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    American Airlines on course to raise revenue from passenger perks

    Officials say the best way to avoid paying extra is to sign up for an airline-branded credit card

    Would you like some legroom with that seat? Perhaps a glass of wine?

    Anyone who’s flown in the last few years knows that airlines are upselling anything they can get their hands on. And the airlines are seeing green as a result of those monetized perks.

    American Airlines, the U.S.’ largest passenger carrier, just released it third quarter 2018 earnings report, showing a net profit of $341 million. However, the price of oil puts a hurt on all airlines and American, for one, felt it.

    American sees the way to boost its profit margin is through branded fare products like seat upgrades. The company is seeing a 50 percent upsell rate to more expensive branded fare products and has decided to see if fliers are willing to up that profit margin even more.

    “We've actually done a pretty good job of growing our ancillary revenue stream,” American’s SVP of Revenue Donald Casey said in a third quarter earnings call.

    “In the third quarter, ancillary revenues are up 18%. We re-launched our Main Cabin Extra product in June. And since we've done that we've seen unit revenues for Main Cabin Extra grow at 24%, but we see that we actually have more opportunity beyond that.”

    Airlines continue to ask for more

    American is not the only airline trying to leverage added passenger revenue. Almost all airlines have gone to upselling more comfortable seats and extra legroom, a particular painful point with passengers given the fact that the average distance between rows has shrunk from 35 to 31 inches over the last two decades.

    But analysts say that asking passengers to pay for perks helps the larger carriers -- like Delta, American, and United -- to keep fares competitive, and ancillary revenue is becoming the go-to rather than charging more for tickets.

    “I think that's a big window where we can put and show many offers in front of our customers to increase our ancillary revenue stream even more than we've been able to go do it,” American’s Casey went on to say.

    The best way for fliers to get free perks?  

    So, what is the best way for fliers to avoid all of these extra charges? According to airline officials, it’s by signing up for airline-branded credit cards.

    “There remains strong competition among the 3 (United, American, Delta) for co-branded credit card accounts, which is always a good thing for consumers,” Jay Sorensen, President of Product, Partnership and Marketing Practice for IdeaWorksCompany told ConsumerAffairs.

    “These remain the singular best method for travelers to insulate themselves from a la carte fees,” said Sorensen.

    Would you like some legroom with that seat? Perhaps a glass of wine?Anyone who’s flown in the last few years knows that airlines are upselling anything...
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      FDA approves new antiviral flu drug

      The single-dose drug may provide a more convenient flu treatment option

      For the first time in almost twenty years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new influenza drug. Called Xofluza, the drug will provide “an important, additional treatment option” for consumers, said Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

      Xofluza, which is taken in a single oral dose, is being brought to market by Genentech, a division of Roche.

      “With thousands of people getting the flu every year, and many people becoming seriously ill, having safe and effective treatment alternatives is critical,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

      Shorter recovery time

      Xofluza works by interrupting the process of viral replication by blocking viral polymerase, an enzyme that helps make copies of the invading virus.

      By way of two clinical trials involving 1,832 patients, researchers found that patients who received Xofluza soon after the onset of their flu symptoms had a shorter time to alleviation of symptoms compared with patients who took a placebo. Compared to patients who were assigned to take another antiviral flu treatment, Tamiflu, there was no difference in the time to alleviation of symptoms.

      Although the two antiviral flu drugs were found to work just as well, there are differences between the two. Unlike Tamiflu, Xofluza is taken in a single dose. Tamiflu must be taken twice a day for five days.

      Treating flu symptoms promptly -- as in, no more than 48 hours after symptoms begin -- with antiviral drugs “can lessen symptoms and shorten the time patients feel sick,” said Dr. Debra Birnkrant, director of the Division of Antiviral Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs.”

      Not a flu shot substitute

      The FDA stressed that although several antiviral drugs to treat the flu are already available, they’re not a substitute for getting the flu shot.

      “Flu season is already well underway, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, as seasonal flu vaccine is one of the most effective and safest ways to protect yourself, your family and your community from the flu and serious flu-related complications, which can result in hospitalizations,” Gottlieb said. “Yearly vaccination is the primary means of preventing and controlling flu outbreaks.”

      The price of Xofluza -- which was approved for people 12 and older -- will be $150, which is roughly the same as what Tamiