fell to its lowest level since November -- 4.15%, from 4.24%, with points decreasing to 0.23 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA dropped five basis points to 4.09%, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs slipped to 3.50%, its lowest level since November, from 3.51%, with points increasing to 0.41 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was at its lowest level since November, falling to , 3.27%, from 3.33%, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.17 (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.
Cost Plus World Market recalls Windsor-style dining chairs
The legs on the chairs can break04/19/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Cost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 4,700 Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs.The legs on the chairs can break, posin...
Cost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 4,700 Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs.
The legs on the chairs can break, posing a fall hazard.
The firm has received three reports of in-store display chair legs breaking and one report of the chair leg bowing out. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves wooden Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs with four legs. The chairs have a walnut finish and are intended for indoor use.
Purchase order number 200519526, 400519526, 200519525, 400519525, 200524057, 200536057, 200536058 or 400524058 is printed on the UPC label attached to the underside of the chair seat.
The chairs, manufactured in Malaysia, were sold exclusively at Cost Plus World Market and World Market stores nationwide and online at www.worldmarket.com from June 2016, through December 2016, for about $100.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and return them to any Cost Plus World Market or World Market store for a free replacement chair.
Consumers may contact Cost Plus toll-free at 877-967-5362 from 7 a.m. to midnight (ET) daily, or online at www.worldmarket.com and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.
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Lower beef prices point to a great grilling season for consumers
The opening of markets in China have speculators bullish on beef04/18/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Plenty of research out there suggests that eating red meat might not be that good for you, but that hasn’t stopped grill masters from serving up steaks and...
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And they’ll have plenty of room to celebrate if recent price outlooks for beef stay on point. Bloomberg reports that a boom in production will drop the price of beef products in the near future, enough to rival pork and chicken during the coming summer months.
All of that cheap meat is sure to catch consumers’ eyes, as experts predict that Americans will eat 8% more red meat and poultry this year than they did three years ago. Retailers and restaurants will also be getting in on the low prices by stocking up on beef supplies, and exporters will be looking to push beef to other countries.
“If you lower prices enough, you can get products sold not just in the near term, but for the next three to five months… For two or three years we were in a situation where beef went up and up, and it became difficult to run full promotions. Suddenly, the market switched and allowed more operators to do that,” explains consultant Altin Kalo.
Trading with China
One of the countries that will likely be targeted most is China. It is currently the second-biggest buyer of beef in the world, and recent developments suggest that the U.S. is close to restarting trade with the country.
Beef markets had been closed between the two countries since 2003 before being opened again in September. The Trump administration called the restarting of trade between the two countries a “big prize.”
All of these factors have made speculators bullish when it comes to buying beef, but the turn in fortunes may only last for a short time. Bloomberg points out that supplies of beef are actually tighter than they appear, since many cattle aren’t yet ready for market. However, the huge demand and current supply will likely get us through the year until prices begin to normalize.
“I don’t think there’s so much bullishness going into the end of the year. There’s going to be some herd expansion, and there’s the realization that there’s going to be larger pork and poultry supplies. That’s why the bullishness is only near term,” said chief market strategist Donald Selkin.
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New home construction slumps in March
The outlook for the months ahead is mixed04/18/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The building of new homes took a hit in March after bumping higher the month before.The Commerce Department reports housing starts fell 6.8% last month...
The building of new homes took a hit in March after bumping higher the month before.
The Commerce Department reports housing starts fell 6.8% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,215,000. The February rate was revised was revised up to 1.303 million from 1.288 million.
Even with the decline, the march rate of construction is up 9.2% from the same period a year ago.
Groundbreaking for single-family houses was down 6.2% to a rate of 821,000. Construction of apartment buildings -- buildings with five units or more totaled 385,000, down 6.1%.
Still, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) managed to find something encouraging about the report.
"The three-month moving average for single-family starts has reached a post-recession high, which shows that this sector is continuing to firm," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "We can expect further gains in single-family production throughout the year, while multifamily starts should level off."
The construction outlook in the months ahead was fairly encouraging.
Privately-owned housing units authorized by Building permits authorizing new-home construction were up 3.6% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,260,000, and 17.0% higher than March 2016.
Within that, though, authorizations for single-family starts fell 1.1% 1.9%, while multi-unit permits shot up 18.3%.
The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.
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Airlines tweak policy manuals in wake of United incident
American reportedly ups the ante for bumped passengers04/17/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
United Airlines' costly public relations disaster has caused several airlines to re-evaluate policies on how they deal with passengers, according to variou...
United Airlines' costly public relations disaster has caused several airlines to re-evaluate policies on how they deal with passengers, according to various published reports citing internal company memos.
Notably, United took the first step, reportedly advising company employees that they are not to involuntarily remove a ticketed passenger to provide room for a United employee in the future.
That's what happened eight days ago, when a 69-year old physician was forcibly removed from a United flight from Chicago to Louisville. Dr. David Dao was not bumped because the flight was overbooked, which had been widely reported, but because United wanted his seat for a company employee.
The reports say United has advised its personnel that company employees who must get to a specific location to work now have to get their request in at least 60 minutes before departure.
In a formal apology to Dao, the airline also said it had changed its policy on the use of law enforcement. It said in the future it will not ask officers to remove a passenger from an aircraft unless it is a matter of safety and security.
Big change at American
American, meanwhile, has reportedly changed its policy to promise never to bump a passenger once they are seated aboard the aircraft. Seth Kaplan, managing partner at Airline Weekly, told ConsumerAffairs last week that incident involving Dr. Dao was probably exacerbated by the fact the passenger was already aboard the aircraft when he was bumped.
"What almost never happens, but happened here, is the guy was already on board and in a seat," Kaplan said. "If a passenger is involuntarily bumped, it's going to almost always happen in the gate area."
Delta, meanwhile, has reportedly upped the ante for passengers who are asked to give up their seats because a flight has been oversold. Published reports cite an internal memo that authorizes Delta supervisors to offer up to $9,950 to a passenger to willingly give up his or her seat.
Incidents will still arise
For consumers, the new environment may mean airlines will be a little kinder and gentler, but it doesn't mean it will always be smooth sailing, as a couple on their way to their Costa Rican wedding aboard a United Airlines flight learned over the weekend.
KHOU-TV in Houston reports Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were asked to leave the flight after the airline said the couple repeatedly tried to move to higher-priced “economy plus” seats.
Hohl told the TV station he asked to pay for the upgrade because the couple found a man sleeping across both of their assigned seats.
United said the couple was booked on a later flight.
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Is rent-to-own an answer to today's housing challenges?
It could be, but renters/buyers should exercise caution04/17/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Home sales have slowed in recent months for two main reasons. First, there just aren't as many homes for sale.Second, first time buyers who are now ren...
Home sales have slowed in recent months for two main reasons. First, there just aren't as many homes for sale.
Second, first time buyers who are now renting are having a hard time scraping together the down payment. In a recent report, real estate marketplace Zillow found nearly 70% of renters said the inability to put their hands on a down payment was the biggest thing keeping them from buying a house. Not surprisingly, the homeownership rate is at its lowest point ever.
"With home values close to record highs, it's no surprise renters are concerned about coming up with enough money to buy a home," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Rising rents are also a factor -- it's extremely difficult to save when you're paying record-high rents.
So more and more renters have been turning to a lease-purchase option, known as rent-to-own. It's a rental agreement that gives the renter the option to purchase the home at a later date, at a specified price.
In addition to the rent, the monthly payment carries an extra amount that is applied to the down payment, so that at a specified time the sales transaction can take place.
Zillow says it can be a good option for a would-be buyer who is short of the required down payment, especially if their credit is a little shaky. But the Zillow editors strongly recommend that anyone considering a rent-to-own option get pre-approved for a mortgage first. If you can't get pre-approved, rent-to-own isn't going to be a good option.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR), which has never been too keen on the concept, recently raised some concerns. It reports a big increase in these rent-to-own agreements in the aftermath of the real estate market crash, along with an increase in legal disputes over them.
The association points out that many lease-purchase contracts require the tenants to make all repairs to the property, no matter how big, even though they do not yet own it.
Here is another things for tenants to think about: the extra money for the down payment, above and beyond the market priced rent, is not going into an escrow account. If you don't buy the house before the option expires, the landlord may keep the money. That's a major incentive for the property owner to agree to a lease-purchase contract.
Forbes magazine has also listed a number of potential pitfalls for renters/buyers, including the possibility that the owner could lose the property to foreclosure while you are renting it. Forbes recommends that anyone considering a rent-to-own arrangement should check the landlord's credit and look for signs of financial trouble.
Also, make sure the contract lays out clearly who is responsible for maintenance and repairs. The contract should be a “lease-option,” rather than “lease-purchase.” The latter may require you to buy the property at the end of the lease.
Remember, this is a house you may buy. So Forbes recommends having a home inspection before you sign on the dotted line.
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Builder confidence slips in April
'Hefty' regulatory costs continue to plague the industry04/17/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) shows builder confidence in the market for newly-built singl...
The latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) shows builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes fell three points to a level of 68 in April after surging to a 12-year high a month earlier.
“Even with this month’s modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald.
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 monthly survey used to compile the index 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 fell in April but remain at healthy levels, according to NAHB. The components gauging current sales conditions fell three points to 74, the index charting sales expectations in the next six months was down three points to 75, and the buyer traffic component inched down one point to 52.
“The fact that the HMI measure of current sales conditions has been over 70 for five consecutive months shows that there is continued demand for new construction,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, builders are facing several challenges, such as hefty regulatory costs and ongoing increases in building material prices."
The three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores show the West and Midwest both rose a point to 77 and 68, respectively, with the South holding steady at 68 and the Northeast falling two points to 46.
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Polaris Recalls Ranger 900 ROVs
A heat shield can fall off the vehicle04/17/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 51,000 Polaris Ranger 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).A heat shield can fall off t...
Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 51,000 Polaris Ranger 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).
A heat shield can fall off the vehicle, posing fire and burn hazards to riders.
The company has received 13 incident reports involving the recalled ROVs, including five reports of fires. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves all model year 2015 Polaris Ranger XP 900, XP 900 EPS, and CREW 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).
The recalled ROVs were sold in a variety of colors and have either three or six seats and a rear box. “Ranger” is printed on the rear box, and “900” is printed on the hood of the ROVs. All 2015 Ranger 900 models and vehicle identification numbers (VINs) are included in this recall.
The VIN is printed on the frame on the driver’s side towards the rear of the vehicle.
The following vehicles are being recalled:
The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from April 2014, through March 2017, for between $13,400 and $21,300.
What to do
Consumer should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.
Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday and Friday, or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.
The trick is to get the right plan from the right company04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Although they have shown signs of tapering off recently, car sales have been booming over the last few years as consumers upgrade cars that they had been h...
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For some folks, it's that most terrifying time of the year. The federal income tax filing deadline (April 18 this year because of a DC holiday) is just aro...
Apple gets permit to test self-driving cars in California
For now, the cars will have a human driver standing by04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It there was any remaining doubt that Apple is developing a self-driving car, it was eliminated by today's announcement that the California Department of M...
It there was any remaining doubt that Apple is developing a self-driving car, it was eliminated by today's announcement that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted Apple a permit to begin testing autonomous cars.
Apple thus joins Google and a long list of automakers, suppliers and technology companies already allowed to test their creations on California roads.
Apple, which is notoriously secretive about nearly everything except when staging one of its high-profile product announcements, had no comment. Last November, Apple conceded in a submission to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it was “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation.”
The cars Apple will be testing include three 2015 Lexus SUVs, Bloomberg reported. There will be a person behind the wheel at all times, although proposed new rules would "eventually" allow tests without humans at the wheel.
“California has more manufacturers testing autonomous vehicles than any other state and today’s rules continue our leadership with this emerging technology,” said California Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly, in a news release. “These rules protect public safety, promote innovation and lay out the path for future testing and deployment of driverless technology. This rulemaking is the next step in working with stakeholders to get this right.”
“These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to include testing vehicles where no driver is present,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “This is the next step in eventually allowing driverless autonomous vehicles on California roadways.”
A 45-day comment period on the new rules ends April 24.
What to do if you are involuntarily bumped
Your first step should be to ask for a written explanation of the bumping policy04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The outrage directed against United Airlines' handling of Dr. David Dao, on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, has been building for nearly a week.On...
The outrage directed against United Airlines' handling of Dr. David Dao, on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, has been building for nearly a week.
On Sunday, Dao refused to give up his seat to a United Airlines employee who needed to get to Louisville, and his attorney says he was severely injured when security personnel dragged him off the plane in front of dozens of smartphone-wielding passengers who recorded the incident and spread it around the world.
In a news conference Thursday, Dao's attorney Thomas Demetrio painted a picture of a callous and sometimes brutal airline industry, and truth be told many regular fliers would not disagree.
But moral outrage aside, it begs the question; just what exactly should you do if you find yourself in Dao's position someday, told by the airline that you must give up your seat? Would you refuse and resist as Dao did?
Bumping will continue
It is almost certain that no airline will ever again subject a passenger to what Dao endured, having learned from United's painful lesson. But make no mistake, airlines have not stopped involuntarily bumping passengers and probably won't, so it could happen to you in the future.
Should it happen, the law is pretty clear. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires the airline denying boarding to a ticketed passenger to give the passenger a written statement detailing his or her rights and the airline's criteria for selecting a passenger to bump.
There is no evidence this was done in the case of Dr. Dao and it isn't clear how many, if any, airlines do this. So as a first step, passengers being involuntarily bumped should politely ask for this document. It signals to the airline that you know your rights and perhaps they will move on to bump some other poor soul.
But if you are handed the document and are still told to get off the aircraft, do you risk physical injury if you refuse? Again, probably not, since airlines will undoubtedly have new procedures in place to prevent future horrific encounters.
But refusing might land you in legal trouble, because your rights aboard a ship or aircraft are not always the same as they are on terra firma. Specifically, the law grants special powers to captains.
The federal aviation regulations (Title 14) also specify that passengers must obey all orders given by the pilot in command. So this is where a passenger must be careful. Should the plane's captain be summoned and order you off the plane, your refusal could be considered “interfering with an airline crew,” a felony.
However, it's something of a gray area if the plane is still at the gate with the door open. Until the aircraft pushes back from the gate, the airline's ground agents may be considered in charge of the aircraft.
Prudence might dictate that you don't want to be the test case. It may be wiser to comply with the order, then seek legal redress once you are safely off the plane.
In some cases, but not all, the airline bumping you involuntarily will provide some compensation. However, Transportation Department rules say that if the airline can arrange alternate transportation and get you to your destination within an hour of the original arrival time, there is no requirement for compensation.
In Washington, bumping may become a hot topic. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is asking the Transportation Department to do more to protect the rights of airline passengers. In a letter to the agency, he's asking that it investigate airline industry practices, including involuntary bumping of passengers.
State officials say cases have reached a 20-year high04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The medical community is scrambling to try to encourage consumers to get their immunizations. Recent studies have suggested making exemption policies more...
Growing up in a world of technology can inhibit healthy sleep and hurt development04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
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Kelley Blue Book identifies the deals with the most cash back and best lease terms04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
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Some frozen foods are cheaper and better for you than their fresh counterparts, experts say04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
With its array of ice cream flavors and a vast selection of TV dinners, the frozen food section may not seem like the place to go if you’re looking for hea...
Retail sales disappoint in March
Falling auto sales played a role04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Not much joy in the retail sector in March.Not only did it revise the February retail sales figure from a 0.1% gain to show a 0.3% decline, but the Com...
Not much joy in the retail sector in March.
Not only did it revise the February retail sales figure from a 0.1% gain to show a 0.3% decline, but the Commerce Department also reported sales in March were down 0.2% -- totaling $470.8 billion.
Even with that decline, though, sales were 5.2% above the same period the year before.
Ups and downs
Much of the March weakness can be traced to a decline of 1.2% in auto sales. If that category is eliminated, sales were flat. Also contributing to the decline were lower sales at building material and garden equipment & supplies dealers (-1.5%), gas stations (-1.0%), sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores (-0.8%), and restaurants & bars (-0.6%).
What little strength there was came from gains at electronics & appliance stores (+2.6%), miscellaneous store retailers (+1.8%), clothing and clothing accessories (+1.0%), nonstore retailers (+0.6%), food and beverage stores (+0.5%), and general merchandise stores (+0.3%).
The full report may be found on the Commerce Department website.
Inflation takes a holiday
Consumer prices fell during March04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Falling gasoline prices helped push the cost of living lower in March.Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show the Consumer Price...
Falling gasoline prices helped push the cost of living lower in March.
Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was down a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month, the first one-month decline since February 2016.
The March decrease held price increases to 2.4% over the last 12 months.
Falling energy costs
Energy prices were down 3.2% in March following February's drop of 1.0%. Gasoline led the decline, plunging 6.2%, followed by natural gas (-0.8%) and electricity (-0.1%).
Over the last year, energy prices rose 10.9%, with gasoline surging 19.9%, natural gas up 10.3%, and electricity gaining 1.6%.
Food prices rise
The cost of food was up 0.3%, with grocery prices rising 0.5% following a 0.2% increase in February.
Four of the six major grocery store food groups rose, with fruits and vegetables gaining 1.6%, and cereals & bakery products and meats, poultry, fish & eggs both up 0.3%. In contrast, the cost of dairy and related products fell 0.6% and nonalcoholic beverage prices slipped 0.1%.
The “core” inflation rate, which strips out the volatile food and energy categories was down 0.1% last month, and up 2.0% over the past 12 months.
The March decline came as communication prices fell 3.5%, along with drops in the costs of used cars and trucks (-0.9%), new vehicles (-0.3%), and clothing (0.7%).
Price increases were registered in housing (+0.1%), medical care (+0.1%), motor vehicle insurance (+1.2%), tobacco (+0.5%), airline fares (+0.4%), and alcoholic beverages (+0.2%).
Recreation, education, and household furnishings & operations costs were unchanged.
The complete report is available on the BLS website
Sportsman ATVs recalled
The electronic power steering unit can malfunction04/14/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 3,800 Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).The electron...
Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 3,800 Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
The electronic power steering unit can malfunction, posing a crash hazard.
The company has received 15 reports of the electronic power steering unit malfunctioning. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves model year 2017 Polaris Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 model ATVs.
The recalled ATVs have “Polaris” printed on the front grill and “Sportsman 450,” “Sportsman 570,” “Sportsman 850,” “Sportsman 1000” or “Scrambler 1000” printed on the side of the steering column.
The ATVs were sold in several colors. The model number is located on the fuel tank cover.
The following models are being recalled:
The ATVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from September 2016, through March 2017, for between $6,900 and $13,300.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ATVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.
Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” for more information.
It's time for airlines to stop bullying passengers, lawyer asserts04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Thomas Demetrio, attorney for Dr. David Dao, the United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from a flight Sunday, has laid out his case against the airline...
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Hazardous chemicals found on many pool toys and swimming aids
A study finds that some distinctive smells can tip off consumers about whether a product is safe04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Summertime is fast approaching, and for many consumers that means plenty of quality family time at the pool. But are your pool toys and swimming aids safe...
Summertime is fast approaching, and for many consumers that means plenty of quality family time at the pool. But are your pool toys and swimming aids safe for you and your loved ones?
A new study finds that many inflatable toys and swimming aids, like bathing rings and arm bands, may be treated with a range of chemicals that can be hazardous to your health. Researchers say that chemical compounds such as cyclohexanone, phenol, and isophorone may be present in especially high concentrations on children’s toys.
"Modern products such as toys and children's products are sourced from a wide variety of chemical and physical manufacturing processes, and this complexity often makes it difficult for us to identify those containing contaminants and unwanted substances, and to determine their causes," said researcher Christoph Wiedmer.
Follow your nose
Wiedmer explains that many of the chemical substances are dangerous because they have unstable structures. This can result in a host of problems, “such as irriation, smell nuisance, or other physiological and psychosomatic effects,” he said. Cyclohexanone and phenol are known to be harmful when inhaled, and isophorone has been classified as a category 2 carcinogen.
However, the researchers point out that there is a way for consumers to detect these chemicals. All you have to do, they say, is follow your nose. “We found that in a number of cases our noses can guide us to ‘sniff out’ problematic products,” said Wiedmer.
So, which smells should tip you off? Wiedmer and fellow researcher Andrea Buettner tested the molecular make-up of the “distinctive smells” that came from various pool toys and found that between 32 and 46 odors were detected from each sample, with 13 being described as "intense." A panel of volunteers set to smelling each product to see what each product odor reminded them of.
Participants reported that three of the products reminded them of almonds, plastic, and rubber, while a fourth product reminded them of glue or nail polish. Consumers that experience these or other suspicious odors would be wise to research their products to make sure they are safe to use.
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Why starting classes later would help most college students
A study finds most students' cognitive abilities are at their peak later in the day04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Many students who take college courses know the dread of having to wake up for an early morning lecture. While some have to take time to muster their menta...
Many students who take college courses know the dread of having to wake up for an early morning lecture. While some have to take time to muster their mental faculties (usually with the help of some coffee), others might find the time slot preferable to classes later in the day.
So, which time is better for learning?
That’s the question that researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno set out to answer. And, after conducting a multi-approach analysis, they found that classes conducted later in the day allow most students to perform at peak cognitive levels.
"The basic thrust is that the best times of day for learning for college-age students are later than standard class hours begin. Especially for freshmen and sophomores, we should be running more afternoon and evening classes as part of the standard curriculum,” said co-author Mariah Evans, associate professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Most prefer later classes
The findings aren’t exactly groundbreaking for the scientific community. Previous research conducted at the high school level has also suggested that students would benefit from a later start. Researchers from the current study say this most likely has to do with the biological difference between most young people and adults.
"Neuroscientists have documented the time shift using biological data -- on average, teens' biologically 'natural' day begins about two hours later than is optimal for prime age adults,” said Evans.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers asked participating college students about their preferred sleeping times and to rate their “fitness for cognitive activities” for each hour of a 24-hour cycle. The results showed that twice as many college-aged students rated their ability to learn more highly later in the day, after 11 a.m. or noon.
While the results seem strongly in favor of a later start for college classes, the researchers do admit that there isn’t exactly a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning times. For each start time to the academic day, they say that one or more chronotype is disadvantaged; however, starting later in the day does appear to disadvantage the least number of people.
Changing class times?
The researchers say their work supports the moves by colleges and universities to offer later afternoon and evening classes to their undergraduate curriculums. Still, they do question whether the standard 9 a.m. start time for most institutions is a sustainable path going forward.
"This raises the question as to why conventional universities start their lectures at 9 a.m. or even earlier when our research reveals that this limits the performance of their students," said researcher Jonathan Kelley. "This work is very helpful for asynchronous online learning as it allows for the student to target their study time to align with their personal rhythm and at the time of day when they know they are most effective."
Are you using your credit card rewards?
A report finds nearly a third of cardholders are leaving money on the table04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In the last decade, credit card companies have stepped up the rewards they offer to cardholders, providing everything from cash back to points toward trave...
In the last decade, credit card companies have stepped up the rewards they offer to cardholders, providing everything from cash back to points toward travel discounts.
Surveys have found consumers like these rewards, and the offers often sway a decision on whether or not to apply for a card.
But once you have a card in your wallet, what do you do with the rewards? A new report by financial website Bankrate.com addressed that question and found 31% of consumers with a rewards card have never redeemed the rewards.
In fact, most of us fall into one of two categories: either we are nearly obsessive about redeeming rewards or we don't do it at all. Bankrate's Robin Saks Frankel says it's hard to figure out.
Not gaining value
"Credit card rewards don't usually gain value over time," Frankel said. "In fact, they're more likely to lose value as companies require more points or miles for the same perks. Your best move is to cash them in regularly."
Bankrate found that when consumers do take advantage of their rewards, nearly half prefer to get cash back. That's actually a very savvy choice.
It might be hard to place a quantitative value on other types of rewards, such as airline miles or hotel points. But cash is money in the bank. It can be accumulated to pay for a purchase or can be applied each month to pay a portion of the bill.
Of all the types of rewards, cash seems like the most useful. Millennials favor it over older consumers by a wide margin.
Airline miles a distant second
The Bankrate report found airline miles were a distant second, with only 17% of consumers opting for this perk. Twelve percent of consumers prefer to get their rewards in the form of gift cards.
One drawback to some of the more generous rewards cards is a sometimes hefty annual fee. With so many other rewards cards available with no fee, it's wise to carefully consider all offers before selecting a card that charges a fee.
"The credit card market is very competitive right now, so if you're not happy with a fee, you can either shop around to find another card that doesn't have one or you can see if the issuer is willing to waive the fee to keep your business," Frankel said.
In fact, as we recently reported, a study found more than 80% of cardholders were able to get an annual fee waived or reduced just by asking.
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The Smokehouse of NY recalls smoked fish products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Smokehouse of NY of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling various smoked fish products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses h...
The Smokehouse of NY of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling various smoked fish products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been confirmed to date.
The following products, distributed to markets, restaurants, and hotels in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Alabama, Minnesota and Montana, are being recalled:
The recalled product is distributed in black cryovaced bags containing the company logo and name with expiration dates of April 5-19, 2017.
What to do
Consumers with questions or seeking information may contact the company at 914-630-4788 Monday-Friday, 7am-3pm.
Target recalls water absorbing toys
If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside a child's body04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 560,000 water-absorbing Easter and Dino toys.If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside...
Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 560,000 water-absorbing Easter and Dino toys.
If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside a child's body and cause intestinal obstructions, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration and could be life threatening.
Surgery is required to remove the toy from the body, if ingested. There is a possibility that the toys might not show up on an x-ray.
No incidents or injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs, Easter Grow Toys and Hatch Your Own Dino.
Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs and Easter Grow Toys have model number 234-25-1200 on the back of the product’s packaging. Hatch Your Own Dino Egg has model number 234-09-0016 on the label inserted in the product’s packaging.
The pink, blue, or purple Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs include a white bunny, brown bunny, or butterfly. The Easter Grow Toys include a yellow chick, brown bunny, or white bunny. The Hatch Your Own Dino Eggs are purple or yellow/green and contains one of eleven dinosaurs.
The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at Target stores nationwide from February 2017, through March 2017, for about $1.
What to do
Consumers should immediately take this recalled toy away from children and return it to any Target store for a full refund.
Consumers may contact Target at 800- 440-0680 between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) Monday through Sunday or online at www.target.com for more information.
Flamaglo Foods recalls Yoso brand Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy Products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Flamaglo Foods is recalling Yoso brand Soygo fermented cultured soy products.The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.There hav...
Flamaglo Foods is recalling Yoso brand Soygo fermented cultured soy products.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.
The following products, sold in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, Canada, are being recalled:
|Brand Name||Common Name||Size||Code(s) on Product||UPC|
|Yoso||Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Plain||440 g||17 MA 19 d5|
|Yoso||Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Raspberry||440 g||17 MA 19 d5|
|Yoso||Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Vanilla||440 g||17 MA 19 d5|
|Yoso||Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Blueberry||440 g||17 MA 19 d5|
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the store where purchased.
Model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles recalled
The driveline may vibrate and fracture the driveline components or the transmission04/13/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 509 model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles.Operating the vehicle at highway speeds may cause the drive...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 509 model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles.
Operating the vehicle at highway speeds may cause the driveline to vibrate and fracture the driveline components or the transmission.
If the driveline or transmission fractures, the vehicle may lose motive power, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driveshaft and two center bearing brackets, free of charge. Remedy parts are currently unavailable.
Interim notices informing owners of the safety risk were mailed on April 6, 2017. Owners will receive a second notice when remedy parts become available.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford recall number 17S08.
United Airlines offered a woman over $1,100 in exchange for confidentiality after her dog died04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
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Congress questions United's forcible removal of passenger
Roughed up passenger, meanwhile, gets a belated apology04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The story of United Airlines' forcible removal of a passenger from a flight Sunday isn't going away.On Sunday, United asked Chicago aviation police to...
The story of United Airlines' forcible removal of a passenger from a flight Sunday isn't going away.
On Sunday, United asked Chicago aviation police to remove a passenger, now identified as Dr. David Dao of Louisville, from a plane bound from Chicago to Louisville.
Dao had not done anything wrong, the flight was simply overbooked and United had run out of passengers willing to voluntarily give up their seats to United flight crew members who needed to get to Louisville.
A computer picked Dao to be "involuntarily" denied boarding, even though Dao was already in his seat. The doctor declined, saying he was needed at a Louisville hospital the next day.
United then called in aviation police officers, who pulled a limp Dao from his seat and dragging him down the aisle of the aircraft, apparently battering his face against an armrest in the process, as horrified passengers screamed and recorded the incident on smartphones. The video immediately went viral, triggering near universal outrage.
Senate committee wades in
Two days later the Senate Commerce Committee fired off a letter, signed by both key Republicans and Democrats on the panel, to United CEO Oscar Munoz, asking for an explanation.
"We recognize the importance of having passengers comply with the lawful instructions of airline crew and law enforcement, but it is hard to believe that some combination of better planning, training, communication, or additional incentives would not have mitigated this particular incident or avoided it altogether," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter went on to request information about standard operating procedure in cases such as this and what United personnel told the security personnel tasked with removing the passenger.
Munoz, meanwhile, retreated from an earlier position and issued something of an apology on Tuesday, admitting that "no one should ever be mistreated this way." Earlier however, a purported internal memo from Munos to United employees surfaced in the media. In it, Munos told United employees that the passenger was belligerent and they followed proper procedure in removing him from the aircraft.
However, they may not have. According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. law requires "each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't."
There is no account of the incident aboard Flight 3411 that describes Dao being given a written document of any kind.
The social media firestorm that erupted in the wake of the incident has spread to China meanwhile, where United is one of the major international carriers serving the country. The treatment of Dao, who is of Chinese decent, has touched a nerve in that country. Various media sources report that internet chatter in China is building for a boycott of United.
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Walmart offering incentives to order online
Select items will have a discount if you order online and pick it up at a store04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Walmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick...
Walmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick them up at a Walmart store.
The number of items will expand to one million by the end of June, the retailer said.
Surveys have suggested that consumers like the convenience of ordering something online, then driving to a nearby store to find it waiting for them. It works especially well for big box retailers, saving consumers the hassle of wandering the aisles to find the item, or asking a store associate to help them find it, then waiting in a checkout line.
Walmart CEO Marc Lore says the new system will take advantage of supply chain efficiencies, and the company will pass some of the savings on to consumers. The discounts will start April 19.
"We’re creating price transparency to empower customers to shop smarter and choose what’s best for them," Lore said in a statement. "Now, they can either pick up and save even more money, or ship two-day for free to home, without paying for a membership."
Lore said the discounts are possible because the system will remove the "last mile" delivery costs. In addition, Lore says Walmart cuts costs when it delivers goods from its fulfillment centers directly to stores.
Items eligible for the discount will be flagged that way on the store's website. Walmart lists these examples as typical discounts:
Britax B-SAFE 35 Infant Car Seat, Slate Strie – $140.65 after a $7.40 discount.
LEGO City Great Vehicles Ferry, 60119 – $21.44 after a $2.55 discount.
Coleman 150 qt Heritage XP Marine Cooler – $107.03 after a $4.46 discount.
VIZIO SmartCast M-Series 70" Class 4K Ultra HDTV (M70-D3) – $1,648 after a $50 discount.
Free two-day delivery
The pickup discounts follow Walmart's move in January to offer free two-day shipping on more than two million items without requiring customers to sign-up for a membership, a shot at Amazon's Prime membership program.
If the item you purchase is not among the two million covered by the new program, Walmart says it will provide free shipping if the order totals $35, down from $50. Items shipped for pick-up at stores have no price threshold.
Trade-in event aims to divert car seat materials from landfills04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Have an old or outgrown car seat lying around? From April 17 to 30, Target will take it off your hands in exchange for a coupon for 20% off any new car sea...
Consumers use more credit cards, but enjoy them less
Harris Poll finds 61% of consumers think their card falls short04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you're like most consumers, every trip to the mailbox it seems leaves you with a handful of credit card solicitations.Most consumers probably have m...
If you're like most consumers, every trip to the mailbox it seems leaves you with a handful of credit card solicitations.
Most consumers probably have more than one credit card in their wallet, and use them regularly if ballooning balances are any indication. Eight out of 10 adults say they use or own at least one credit card. On average, cardholders have about three cards they use regularly.
But a new Harris Poll suggests consumers are not all that satisfied with the cards they are using.
In recent years, credit card companies have worked to separate themselves from their competitors by offering more perks and rewards for just about every way you can use a credit card.
Rewards and perks
Some cards provide cash rewards while others build points toward travel perks. But the poll suggests consumers are not that impressed, with 61% expressing some level of dissatisfaction with the credit card they use most.
"In this highly penetrated and competitive industry, a company cannot afford to under-deliver," said Alison Bushell, client director at The Harris Poll.
And it could be because of that intense competition that consumers have a "grass is always greener" view of their credit card. That no matter how good their card may be, they can't help thinking there's a better one out there.
"Consumers are inundated with offers from competitors who are eager to take a precious slot in their wallets," Bushell said. "Issuers need to make promises they can keep, and stay ahead of consumer sentiment to stem off attrition and maximize loyalty."
What's most important to consumers
When consumers were asked to rate benefits many credit cards offer, 58% said merchandise points were "nice to have" but only 7% said they would pay extra for it.
At the same time, cash back appeared to be a highly popular perk. While 49% rate it as "nice to have," 34% rated it a "must have" feature and 10% said they would pay extra to have it.
For consumers, selecting a credit card that best matches needs and spending patterns will likely increase satisfaction levels. For example, if you use a card mostly to buy gasoline and groceries, and maybe an occasional big-ticket item, then a cash back card will likely work best.
But if you travel a lot, especially in your work, then using a card that provides generous travel perks will likely make you happier. Where possible, select a card that doesn't have an annual fee. If the card does carry a fee, make sure the rewards and perks you will receive will pay for it, and more.
Gasoline prices move sharply higher
Much of the national price rise is centered in the Midwest04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
After flatlining for much of the early spring, gasoline prices have suddenly started moving higher, reflecting the change-over to summer blends of gasoline...
After flatlining for much of the early spring, gasoline prices have suddenly started moving higher, reflecting the change-over to summer blends of gasoline at the nation's refineries.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is about $2.39 a gallon, up six cents in the last week and nearly a dime in the last 30 days.
The national average of premium gasoline is nearly $2.90 a gallon, up over five cents in the last week and nearly eight cents in the last month.
AAA analysts say oil prices have come back into play in pushing gasoline prices higher. Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East sent crude oil prices sharply higher on world markets in the last week. Prices got another boost Monday when an oil field in Libya was shut down over the weekend because of civil strife.
Sweet spot for oil prices
Some analysts think U.S. production will keep oil prices from going much higher, with a trading range between $40 and $60 a barrel. At that level oil companies can be profitable, but gasoline prices for consumers would remain reasonable.
This week's rise in the national average gasoline price is largely attributable to a price spike in the Midwest region. AAA reports five Great Lakes and Central states experienced some of the nation’s most significant gas price hikes in the past seven days.
In Michigan, the statewide average price jumped 12 cents a gallon. In Indiana, the average price gained 11 cents. Missouri, which normally has some of the cheapest gas in the country, saw the average price climb nine cents. In neighboring Illinois, the average price gained eight cents, and prices rose seven cents a gallon in Wisconsin.
That's partly due to reduced output at Phillips 66’s Wood River refinery in Illinois, which is still undergoing planned maintenance work. Adding to the reduced supply, BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery reported a minor issue on its second-largest crude distillation unit, which is affecting normal operations.
Gas prices on the West Coast remain some of the most expensive in the nation, but the good news for drivers there is prices barely moved higher in the last seven days. The cheapest states for gasoline are clustered in the Southeast, with the exceptions of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Mortgage applications post first gain in four weeks
Contract interest rates were mixed04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After falling for three consecutive weeks, applications for mortgages have moved higher.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 1...
After falling for three consecutive weeks, applications for mortgages have moved higher.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 1.5% in the week ending April 7 from the week before.
The Refinance Index was unchanged from the previous week, with the refinance share of mortgage activity falling to 41.6% of total applications -- the lowest level since September 2008 -- from 42.6% a week earlier. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 8.5%.
The average loan size for purchase applications reached a survey high of $318,700.
The FHA share of total applications dropped to 10.7% from 11.1% the previous week, the VA share rose to 11.3% from 11.1% a week earlier, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 1.0%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) was down six basis points -- to 4.28% from 4.34%, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) was unchanged at 4.24%, with points increasing to 0.28 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 dipped to 4.14% from 4.15%, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs fell six basis points to 3.51%, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was steady at 3.33%, with points increasing to 0.17 from 0.13 (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.
IIHS tightens criteria for recommended used vehicles for teens
New standards include small overlap front crash protection04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Because teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash, the Insurance...
Because teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is applying more stringent criteria to its list of recommended used vehicles for teens.
The latest update includes 49 “best choices,” starting under $20,000, and 82 “good choices,” starting under $10,000.
Small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the first time this year for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.
“Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles, TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+, we can now point used vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there’s no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver.”
Prices for listed vehicles are provided by Kelley Blue Book, based on estimates for a private-party purchase near the IIHS Arlington, Va., headquarters.
“Choosing a safe vehicle for your teen is of paramount importance, and settling on a vehicle your family can afford is also very important,” said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Kelley Blue Book provides you with updated vehicle prices and values that are unique to your area, so KBB.com is a great site to visit as you finalize your buying decision.”
What to do
Both lists follow a few basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:
- High horsepower and young drivers don’t mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. Stick with the base engine.
- Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
- Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. All listed vehicles have it as a standard feature.
Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.
Models on this year’s good choices list earn good ratings in the Institute’s moderate overlap front, side, and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the best choices list must also have a good rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.
Before purchasing a used vehicle, it’s critical to check for outstanding recalls. You can enter the Vehicle Identification Number at nhtsa.gov/recalls. It’s also a good idea to notify the manufacturer once you purchase the vehicle, so the company can make sure you receive future recall notices.
Consumers should keep in mind that the continuing recall of Takata airbags affects a large number of vehicles. Since the risk of airbag malfunction increases over time and also depends on the climate where the vehicle is kept for most of the year, not all affected vehicles have been recalled yet. NHTSA recommends checking its recall page every six months or so.
Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.
Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products recalled
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Central Smith Creamery of Selwyn, Ontario, Canada, is recalling Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products.The products may be contaminated with Listeri...
Central Smith Creamery of Selwyn, Ontario, Canada, is recalling Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.
The following products, sold in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, possibly distributed in other provinces and territories, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the store where purchased.
Consumers seeking more information may call Ian Scates of Central Smith Creamery at 1-800-461-1464.
Lakeside Foods recalls Season's Choice Frozen Sweet Peas
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/12/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Lakeside Foods of Manitowoc, Wis., is recalling 1,568 packages of Season's Choice Brand Frozen Peas.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monoc...
Lakeside Foods of Manitowoc, Wis., is recalling 1,568 packages of Season's Choice Brand Frozen Peas.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The company says it is unaware of any illnesses associated with the product.
The following product, distributed in poly bags to only Aldi Stores in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin and sold at retail stores in those states, is being recalled:
Season's Choice Sweet Peas, Net Weight 16 oz (1 LB) 454 g UPC code 041498164294
- DC27063 PLAA6206 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC27063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC37063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC47063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC57063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC57063 BNAF6236 BEST BY 09 2018
- DC57063 BNAF6236 BEST BY 09 2018
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it immediately or return it to their local store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-466-3834, Monday-Friday 8 AM – 3PM.
Survey finds only three companies follow Allergan's promise to hold increases to single digits04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
When Allergan Pharmaceuticals pledged last September to hold its annual price increases to single digits, there was a slight hope that other drug companies...
Investigators document how the community bank division got out of control04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Wells Fargo is "clawing back" $75 million in salary paid to its former CEO and another top executive after a board investigation into the bank's unauthoriz...
Ratings system shows airlines improving performance
But after the last few days, there are some consumers who might not agree04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It has been quite a week for the nation's airlines.Delta struggled since the middle of last week to get its flight operations back on track after sever...
It has been quite a week for the nation's airlines.
Delta struggled since the middle of last week to get its flight operations back on track after severe weather in the Southeast resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations.
Some consumers complained that it was difficult to communicate with Delta during that time to reschedule flights and the airline itself admitted the way everything was handled was less than ideal.
Then came United Airlines' public relations disaster, when security personnel dragged a passenger off the plane after he refused to give up his seat as ordered.
So it was somewhat ironic when, during the middle of all this, that the annual Airline Quality Rating (ARQ) came out, showing airlines improved their performance over the last 12 months.
Improved performance in all four categories
The ARQ found airlines performed better in all four categories on which they are measured: on-time performance, rate of involuntary denied boardings, rate of mishandled bags and the rate of customer complaints.
There are 12 airlines in the rating system and the ARQ shows nine of them logged improvement in on-time, baggage handling and customer complaints. Seven of the airlines improved in all four categories.
Alaska, American, Delta, ExpressJet, Frontier, SkyWest, Southwest, Spirit, and United all recorded improvement. At the same time, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Virgin America lost ground, according to the ratings.
“The best-ever overall industry AQR score is largely due to best-ever performance in the rate of involuntary denied boardings and the rate of mishandled bags,” said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.
'Air travel great again'
And the last week's events not withstanding, Headly says “air travel is great again – that statement can be followed with a period, exclamation point or question mark depending on the individual’s perspective.”
As for individual airlines, Alaska Air jumped to number one while last year's top-rated airline, Virgin America, slipped to number three. Here's the entire list, with the previous year's rank in parenthesis:
- Alaska (5)
- Delta (3)
- Virgin America (1)
- JetBlue (2)
- Hawaiian (4)
- Southwest (6)
- SkyWest (7)
- United (8)
- American (10)
- ExpressJet (9)
- Spirit (13)
- Frontier (11)
Involuntary denied boardings
When it comes to reducing the rate of involuntary denied boardings, Hawaiian and Delta did the best. ExpressJet had the highest involuntary denied boarding rate per 10,000 passengers.
Denied boardings occur because most airlines routinely sell more tickets than the aircraft has seats. It anticipates there will be a few no-shows, so overbooking means it flies with fewer empty seats.
But when everyone who purchased a ticket shows up, the airline then has to bump some passengers from the flight.
The rare parasitic disease can cause meningitis, coma, and even death to those who catch it04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Travelers who visit Hawaii love the beaches and numerous tourist attractions, but consumers would do well to be mindful of what they eat and which areas th...
Talking to your healthcare provider about individual treatment options is a good start04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Do you know how to manage your high cholesterol? Unfortunately, a new report from the American Heart Association (AMA) says chances are good that you proba...
The new sedan sips fuel while protecting, serving, and pursuing04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Ford is rolling out what it says is the first pursuit-rated gas-electric hybrid police car. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is based on the Ford Fusion m...
Researchers say that graying hair can be an indicator of cardiovascular disease04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It turns out that finding a gray hair in the sink isn’t just a sign of an imminent mid-life crisis. Researchers from Cairo University in Egypt and the Euro...
The latest Millennial moving trend: 'vacation moves'
Survey finds 41% of Millennials make a temporary move to a new city before settling down04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Millennials who are considering relocating to a new city might make a temporary -- or “vacation” move -- to the city in question before permanently putting...
Millennials who are considering relocating to a new city might make a temporary -- or “vacation” move -- to the city in question before permanently putting down roots there. That’s a key takeaway from a new survey conducted by moving company Mayflower.
Findings from Mayflower’s poll of 1,000 Millennials revealed that two in five have moved to a new city without the intention of staying permanently. Upon arriving in their vacation city, 74% of respondents said they had a plan to leave within a certain timeframe.
"Millennials are a generation of what I call 'adventure movers,'” said Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University. “Their motivations for moving are influenced by a sense of adventure, making these moves relatively short-term.”
Top reasons for moving
While 30% of respondents moved in search of a new lifestyle or experience, other “vacation movers” had more practical motives. The survey found that 40% moved to a new city to work at a new job and 26% moved to find a new job.
Twenty-somethings often feel that they have a great deal of freedom and instability, Arnett explained. “This flexibility allows millennials to make moves in search of new job opportunities or adventures, even if they don't plan to stay in the long run,” he said.
So, when do Millennials plan to firm up their plans and settle down? For 78% of Millennials surveyed, age 35 was the magic number. But one in four (27%) said they plan to have a permanent home before age 30.
Where Millennials are moving
Additional findings from the study suggested that where Millennials move could be based on where they were raised.
Young adults who grew up in urban areas tend to fly farther from the nest than their small town-bred counterparts. Thirty-one percent of Millennials raised in urban areas moved 200 to 499 miles from their last home; only 14% of rurally-raised Millennials ventured as far.
Major metropolitan areas continue to attract Millennials. The survey revealed that 69% of respondents were currently residing in a city or an inner suburb near the city. Top moving destinations for the demographic were San Francisco, Calif., followed closely by Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
Consumers can use their tax return to finance some much-needed home improvements04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
When tax refunds and warmer temperatures converge, the possibilities are endless. With a little extra money, consumers can tackle a range of home improveme...
Fake financial news could cause investors to make poor decisions04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Since the last election there has been a lot of discussion of "fake news" and what to do about it.Google and other sites have discussed ways to handle...
Concussion concerns shouldn't keep parents from allowing their kids to play sports, experts say04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Usually, it's a child’s interest in a particular sport that determines whether or not he or she plays it. But some aspiring athletes may be kept off the fi...
Survey finds purchases that once went on debit cards now going on credit cards04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When you get to the checkout counter, you have a decision to make. How are you going to pay?Let's assume you're like a growing number of consumers thes...
USDA expands meat and poultry hotline hours
The 'Ask Karen' hours have also been increased04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is making it easier for consumers to obtain safe food handling and preparation infor...
The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is making it easier for consumers to obtain safe food handling and preparation information.
As part of its effort to reduce foodborne illness, the FSIS is keeping the Meat and Poultry Hotline open for two additional hours -- from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET).
“Our hotline provides a valuable service in educating consumers about how to safely prepare food,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “By keeping the hotline open an additional two hours, we are expanding our reach to allow more consumers -- including those on the West Coast -- to have their food safety questions answered.”
The hotline is accompanied by Ask Karen, a 24-hour online service that provides answers to frequently asked questions and also lets consumers email or live-chat with a food safety specialist during operating hours.
“Our hotline staff are experts in their field and have backgrounds in nutrition, food technology and public health,” said Almanza. “Experts are available to talk with people in English and Spanish, so we are able to help address the food safety needs of diverse communities.”
Consumers can contact the Meat and Poultry Hotline to speak to a live food expert at 1-888-674-6854, or visit Ask Karen to chat or email (in English or Spanish), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET)/7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (PT).
February sees a slight increase in job openings
Hires and separations showed little change04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The number of job openings rose slightly in February -- from 5.625 million a month earlier to 5.743 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (B...
The number of job openings rose slightly in February -- from 5.625 million a month earlier to 5.743 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Increases in openings were seen in a number of industries. Health care and social assistance led the way with 73,000 openings, followed by accommodation and food services (+66,000) and finance and insurance (+47,000).
Openings were down by 63,000 in both real estate and rental & leasing, along with a decline in mining and logging (-7,000). Job openings increased in the Northeast region.
There was little or no change in the number of hires (5.3 million), with the hires rate at 3.6%. What increase there was came in retail trade (+74,000) and mining and logging (+9,000). Federal government hiring was down in February by 13,000, and the number of overall hires was little changed in all four regions.
Total separations, which includes quits, layoffs & discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover, totaled 5.1 million -- about the same as January. The total separations rate in February was 3.5%.
Total separations decreased in health care and social assistance (-54,000), educational services (-22,000), and federal government (-6,000), but the number of total separations was little changed in all four regions.
Net employment change
Net employment change is the result of the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining.
On the other hand, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.
Over the 12 months ending in February, hires totaled 63.0 million and separations totaled 60.6 million, for a net employment gain of 2.4 million.
The complete report may be found on the BLS website.
Model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles recalled
The vehicles' fuel tanks may leak04/11/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 136 model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles with fuel tanks that may leak.A fuel leak in the presence of...
American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 136 model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles with fuel tanks that may leak.
A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.
What to do
Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2017.
Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is KE8.
The plan will provide relief to approximately 940,000 middle and lower income families04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
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And will it change airlines' ability to involuntarily bump passengers?04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
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Dogs need to be trained but so do children and others who don't know how to approach dogs04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Dog bites man isn't usually news, but it's happening so often lately that it's becoming newsworthy. Dog bites were up 18 percent last year, according to an...
Researchers say the new vaccines may help protect against serious diseases like cancer04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Convincing consumers to get their vaccinations has been more difficult in recent years. Reports suggest that fewer people are receiving their flu shots, an...
What are the world's best airlines?
According to TripAdvisor's top 10 list, only two are based in the U.S.04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Travel site TripAdvisor.com has named what it considers the 10 best airlines in the world. Unless you do a lot of international travel, you might not get t...
Travel site TripAdvisor.com has named what it considers the 10 best airlines in the world. Unless you do a lot of international travel, you might not get to enjoy most of them.
Coming out on top is Emirates, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It's followed by Singapore Airlines, and then Brazil's Azul.
It's only in the fourth spot that a U.S.-based airline -- JetBlue -- makes an appearance. It's followed by Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, and Thailand-based Thai Smile at number eight.
Alaska Airlines, the only other U.S.-based carrier to earn a spot on the list, is ninth and Garuda Indonesia rounds out the top 10.
Some airlines investing in improved service
"The airline industry is investing billions of dollars in new aircraft and service enhancements to differentiate the flying experience and these awards recognize the carriers offering the very best experiences and value to the traveling public," said Bryan Saltzburg, Senior Vice President and General Manager for TripAdvisor Flights.
In addition to the top 10 list, TripAdvisor rated airlines in different categories of service, such as first class, business class, premium economy and economy. The awards were based on an algorithm that analyzed airline reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide over the last year.
Besides being named number one overall, Emirates took honors for Best First Class and Best Economy Class.
"The fact that the awards are a result of unbiased reviews and feedback speaks to our commitment to deliver a superior travel experience for our customers," said Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airlines.
Russia's Aeroflot was awarded Best Business Class and Air New Zealand was named Best Premium Economy Class.
Special category for U.S. carriers
Since U.S. carriers were not overly represented on the list, TripAdvisor created a category for North American airlines. It named Delta the top major airline in the U.S.
When it comes to mid-size and low-cost North American carriers, it breaks down this way:
- Alaska Airlines
- Virgin America
- Westjet (Canada)
United once again displays its knack for treating passengers as prisoners04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
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Are your job prospects getting better or worse?
Last week presented workers with mixed signals04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The latest report from the Labor Department on employment was a rude awakening for consumers hoping to find a new job in the months ahead.Government ec...
The latest report from the Labor Department on employment was a rude awakening for consumers hoping to find a new job in the months ahead.
Government economists reported employment edged up by only 98,000 last month -- well short of the 180,000 jobs projected by economists at Briefing.com. This was a significant retreat from the 219,000 jobs created in February and 216,000 in January.
At the same time, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5% from 4.7% in February, the lowest level since May 2007, mainly because fewer people were looking for work.
But what does that mean if you were looking for a job last month? There doesn't seem to be a clear answer.
Likely to cool optimism
The Conference Board says the report was disappointing and is likely to cool the recent rising optimism in the U.S. economy.
"At 4.5%, the unemployment rate is back to 2007 levels," the Conference Board said in a statement. "In such a tight labor market, it becomes harder and more expensive to fill job openings and maintain rapid job growth. Despite the unexpectedly low job growth in March, with its unemployment and inflation targets already being more or less met, the Fed is still likely to stay on its current normalization course of between two and three additional rate hikes in 2017."
But that doesn't necessarily mean your job prospects have diminished. Employment website CareerBuilder.com reports the current conditions for hiring have rarely been better.
Hiring managers still bullish
According to the company's latest survey of hiring managers, 45% of U.S. employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter – a significant jump from 34% last year. It's also the the highest percentage for the quarter dating back to 2007.
Even temporary hiring is expected to experience a huge boost, at a time when there is rising concern that robots are taking over jobs currently held by humans.
"This is the best forecast we have seen for the second quarter since we started doing this survey more than ten years ago," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Nearly half of employers hired full-time employees in the first quarter and that momentum is expected to continue over the next few months."
The survey found 49% of employers expect to hire temporary or contract workers over the next three months, up 12% from the second quarter of 2016. It's nearly double the rate in 2011, when the economy was struggling to overcome the effects of the Great Recession.
What's responsible for the employment optimism? Ferguson says the economy is improving, but it's also true that companies are paying close attention to Trump administration policies that are promoting job creation.
Delta passengers voice frustration over flight cancellations
The airline continued to struggle through the weekend to get its planes back in the sky04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Delta Airlines and its customers had a nightmarish weekend, a holdover from the severe weather that battered the Southeast during the middle of last week....
Delta Airlines and its customers had a nightmarish weekend, a holdover from the severe weather that battered the Southeast during the middle of last week.
Flight cancellations continued to affect operations through the weekend. The company said things are beginning to stabliize, but it reported that flight crew availability continued to hamper operations because not enough people were within the federally mandated crew rest and duty day guidelines.
"We know this is extremely frustrating for our customers and we apologize for that," Delta said in a statement. "Delta teams continue to work around the clock to fully reset our operation and keep customers informed."
Passengers sound off
Over the weekend, ConsumerAffairs heard from Delta customers who were experiencing that frustration. It was perhaps made worse that last week was spring break at many schools, with families planning long-anticipated vacations.
John, of Jericho, N.Y., was on his way with his family from New York's JFK Airport to Orlando. When his departing flight was canceled, he was told he could not rebook until April 11. That was just three days before his scheduled return on the 14th.
"Had to cancel entire trip," John wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "My two young sons were crying in the airport."
Loretta, of Anaconda, Mont., wrote to ConsumerAffairs that she spent "many, many hours on hold" or waiting for a return call from Delta as she tried to rebook her flight.
Amy, of Hollis, N.H., said her flight was cancelled twice during the four days she had taken off for a vacation. She too had a frustrating time communicating with the airline.
"Calling Delta requires two to three hours trying to reschedule flights," Any wrote in her ConsumerAffairs post. "We found another airline to direct us to our destination at our expense."
That might not have been necessary. Delta says that if a customer's flight is canceled or significantly delayed 90 minutes or more, he or she can request a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. Even if the flight is not canceled, a one-time change to the ticket may be made without a fee. Delta provides more details on that policy here.
Delta said it cancelled about 120 flights on Sunday. Today, Delta customers should continue to check the company's website and the Fly Delta Mobile App for updates on flight status.
Meanwhile, Gil West, Delta's Chief Operating Officer, said he understands Delta's recovery from the outbreak of severe weather "has not been ideal."
Fresh Express recalls Organic Marketside Spring Mix Salad
A decomposing bat was allegedly found in a container04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Fresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix.Extraneous animal matter -- a decomposing bat -- was allegedly fo...
Fresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix.
Extraneous animal matter -- a decomposing bat -- was allegedly found in a single container of the salad at a Walmart store in the Southeastern U.S.
The following product is being recalled:
The best-if-used-by date is located on the front label, and the UPC code may be found on the bottom of the container.
What to do
Consumers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard it or return it for a full refund to the store where purchased.
Consumers with questions may call the Fresh Express consumer response center toll-free at (800) 242-5472 from 8 a.m. -- 7 p.m. (ET).
The differential could break or lock up04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 30 model year 2016-2017 Ram 1500 trucks.The differential pin retaining screw may come loose during driving, potentia...
A replacement airbag inflator may rupture04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 37,421 model year 2003 Accord Coupes equipped with a four-cylinder engine.If the passenger front airbag module ha...
The brake light may not illuminate when a turn signal is activated04/10/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
BMW of North America is recalling 16,883 model year 2016-2017 MINI Cooper Clubman, Cooper S Clubman and JCW Clubman vehicles.When the recalled vehicles...
Our favorite family vacation – travel dollars worth the memories
Sometimes a carriage ride in the snow beats a week at the beach04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
My family has taken many vacations together, but our all-time favorite was a ski trip to Quebec City.We had considered taking our daughters skiing in W...
My family has taken many vacations together, but our all-time favorite was a ski trip to Quebec City.
We had considered taking our daughters skiing in Wintergreen, Virginia and the cost was very high for a long weekend. Pondering what to do for winter break, we wondered how expensive it would be to go to Quebec City, where we had spent our honeymoon. Surprisingly, it was significantly less expensive than renting a condo in Wintergreen.
What a magical five days we had. Quebec City is like a slice of Europe with many residents speaking only French. We stayed in a hotel located in the Old City, the only walled city north of Mexico. The hotel didn’t even have an elevator. We had one large, narrow room with three beds lined up in a row.
The city was like a fairytale with trees lit with tiny white lights. There was snow on the ground and it continued to snow off and on. What a sight to see them shovel the snow off the rooftops so they wouldn’t collapse from the weight of it. Around the corner from our hotel was a creperie with a large crepe machine in the front window. We had breakfast there each morning, savoring different types of crepes and the girls loved the hot chocolate. For dinners, sad to say, the girls preferred the McDonald's across from the hotel while we sampled the local French cuisine.
The girls had ski lessons in French in Stoneham, a short drive from Quebec City. It was bitter cold and they were the only students in their class. For two consecutive days, my husband and I sat it out with hot chocolate while the girls tumbled and skied. Despite the freezing temperatures, we walked all over the old walled city, the best way to take in the sites. We were surprised to see the residents ice skating all over town, somehow managing with the cold.
We wanted to take Jerry home
The highlight of our visit was an open-air carriage ride through the Old City. Our driver carefully tucked us in with a fur blanket to keep us warm. Our horse, Jerry, led us through the cobblestone streets while the girls had grins from ear to ear, distracted from the cold. To this day, we still talk about Jerry. How could we forget him? We took Jerry home with us in our memories. All our clothing from that day, especially our warm coats, were covered in Jerry’s hair. Everything had to be dry-cleaned once we were back home.
My favorite memory of the trip was an afternoon after we returned to our hotel room. I got into bed along with my husband to warm up and read. When I looked to my right, both girls were also in bed reading, the four of us with covers pulled up to our chins, all in a row.
Family vacations are so important. The experiences we have stay with us forever. We’ve taken the girls on many vacations since, but we always reflect on Quebec City. Family memories are priceless.
It will display a fact-check flag on selected stories in its news feed04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Google built its empire around keywords and made much of its ability to sort through gazillions of files without any boring old human editors, but it's now...
NY's attorney general had charged that TRUSTe failed to adequately check kids' sites04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The privacy standards company TRUSTe has agreed to pay $100,000 and adopt new security measures to settle a complaint brought by New York Attorney General...
Benefits included better health outcomes and higher emotional well-being04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Cancer of any form can be devastating, and unfortunately some forms of treatment can take their toll too.One example can be seen in men who go through...
Infants exposed to dogs have higher levels of two important microbes, study finds04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
In addition to keeping the house clean of fallen Cheerios, the family dog may also be a boon to babies’ health. Man’s best friend can help protect kids fro...
Content creators will now have to accrue 10,000 lifetime channel views before collecting money04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
For around five years now, consumers have been able to start a YouTube channel and automatically enroll in the site’s partner program. Basically, it’s the...
Amazon to add 30,000 part-time positions over the next year
Flexible positions in warehousing and virtual customer service are being added04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Back in January, Amazon promised that it would be creating 100,000 U.S.-based jobs by mid-2018. The announcement was partly a reaction to President Trump’s...
Back in January, Amazon promised that it would be creating 100,000 U.S.-based jobs by mid-2018. The announcement was partly a reaction to President Trump’s stance on promoting domestic business, but already the company seems well on its way to achieving its goal.
In February, the company announced plans to build a $1.5 billion cargo airline hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, a venture which would reportedly create 2,700 positions, with 600 being full-time. At the same time, the company said that it was looking to open more warehouses in Texas, Florida, California, and New Jersey, which would also require more workers.
Now, Amazon has announced yet another plan to create 30,000 part-time fulfillment center and customer service jobs, according to Business Wire. If brought to fruition, the move would increase the company’s part-time work staff by approximately 75%.
The majority of the part-time workers will be stationed at warehouses and distribution centers across the U.S., but the company said that 5,000 workers will have the opportunity to work from home as virtual customer service agents.
Those who secure one of the latter positions are guaranteed benefits – including disability, life, dental, and vision insurance – if they work at least 20 hours per week. For those seeking an education, Amazon’s Career Choice program will also pay 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, even if those skills don’t apply to relevant jobs at the company.
Tom Weiland, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide customer service, points out that these part-time positions can be ideal for those who need adaptable work conditions that fit their lifestyle.
"There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they're a military spouse, a college student or a parent — and we're happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live," he said.
“We’re finding that roles with Virtual Customer Service are particularly attractive to military spouses who want to continue working and parenting, even if their spouse is deployed or the family is relocated, as often happens with military families. Wounded, injured or ill military veterans and others with mobility challenges are also enjoying these opportunities to work from home with Amazon. Both active duty and retired service men and women support our country and we are happy to support them.”
Amazon has stated that all 30,000 jobs will become available over the next year. Consumers can find a job with the company by visiting its website here.
Will phase out drugs used on chickens that are also medically important to people04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has announced that, by the end of 2018, all of its chickens will be raised without the use of antibiotics medically important...
Even parents who don't smoke around their kids may be putting their children's health at risk04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The tendency of young children to touch everything has been known to get them into trouble, particularly in stores filled with breakable items. But could c...
Simple tool warns of pre-diabetes risk
Simply timing glucose test results can alert doctors04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Millions of people have diabetes and almost all of them first had a condition known as pre-diabetes.Now, federal medical researchers have discovered a...
Millions of people have diabetes and almost all of them first had a condition known as pre-diabetes.
Now, federal medical researchers have discovered a simple tool to alert doctors that a patient is at risk for pre-diabetes and on the path to the full disease.
The tool is simple and costs nothing. A patient is administered an oral glucose tolerance test and the time it takes to reach maximum sugar level is recorded. Those who take longer to reach that maximum threshold are at greater risk of pre-diabetes, the researchers found.
“Our research may help clinicians and public health officials guide patients to better and more cost-effective decisions about risk for pre-diabetes” said Stephanie Chung, M.B.B.S., the study’s first author and an assistant clinical investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The implications are fairly clear. By giving the glucose test and noting the time to reach maximum levels, doctors can get a heads-up that the patient is at risk for developing pre-diabetes, placing them at even greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
Simply put, having pre-diabetes means your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type-2 diabetes. It's not a given that pre-diabetes turns into full-blown type-2 diabetes, but it happens a lot.
However, with significant lifestyle changes – eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of exercise – a patient can return his or her blood glucose levels to normal. In fact, there have been cases where people with type-2 diabetes have actually reversed the disease with radical lifestyle changes.
However, the Mayo Clinic warns that if you have developed pre-diabetes, you may already be suffering the long-term damage of diabetes.
Unfortunately, pre-diabetes has no obvious symptoms. However, Mayo Clinic doctors say subtle signs include darkening skin in certain parts of the body. You may be at risk for pre-diabetes if you are overweight, eat an unhealthy diet, and get little exercise.
Type-2 diabetes is a serious condition. It's triggered when your body starts having trouble using insulin, which transports glucose into cells. When that happens you are at risk of building up too much glucose in your blood.
Premise is that couples who think alike about money have a better chance04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Okay, when it comes to dating sites, this might actually be a good idea.While other dating sites use various methods to match people looking for a part...
The IRS is hiring debt collectors
Raises possibility that scammers will try to impersonate them04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) back taxes and despite repeated reminders, still haven't gotten around to writing a check, expect a call from...
If you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) back taxes and despite repeated reminders, still haven't gotten around to writing a check, expect a call from a debt collector.
The IRS has started sending letters to what it calls “a relatively small group” of taxpayers who are severely delinquent. The letters will explain that the IRS has turned the account over to one of four private debt collection agencies.
The IRS says the delinquent accounts are old and multiple attempts have been made in the past to collect them. Still, this effort could pose dangers for a wide range of consumers if scammers seize on this development.
“The IRS is taking steps throughout this effort to ensure that the private collection firms work responsibly and respect taxpayer rights,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS also urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. In reality, those taxpayers whose accounts are assigned as part of the private collection effort know they have a tax debt.”
How to avoid a scam
That last part is key. Koskinen says the people who will receive calls from these legitimate debt collectors are well aware that they have an unpaid tax debt. They have dealt with IRS personnel on this issue in the past.
That means if you are unaware that you owe the IRS money and get a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector, the IRS says you are being targeted by a scammer and should hang up.
Okay, this bears repeating. If you are unaware that you owe back taxes and someone calls you claiming you do, you don't. It's that simple.
Letter from the IRS
The collection program began this week and the people who owe the money should have received a letter from the IRS, telling them to expect a call. If you didn't get one of these letters, you don't owe any money.
Here's another clue – the IRS says people who owe money will always be contacted by the tax agency first, before they are ever contacted by a debt collector. So if the IRS hasn't contacted you, neither should a debt collector.
The IRS reiterates that taxpayers should be vigilant for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS said it will also be watching for these schemes as the collection program begins.
March job creation comes up short
The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade.04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A loss of positions in the retail sector helped keep March job creation well below expectations.The Department of Labor (DOL) reports employment edged...
A loss of positions in the retail sector helped keep March job creation well below expectations.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports employment edged up by 98,000 last month -- well short of the 180,000 jobs projected by economists at Briefing.com.
The economy had created 219,000 jobs in February and 216,000 in January.
At the same time, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5% from 4.7% in February, the lowest level since may 2007.
Gainers and losers
Employment in professional and business services was up by 56,000 last month -- about in line with the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. Other fields adding employees include mining (+11,000), health care (+14,000), financial activities (+9,000), and construction (+6,000).
Retail trade lost 30,000 jobs in March, while employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality and government, showed little or no change.
The number of people out of a job in March fell by 326,000 to 7.2 million.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult women (4.0%), Whites (3.9%), and Hispanics (5.1%) declined in March. The jobless rates for adult men (4.3%), teenagers (13.7%), Blacks (8.0%), and Asians (3.3%) showed little or no change.
The labor force participation held steady at 63.0% in March, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.1%, changed little. The employment-population ratio has edged up over the year, while the labor force participation rate has shown no clear trend.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by a nickel in March to $26.14, following a 7-cent increase in February. Over the year, average hourly earnings have are up 68 cents, or 2.7%.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
Xootr recalls adult kick scooters
The steer support can break during normal use04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Xootr of Old Forge, Pa., is recalling about 3,000 Xootr adult kick scooters.The steer support can break during normal use, posing a fall hazard to the...
Xootr of Old Forge, Pa., is recalling about 3,000 Xootr adult kick scooters.
The steer support can break during normal use, posing a fall hazard to the user.
The firm has received six reports of breaks in steer supports, resulting in one report of scrapes and bruises from a fall.
This recall involves all Xootr adult kick scooters with the QuickClick push-button latching mechanism.
The silver scooters are 30 inches long by 10 inches wide, and have a handlebar height of 36 inches. The Xootr logo is on the deck and lower section of the handlebar.
The scooters have a plastic, wood or metal deck, and can be identified by a black push button located on the steer support.
The scooters, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Lajolla Swim and Sport, Nyce Wheels, San Francyclo and other sporting goods stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and Xootr.com from November 2016, through January 2017, for about $270.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled scooters and contact the firm to receive the free repair.
Consumers may contact Xootr at 800-816-2724 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at email@example.com or online at www.xootr.com.
Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
ALDI and Lakeside Foods are recalling Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.No illnesses related to th...
No illnesses related to this product have been reported to date.
The recalled product, packaged in a 16-oz. bag, has the UPC code 041498164294, and contains one of the following packaging codes and best by dates on the back of the bag:
The recalled product was sold at ALDI locations in Florida, Illinois
Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it immediately or return it to their local store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Lakeside Foods at 1-800-466-3834, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (CT).
The vehicles could suffer premature bearing wear within the engine04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 572,000 model year 2013-2014 Sonatas and Santa Fe Sports.Machining errors during the engine manufacturing process ma...
Marin Mountain Bikes recalls bicycles
The rigid front forks on these recalled bikes can bend or break04/07/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Marin Mountain Bikes of Novato, Calif., is recalling about 380 Pine Mountain bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The rigid front forks on these recall...
Marin Mountain Bikes of Novato, Calif., is recalling about 380 Pine Mountain bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.
The rigid front forks on these recalled bikes can bend or break while in use or during jumping, causing the rider to lose control, posing fall and crash hazards.
The firm has received four reports of bent bicycle forks including one report in the U.S., and three in other countries. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves two Marin Mountain bicycle model years and model names: 2016 Pine Mountain 1 and 2017 Pine Mountain bicycles. The bicycles were sold in five frame sizes and in one basic color scheme (silver painted frame with orange painted fork.)
The model name “Pine Mountain 1” (2016) or “Pine Mountain” (2017) is printed on the top tube of the frame and the downtube of the frame has a “MARIN” decal.
The bikes, manufactured in Indonesia, were sold at independent bicycle stores nationwide from December 2015, through February 2017, for about $1,000.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled mountain bikes and contact the firm for instructions on receiving a replacement bicycle fork and scheduling a free repair.
Consumers may Contact Marin Bikes at 800-222-7557 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.marinbikes.com and click on the “recalls/safety” link at the bottom of the page for more information.
A new report reveals how Coca-Cola manipulated news reporters who should know better04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
Fast-food and beverage companies have a well-documented history of using money to influence research that delivers favorable findings on their products. Th...
Would despondent Democrats survive without late-night shows mocking Trump?04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
You could throw most writers into the sea and no one would much care, but what if all the TV writers went on strike? Who would fill the nightly airwaves wi...
Xfinity Mobile offers unlimited calling, texting, data for $45 to $65 per month04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Comcast has finally rolled out the wireless service it's been working on for the last few years. Called Xfinity Mobile, it will be available to existing Co...
Rising obesity leading to more cases of metabolic syndrome04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
America's obesity epidemic has brought with it new health problems. There has been a spike in the number of people with high blood pressure and a big incre...
Chooze analyzes your subconscious preferences04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Choosing a name for your bundle of joy can be a daunting task. Unusual names may be problematic, potentially leading to a lifetime of misspellings and misp...
Twitter to launch lite version of its mobile platform
The service will cater mostly to users outside the U.S. or those with low data limits and poor connections04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Consumers who have low data limits need to be careful when it comes to using their devices, but the launch of a new Twitter version may keep the tweets com...
Consumers who have low data limits need to be careful when it comes to using their devices, but the launch of a new Twitter version may keep the tweets coming.
Reuters reports that the social media platform is launching a faster version of its mobile platform that caters to users with sporadic connections and more restrictive data limits. Twitter Lite, as it is being called, is largely being targeted for individuals in developing areas outside the United States who enjoy fewer connective resources.
“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” said Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product.
Up to 70% less data
The company estimates that its new lite version, which runs through a web browser rather than a standalone app, will allow users to use up to 40% less data. Reports indicate that an additional feature that users can turn on may decrease data consumption even more to 70%.
In addition to the savings, users shouldn’t feel like they’re missing too much by switching to the lite version. Previews shown to reporters appear to have the same appearance and functionality as the mobile app version.
While the move may help Twitter expand to a greater audience, the platform has quite a lot of work to do before it catches up to its competitors. At the end of last year, its active monthly user base stood at around 319 million users, but that’s leagues behind the likes of Facebook, which boasts 1.9 billion active monthly users.
Turning to sleeping pills won't help the problem either, they add04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Getting a good night’s sleep becomes increasingly difficult as consumers get older. Being kept up by frequent trips to the bathroom or unexplained periods...
Second opinions can lead to a more refined diagnosis, researchers say04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
When illness strikes, many consumers head to their doctor seeking a diagnosis. And while they may receive one, a new study suggests it may be in a patient’...
The company announced that it will close 400 stores across the U.S.04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
In a recent report, we detailed how Payless was likely going to be filing for bankruptcy in the near future. Indications showed that the chain would be ano...
Here's what consumers say they appreciate most04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The grocery shopping experience has changed over the years. Shoppers once compiled a list, went to the store, loaded up their cart, and were mostly done fo...
It was 50 years ago today, that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Here's a wake-up call for aging Baby Boomers who might not be aware of how quickly time is passing. On June 1, it will be a half-century since The Beatles...
Tax preparers argue that they are worth the expense04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The federal income tax filing deadline is closing in, and consumers who haven't yet filed are no doubt making last minute preparations.While tax prepar...
U.S. home prices on the rise in February
Analysts see no end in sight to the increases04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The increases in home prices keep on coming.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows housing prices across the...
The increases in home prices keep on coming.
Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows housing prices across the U.S. were up 7% in February from the same month a year ago.
On a month-over-month basis, prices rose 1%.
“Home prices and rents have risen the most in local markets with high demand and limited supply, such as Seattle, Portland and Denver,” said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft. “The rise in housing costs has been largest for lower-tier-priced homes.”
According to Nothaft, from December to February in Seattle, the HPI shot up 12% and the CoreLogic single-family rent index jumped 6% percent for all price tiers compared with the same period a year earlier.
He notes, though, that when looking at only lower-cost homes in Seattle, the price increase was 13% and the rent increase was 7%.
In the year ahead
The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices will increase by 4.7 percent on a year-over-year basis from February 2017 to February 2018, and on a month-over-month basis home prices are expected to increase by 0.4 percent from February 2017 to March 2017.
“Home prices continue to grow at a torrid pace so far in 2017 and these gains are likely to continue well into the future,” said CoreLogic President and CEO Frank Martell. “Home prices are at peak levels in many major markets and the appreciation is being driven by a number of dynamics -- high demand, stronger employment, lean supplies and affordability -- that will continue to play out in the coming years.”
Job cuts rise, jobless claims fall
The retail sector was March's biggest job cutter04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Photo (c) kikkerdirk - FotoliaThe flurry of pink slips intensified a bit in March.According to the tally by outplacement consultancy Challeng...
The flurry of pink slips intensified a bit in March.
According to the tally by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas announced job cuts by US-based employers rose 17% from the February total to 43,310.
While the month-over-month change is higher, March cuts are down 2% from the same month last year -- the third consecutive month of lower job cuts than the corresponding month a year earlier.
For the first quarter of the year, employers have cut 126,201 jobs -- 38% more than in the final three months of 2016, but down 30% from the same period last year.
A healing energy sector
“Cuts in the energy sector, which started en masse in mid-2014, were still occurring in the first quarter of 2016;” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger, but adds that “the energy industry is no longer bleeding jobs, which is partly why job cut announcements have trended down.”
Through the first quarter of the year, the energy sector has announced 7,880 job cuts, down 84% from the first three months of 2016. Since January 2014, the energy sector has announced 224,265 cuts -- 107,714 of them in 2016.
Retail is the job cut leader so far this year, with 38,464 announced terminations, 4,084 occurring last month. While retailers have cut over 53,000 jobs in the last seven months, the industry has announced over 121,000 new jobs so far this year.
“Retail is typically an industry in flux, but we’ve seen long established companies close stores and cut workers,” said Challenger. “The industry, though, is creating openings just as quickly as they are cutting.”
First quarter retail cuts are up 19% from the same period last year.
Even as companies continue to cut jobs, hiring announcements continue to break records. Challenger tracking shows that in the first quarter, companies announced 289,272 new positions -- the bulk of them in the retail sector.
Home Depot hired 80,000 new seasonal workers in March. Last quarter’s total is the highest first quarter total on record, and the highest quarterly total except for third quarter totals when holiday hiring plans are typically announced.
The week ending April 1 saw a sold drop in the fining of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.
The Labor Department (DOL) reports there were a seasonally adjusted 234,000 initial jobless claims, down 25,000 from the previous week's level was revised up by 1,000.
The less volatile 4-week moving fell 4,500 from the previous week to 250,000.
The complete report is available on the DOL website.
The vehicle may lose electric power steering assistance04/06/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hyundai Motor America is recalling 99 model year 2017 Elantras.The recalled vehicles may have a damaged Electronic Power Steering (EPS) connector resul...
A Congressional measure would block protections about to go into effect04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Last week, Congress trashed consumers' right to browse the web in private. This week it's considering a measure that would derail protections for consumers...
Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne suggested without evidence that radicalized Muslims were committing human rights violations04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Amy Martyn
A mayor in Texas rose to unlikely national stardom several years ago when she began suggesting that radical M...
March of Dimes issues new precaution to pregnant women04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's spring and the swallows have returned to Capistrano. Next come the mosquitoes.Mosquitoes are a problem because they tend to carry diseases, and la...
A study finds that adding potassium can even mitigate high sodium intake04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects approximately 75 million people in the U.S., according to reports from the CDC. Globally, the condition affec...
WalletHub study finds stress levels soar in some Southern states04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Stress can wreak havoc on our health, potentially leading to such issues as insomnia, high blood pressure, and even physical pain. While few are impervious...
Why staying motivated to achieve a goal can be so difficult
A study shows that our source of motivation tends to change over time04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Having plenty of motivation can be great when setting out to achieve a goal, but it’s often hard to maintain. Whether it’s a promise to lose weight, learn...
Having plenty of motivation can be great when setting out to achieve a goal, but it’s often hard to maintain. Whether it’s a promise to lose weight, learn something new, or improve your relationship, the drive to keep at it can dissipate as time goes on.
So, what is it that saps our motivation? Part of it may be attributed to willpower, but researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba in Canada say that another factor may be that our motivation changes as we move toward our goal.
In their study, they found that people are often first motivated by the thought of reaching their desired outcome – something they call “promotion motivation.” However, as time goes on, they say that our focus turns to the negative consequences of not reaching their goals, referred to as “prevention motivation.”
"Generally speaking, people in North America are predominantly promotion-focused, so they are good at starting goals, but not as good at accomplishing them," said lead author Dr. Olya Bullard.
To prove these points, the researchers conducted five experiments to see how participants’ motivations changed over time. The results showed that each person was better at sustaining their motivation over the long-term if they shift their prevention motivation mindset to focus on practical things they can avoid to reach their goal.
For example, the researchers say that someone who is trying to save money for a big purchase should focus on positive saving strategies, such as securing a better job or investing their money wisely. Later, consumers can focus on practical avoidance steps, such as not going out to dinner as often or not spending money on other expensive purchases.
The authors say that their findings have some relevance to companies and marketers who are trying to engage consumers. They point out that a gym may approach new members by accentuating the excitement of losing weight and using the latest fitness technology. However, consumers who already go to the gym and are well on their way to reaching a fitness goal may be more affected by “proven technologies” and “satisfaction guarantees.”
Emissions from coal-fired power plant tied to low birth weight
The study looked at emissions from a Pennsylvania plant that drifted into New Jersey04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Emissions from coal-fired power plants have previously been tied to health problems, including heart attacks, acute bronchitis, asthma, premature death, an...
Emissions from coal-fired power plants have previously been tied to health problems, including heart attacks, acute bronchitis, asthma, premature death, and lost work and school days. Now a new study finds that prenatal exposure is also a problem.
Researchers at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., drew on data from a Pennsylvania power plant from 1990 to 2006 and studied live births that occurred downwind of the plant in New Jersey.
Infants born to mothers living as far as 20 to 30 miles downwind from the power plant were 6.5% more likely to be born with a low birth weight (i.e., birth weight below 2,500 grams) and 17.12% more likely to be born with a very low birth weight (i.e., birth weight below 1,500 grams).
"Identifying this causal effect is not only necessary for proposing regulatory policies on plant emissions, but also essential for inferring the long-term health impacts of such policies," said Muzhe Yang, Associate Professor of Economics at Lehigh. "A robust association has been found in the literature between birth weight and outcomes during adulthood, such as health, educational attainment, and earnings."
The study is not just theoretical. The problem of emissions crossing state borders has long complicated the regulation of power plants in the United States. While each state can regulate plants within its borders, it can't regulate those in neighboring states. The Lehigh study illustrates the impact that uncontrolled emissions can have on public health.
New Jersey tried for years to get emissions from the Portland Generating Station under control, filing petitions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency citing evidence showing that sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the plant had reached four New Jersey counties as far as 20 to 30 miles away.
The EPA eventually ruled that the emissions from this power plant alone caused the violations of the SO2 national ambient air quality standards in the downwind state, New Jersey, and found that the plant ranked fifth among the top 50 "dirtiest" plants in the country.
"In addition to identifying the impacts of the emissions from this particular coal-fired power plant on fetal health, the usefulness of this study's identification strategy is its potential application to other studies examining the impact of upwind states' power plant emissions, which have been the target of a series of environmental regulations, such as the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule," Yang added.
The study titled "The Impact of Prenatal Exposure to Power Plant Emissions on Birth Weight: Evidence from a Pennsylvania Power Plant Located Upwind of New Jersey" will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and is now available online.
It's probably going to be different from when you book air travel04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Savvy travelers know they can save money by booking air travel at just the right time. Ticket prices fluctuate significantly between the time the flight is...
Why knowing the price of a product could affect how much you enjoy it
Researchers say focusing on price makes the experience less relaxing04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Do you ever find yourself agonizing over the price of something you’ve bought after the fact? Researchers from Vanderbilt University say it’s pretty common...
Do you ever find yourself agonizing over the price of something you’ve bought after the fact? Researchers from Vanderbilt University say it’s pretty common, and it often affects how much we enjoy the product too.
In a study, lead author Dr. Kelly Haws found that knowing the price of a product affected how much consumers valued it. "Being reminded of the price makes the experience less relaxing. This is due to the fact that we tend to evaluate the experience more critically when it's associated with money," she said.
Hurting the experience
To test their theory, the researchers had participants rate certain products with and without the knowledge of how much they cost. In the first scenario, participants were asked to select five songs online and listen to them three times before rating them on a scale of 1 to 100. While listening to the songs, one group could view the 99-cent price of buying each song, while the other group could not.
The researchers found that both groups gave the songs an average rating of 80 after listening to them the first time. However, after listening to it for the third time, the group that was able to see the song price dropped their average rating to 30, while the group that was unaware of the price only dropped their average rating to 60.
"The negative effect of pricing only emerged over time, not at the beginning," said Haws.
The same effect was observed in another scenario that asked consumers to retrieve M&Ms from a gumball machine. Participants who observed the price of the candies recorded lower overall satisfaction than those who were not aware of the price.
So, what do these findings mean for consumers? For one, Haws points out that consumers who want to enjoy a product or experience shouldn’t focus on the price.
"If you are going on a date, don't talk about the cost. Or if you are going to an amusement park where the lines are long, thinking too much about the price of admission will steal away from your enjoyment of the experience," she said.
For marketers, the study could provide insight into how to boost enjoyment of a given product. Separating the price from the product, the researchers say, could lead to less consumer burnout and keep people from switching to another product over time.
Amazon drops appeal of unauthorized charge case
Parents of kids who made in-app purchases in line to get refunds04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
After a year of appeals, Amazon is finally ready to accept a federal court's finding that it is responsible for in-app purchases made by children.The F...
After a year of appeals, Amazon is finally ready to accept a federal court's finding that it is responsible for in-app purchases made by children.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that the end of the appeals process will mean parents whose children used apps to make unauthorized Amazon purchases will receive refunds.
It was a year ago that a federal court ruled that Amazon charged consumers for in-app purchases made by children who were using mobile apps like online games, downloaded from Amazon's app store.
The court found that Amazon received many complaints from parents about surprise in-app charges incurred by children. The judge in the case said what Amazon disclosed about the possibility of in-app charges within otherwise “free” apps was not sufficient to inform consumers – especially children – about the charges.
The FTC says that because Amazon has dropped its appeal, the refund process will begin “shortly.” The agency says parents stand to get more than $70 million, which was the amount of in-app charges made between November 2011 and May 2016.
“This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies — you must get customers’ consent before you charge them,” said Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers affected by Amazon’s practices can now be compensated for charges they didn’t expect or authorize.”
The FTC previously took action against Google and Apple, related to unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children. Those companies ended up making refunds.
Details on how to secure a refund will be announced soon, the FTC says, so parents should stay tuned.
Some sweeteners may promote metabolic dysfunction04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It might not seem to make sense, but consuming a lot of low-calorie, artificial sweetener could cause your body to accumulate more fat.It might even ac...
JAB Holdings adds Panera to its growing portfolio of U.S. food companies04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you're a fan of Panera Bread, you might not have heard of JAB Holding Company, the German group that is buying the U.S. fast-casual chain for $7.5 billi...
New research shows 68% of American households now own a pet04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Millennials may be less likely to be homeowners, but they’re more likely to own pets. That’s a key finding from a new survey from the American Pet Products...
Mortgage applications drop for third straight week
Contract interest rates were mixed04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mortgage applications were down again for the third time in as many weeks.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 1.6% during the...
Mortgage applications were down again for the third time in as many weeks.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 1.6% during the week ending March 31, with the Refinance Index down 4%. That took the refinance share of mortgage activity to 42.6% of total applications from 44.0% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 8.5% of total applications, the FHA share rose to 11.1% from 10.8% a week earlier, the VA share of total applications rose 1.1% to 11.1%, and the USDA share of total applications held steady at 1.0%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) inched up one basis point from 4.33% to to 4.34%, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) slipped to 4.24% from 4.26%, with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA fell nine basis points to 4.15%, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs was unchanged at 3.57%, with points decreasing to 0.38 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs rose to 3.33% from 3.30%, with points decreasing to 0.13 from 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.
March job growth stronger than February's
Last month's gains were broad-based04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The economy continued to crank out jobs in March at a rate that has economists smiling.The ADP National Employment Report, produced by the ADP Research...
The economy continued to crank out jobs in March at a rate that has economists smiling.
Small businesses were the biggest contributor with the creation of 118,000 payroll positions, followed by medium-sized firms (+100,000 jobs) and large businesses (+45,000).
"The U.S. labor market finished the first quarter on a strong note," said ADP Research Institute Vice President Ahu Yildirmaz. "Consumer dependent industries including healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and trade had strong growth during the month."
The bulk of the new employment came in the services-providing sector, where 181,000 people found work. The heaviest job creation came in Professional/business services, with 57,000 new jobs.
In the goods-producing, there were 82,000 new payroll positions, led by construction (+49,000) and manufacturing (+30,000).
"Job growth is off to a strong start in 2017,” according to Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. “The gains are broad based but most notable in the goods producing side of the economy including construction, manufacturing and mining."
Model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls recalled
The vehicle may not accelerate as expected04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 25,593 model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls.The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software calibration maybe incorrect, limiting...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 25,593 model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls.
The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software calibration maybe incorrect, limiting the engine to idle speed and torque even when accelerator pedal is fully pressed.
If the vehicle does not accelerate as expected, there may be an increased risk of a crash.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the PCM software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 5, 2017.
Owners may the Fiat informationcCenter at 1-888-242-6342. Chrysler's number for this recall is T19.
A slowdown in the services growth rate
Fifteen industries reported expansion in March04/05/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
March turned out to be another good month for the non-manufacturing sector of the economy as it grew for the 87th consecutive month.According to the No...
March turned out to be another good month for the non-manufacturing sector of the economy as it grew for the 87th consecutive month.
According to the Non-Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Report On Business, the Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) came in at 55.2%. While that's down 2.4% from the previous month, the NMI remained above 50 -- the dividing line between expansion and contraction.
The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index dropped 4.7% to 58.9%, the New Orders Index was off 2.3% to 58.9% and the Employment Index fell 3.6% to 51.6%.
The Prices Index was down 4.2% to 53.5%, showing that prices increase, although at a slower rate for the 12th consecutive month, at a slower rate in March.
Industry by industry
Fifteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth:
- Management of Companies & Support Services;
- Wholesale Trade;
- Real Estate, Rental & Leasing;
- Arts, Entertainment & Recreation;
- Accommodation & Food Services;
- Retail Trade;
- Health Care & Social Assistance;
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
- Transportation & Warehousing;
- Finance & Insurance;
- Other Services; and
- Public Administration.
The three industries reporting contraction in March were:
- Educational Services; and
- Professional, Scientific & Technical Services.
Broadband carriers given access to consumers' personal browsing records04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
As expected, President Trump has signed away consumers' right to browse the internet without their every move being recorded, stored, analyzed and sold on...
Annual survey finds consumers have more credit card debt, less in retirement savings04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers are turning to their credit cards once again, and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) warns that isn't a good thing.The orga...
Several unsuspecting foods serve up hefty quantities of salt04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Salt-laden snacks and frozen foods are staple in many kitchens across the U.S., and restaurant menus are often replete with salty menu offerings. So it may...
Melting snow a toxic brew, researchers find
Urban snow soaks up pollutants and releases them in the spring04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
As spring brings warmer temperatures, the snow that remains in many areas will begin to slowly melt away. Unfortunately, as it does so it will release a to...
As spring brings warmer temperatures, the snow that remains in many areas will begin to slowly melt away. Unfortunately, as it does so it will release a toxic brew made up of car emissions and other pollutants that are unleashed into the environment as the weather warms up.
"We found that snow absorbs certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are organic pollutants known to be toxic and carcinogenic," says Yevgen Nazarenko, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Department of Chemistry.
"Understanding how these pollutants interact with the environment, including snow, is crucial if we are to reduce the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by mild air pollution in North America. Worldwide, air pollution claims as many as 8 million lives," says Prof. Parisa A. Ariya, senior author of the group's new study, published in Environmental Pollution.
In some cases, it doesn't take high-tech equipment to sniff out shifting pollution levels.
"When one goes outdoors in winter, and there is fresh snow, one can sense the air has a different smell--it usually smells 'crisper'. Once the snow has been on the ground for some time, the effect goes away. When the weather warms up, the air acquires yet another smell. This is what led us to wonder about how exactly snow interacts with air pollutants," says Nazarenko.
The scientists analyzed how snow takes up pollutants from car emissions by exposing it to engine exhaust in a frozen glass sphere built in the lab. They found that exhaust is affected differently by the cold and snow depending on the type of fuel injection in the engine.
Exhaust particles altered
The new study also found that snow takes up airborne particulate matter and alters the concentrations of different nanoparticles, the smallest particles found in air pollution. These tiny particles have been linked to numerous health problems. Unexpectedly, colder temperatures and interaction with snow increased the relative presence of smaller nanoparticles in the polluted air above the snow.
Once in the snowpack, air pollutants may undergo chemical transformations that create additional pollutants with different toxicity and carcinogenicity. Some compounds, including more toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, may volatilize back into the air, while others accumulate in the snow and are released with meltwater.
"These releases could lead to a higher short-term concentration of certain pollutants in the air, soil and surface water bodies where the meltwater runs to," worries Nazarenko.
What parents can do to help kids master money concepts04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Arming children with a solid financial education can set them up for a more financially secure adulthood. However, a new study finds that few parents actua...
Maryland complaint alleged the company kept contact lens prices high04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Maryland consumers who purchased contact lenses have been paying more than they should, according Brian Frosh, the state's attorney general.Frosh says...
The teen job-search could get a little tricky this summer
We have some tips for snagging a job04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Industries that usually hire teen workers appear to be scaling back this year even though the economy continues to show signs of strength.What that mea...
Industries that usually hire teen workers appear to be scaling back this year even though the economy continues to show signs of strength.
What that means for job-hunters, according to an outlook released Tuesday by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, is that opportunities for teens might appear in unusual places or later in the summer when retailers have had a chance to better gauge consumer demand.
“Retail -- including long-standing clothing and accessories stores -- are pivoting to online sales and continue to cut in-store workers,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Teenagers will still have many opportunities, but they will not necessarily be in traditional retail stores.”
Rough going for retailers
Retailers have cut over 34,000 jobs in the first two months of the year, according to Challenger tracking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meanwhile, tracked 26,000 job losses in general merchandise stores; sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores; and electronics and appliance stores in February.
“If retailers do decide to beef up hiring, it will likely be later in the summer for back-to-school season leading up to the winter holiday shopping season,” Challenger noted. “In the meantime, teens who want summer employment should look in non-traditional areas and tap into older, employed contacts to seek out possible positions.”
A strong 2016
Last summer saw the strongest teen employment since 2013, when 1,335,000 teens found jobs. Employment among teens increased by 1,339,000 between May and July in 2016 -- 15.4% more than through the same period in 2015, when 1,160,000 16- to 19-year-olds were added to the employment rolls.
Last year’s total was helped by heavier-than-usual teen employment gains in July. A total of 492,000 would-be workers found jobs in July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data released by the BLS. The July teen job gains were 33% higher than the previous July’s 369,000, and up 25% from the 392,900 July job gains averaged over the previous 10 years.
The strong summer hiring brought last year’s total employment among 16- to 19-year-olds to 6,040,000 -- the highest number of employed teens since August 2008.
Currently, 4,657,000 16 to 19 year-olds are employed, an increase of 49,000 workers from the previous February. If last summer’s trend continues, that number could jump to over 6 million by August.
“Even with the recent gains, though, teen employment is a shadow of its former self,” Challenger pointed out. “The latest figures are well below the employment levels of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it was common to see 7.0 million to 8.5 million teenagers employed at the peak of the summer job surge. In 1978, more than 10 million teenaged Baby Boomers were working in July.”
What to do
Challenger offered the following suggestions to make the job search more productive:
- Search where others are not. Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.
- Look for odd jobs at odd hours. Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. As a job-search strategy, conduct a search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.
- Become a door-to-door salesman when selling your skills. Do what good salesmen do -- start on one block and go from business to business, door to door. Don’t simply ask for an application. Take the time to introduce yourself and build some rapport with the hiring manager.
- Call friends and relatives. Parents and other relatives are often the best source for information on job leads. However, don’t forget to stay in touch with friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.
- Be a job-search ninja. Wait outside the store or offices of a prospective employer to attempt to intercept a hiring manager upon his or her arrival.
- Dress for the part. Even if you are applying to work on a road crew, show up to all interviews in nice clothes. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.
- Don’t hesitate to revisit employers. The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees typically have higher-than-average turnover. An employer that did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now.
Are you worried about rising interest rates?
Consumers with a home equity loan might be04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's been years, it seems, since we've had a serious discussion about interest rates. Until recently, the debate has been over whether rates are too low, n...
It's been years, it seems, since we've had a serious discussion about interest rates. Until recently, the debate has been over whether rates are too low, not too high.
Since the financial market meltdown, the Federal Reserve has kept its key borrowing rate near zero. The low-rate environment has allowed home prices to steadily rise back toward their bubble levels, since payments are lower than they would be with higher rates.
Now, however, rates are starting to rise again, as the Fed has declared that the economy is strong enough to deal with it. The Fed hiked its Federal Funds Rate in December and again in March.
Consumers with floating interest rate loans, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOC) might be getting a little nervous. A survey by TD Bank found consumers with loans and those thinking about borrowing are more concerned about rates than any other factor when taking out a loan.
Minimal effect so far
"Although the rate increase may worry some HELOC borrowers, they should keep in mind that a rate increase of .25% is going to have a minimal effect on their monthly payment," said Mike Kinane, General Manager, Home Equity Products, TD Bank.
Kinane says borrowers who are worried about their HELOC payments rising should contact their lender to learn if the balance of the loan can be converted to a fixed rate.
The bank's survey found 46% of consumers named interest rates as the most influential factor when deciding whether to take out a HELOC. In fact, 36% said the HELOC's low rate was the motivating factor in deciding to take out the loan, rather than using some other form of credit.
How a HELOC works
A HELOC is secured by equity in a consumer's primary residence. In effect, it is a second mortgage but the rate is generally little more than the rate on the first mortgage.
The advantage of a HELOC is the interest is tax deductible. Some consumers use the HELOC to pay off a higher interest loan or to finance a major home improvement, since the payments reduce their taxable income.
Like any loan leveraging the equity in your home, consumers should approach this product carefully. Plenty of people got in trouble during the housing bubble because they repeatedly refinanced their home mortgages, taking out equity each time. In some cases, they were left underwater when their home values went down.
"When considering a home equity loan or credit line, shop around and compare loan plans offered by banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and mortgage companies," the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises. "Shopping can help you get a better deal."
It's also important to remember that your home is the collateral. If you can't repay the debt, the lender may be able to force you to sell your home.
Researchers say the results exceeded expectations04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Perhaps one of the most debilitating of all injuries are those that affect the spinal cord. Depending on the severity, many people permanently lose strengt...
The entity will be created pending a successful acquisition deal04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
You could say that Yahoo has been having a rough time of it lately. Two massive data breaches totaling over 1.5 billion in 2016 have mired it in a PR night...
AARP says they all have to do with money04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Retirement can be an intimidating prospect, especially if you aren't sure whether you're ready. There are emotional considerations as well as financial....
UPS expands Saturday ground delivery options
The company plans to roll out ground delivery and pick-up options nationwide04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Want that package in time for Monday? UPS just might have you covered. The parcel service has announced a nationwide plan for expanding its Saturday packag...
Want that package in time for Monday? UPS just might have you covered. The parcel service has announced a nationwide plan for expanding its Saturday package delivery option.
The program -- which began nine months ago in the major markets of Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, amongst others – was meant to keep up with consumers’ increased demand for e-commerce shipments, according to a Bloomberg report.
After finding success in the three test markets, the company said it will expand Saturday ground deliveries and pickup options to 15 more markets in the following month, including areas of New York, Chicago, and Boston. The company plans to expand to approximately 4,700 areas by November encompassing 5,800 cities and towns, the company said.
The full list of introductory markets, including the first test markets can be found below [via Consumerist]:
• Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
• St. Louis, MO-IL
• Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
• Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
• San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
• Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
• New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
• Syracuse, NY
• Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
• Pittsburgh, PA MSA
• Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
• Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
• Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO
• Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
• Knoxville, TN
The passenger front airbag may deploy with more force than intended04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 11,618 model year 2017 Audi A3 and S3 sedans.In a lower-speed crash situation, the airbag control unit softwar...
Conagra recalls Hunt’s Chili Kits
The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Conagra Brands is recalling a limited amount of Hunt’s Chili Kits.The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella....
Conagra Brands is recalling a limited amount of Hunt’s Chili Kits.
The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella.
There have been no reports of adverse reactions or injuries due to consumption of this product to date.
The following product, distributed in retail stores, military commissaries and online across the U.S., is being recalled:
The product code information is on the bottom of the kit below the barcode.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume it, but return it to the store where originally purchased.
Consumers with questions may call the consumer affairs hotline at 1-800-921-7404, from 9 am through 5 pm (CDT), Monday through Friday.
Mercedes-Benz recalls G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles
The door may not be opened properly04/04/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2016 G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles.The cable that unlatches the door when the inner door handle...
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2016 G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles.
The cable that unlatches the door when the inner door handle is pulled may break if the door is difficult to release, such as could occur after a crash.
As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 206, "Door Locks and Door Retention Components."
If the cable breaks and the door cannot be opened from inside the vehicle after a crash, the occupant is at an increased risk of an injury.
What to do
MBUSA will notify owners and dealers will replace the cable that connects the inner door handle and the door lock on all four doors, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in April 2017.
Owners can contact Mercedes-Benz customer service at 1-800-367-6372.
Who us? AT&T, Comcast, Verizon swear they would never track users around the internet04/03/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Broadband providers like AT&T;, Comcast, and Verizon lobbied hard to get rid of new federal regulations that would have put legal limits on surveillance of...
Why a tiny house might not be a great investment
Trulia suggests they're a fad, and may be hard to sell later04/03/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A growing number of consumers who are convinced "small is beautiful" are embracing the "tiny house" movement.With home prices rising and inventories fa...
A growing number of consumers who are convinced "small is beautiful" are embracing the "tiny house" movement.
With home prices rising and inventories falling, the appeal of a small, inexpensive dwelling might seem compelling. As we reported back in 2014, these homes of 200 to 800 square feet can often be built quite inexpensively.
But since then, designs have gotten more efficient -- and even exotic -- and the price range has soared higher. These days they can cost around $80,000 -- still cheaper than a single family home and most condos.
People who buy tiny houses often have other reasons for doing so, but the editors at real estate marketplace Trulia caution that the financial part should not be overlooked, and they argue that a tiny house is not a good investment.
Blake Miller, writing on the Trulia Blog, calls a tiny house "wildly impractical" as a financial investment. If it turns out to be a fad, he says there will be fewer would-be buyers when you get ready to sell.
He also points to supply and demand. At home shows tiny houses get all the attention because they're cool. More builders have started offering products with ever-increasing design efficiencies. But Miller argues there are a lot more tiny homes out there than there are serious buyers.
He maintains the buildings are just too small and eventually, the homeowner will want to have more space. Therefore, he concludes they just aren't a wise investment.
It should be noted that there are plenty of people who take the other side of that argument, and most will point out people don't buy tiny houses to flip them in a couple of years. They buy them because it represents a lifestyle choice.
There are plenty of tiny house blogs, including Tiny House, Giant Journey (THGJ), extolling the virtues of living small. THGJ even maintains that building a tiny house is not expensive, compared to a standard single-family home.
Tiny houses actually have deep American roots. Pioneers who trekked into the wilderness to start new lives had no choice but to build tiny houses, at least to start. Those first frontier homes were usually one-room structures, made from the materials at hand.
Over the centuries houses have gotten much bigger. Today, the average square footage of a U.S. residence is just under 2,500 square feet.
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Increase in rents slows in March
But renters still face challenges in the months ahead04/03/2017ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you were looking for a home or apartment to rent last month, there wasn't a lot of good news.Overall, the rate of rent increases slowed a bit, to 2....
If you were looking for a home or apartment to rent last month, there wasn't a lot of good news.
Overall, the rate of rent increases slowed a bit, to 2.4% year-over-year, and some markets actually saw rents go down. Unfortunately, the markets where rent costs declined are already some of the most expensive rental markets in the nation.
At the same time, some relatively low rent areas saw big increases. Not surprisingly, these communities are on the outskirts of the nation's most expensive markets. Renters who couldn't afford the cost of renting a home in the city simply moved to the suburbs, pushing up demand -- and costs.
In its latest rent report, Apartment List found that the increase in rent nationally slowed from 1% in February to 0.4% in March. While that might sound encouraging if you're a renter, it really isn't.
Rents are rising once again
"Following a sustained stretch of flat to declining rent growth for much of 2016, our national rent index has now increased in each of the past three months," the Apartment List report says.
In other words, rents are moving up again, everywhere except the markets where they are already out of sight. Here's a sample of some of the most expensive rental markets, with the median rent on a one-bedroom apartment.
- San Francisco, $3,470
- New York, $3,200
- Boston, $2,790
- Washington, DC, $2,180
- Los Angeles, $1,950
But rents are rising slowly, or not at all, in these cities. Where rents are rising fastest are in markets near these cities. For example, Stockton, Calif., 80 miles outside San Francisco, has seen rents climb 12.5% over the last year.
Housing market imbalance
It all points to a severe imbalance in the nation's housing market that began after the housing bubble popped. With much tighter mortgage underwriting rules, fewer people could buy houses, pushing more consumers into the rental market, pushing up rental costs just about everywhere.
Even now, nearly a decade after the collapse of the housing market, it is harder to purchase a home. If you do manage to qualify for a mortgage and scrape together the money for a down payment, it's more difficult to find a home to buy. Inventory levels are sharply lower, especially in the hot housing markets.
The Wall Street Journal reports this spring's housing market promises to be especially tough for buyers, who face the triple whammy of rising prices, rising mortgage rates and the lowest inventory levels in two decades.
That could produce more renters, sending rents up even more.
Manufacturing economy grows in March -- but at a slower rate
Seventeen of 18 industries reported expansion04/03/2017ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
March was another good month for U.S. manufacturing, although not as good as February.According to the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business, economic a...
March was another good month for U.S. manufacturing, although not as good as February.
According to the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business, economic activity in the manufacturing sector as gauged by the Purchasing Managers Index(PMI) registered 57.2% last month, down 0.5% from the February reading.
A reading above 50 signifies growth, while a reading below that indicates contraction.
Also during March, the overall economy grew for the 94th consecutive month.
A closer look
The New Orders Index dipped 0.6% last month to 64.5% and the Production Index came in at 57.6%, a drop of 5.3%. At the same time, the Employment Index jumped 4.7% to 8.9%.
Inventories of raw materials were down 2.5% to 49%, while the Prices Index rose 2.5% to 70.5%, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 13th consecutive month.
Of the 18 manufacturing industries, the following 17 reported growth in March:
- Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components;
- Printing & Related Support Activities;
- Furniture & Related Products;
- Textile Mills;
- Primary Metals;
- Miscellaneous Manufacturing;
- Wood Products;
- Nonmetallic Mineral Products;
- Plastics & Rubber Products;
- Paper Products;
- Transportation Equipment;
- Chemical Products;
- Computer & Electronic Products;
- Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products;
- Fabricated Metal Products; and
- Petroleum & Coal Products.
No industry reported contraction in March from February.
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Sigma Alimentos Congelados, which produces burritos under the Menu Del Sol brand name, is recalling 201 cases of frozen beans and cheese burritos.The p...
Sigma Alimentos Congelados, which produces burritos under the Menu Del Sol brand name, is recalling 201 cases of frozen beans and cheese burritos.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following item, distributed in and sold via retail outlets in California and Nevada, is being recalled:
The recalled product can be specifically identified by locating the black printed code on red background on the front of the package, toward the top, next to the Menu Del Sol logo. This information includes the corresponding lot number (“LOT C3018”) and a best by date of March 1, 2018 (“BEST BY MAR01 18”.)
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the consumer hotline at 1-800-706-8289.
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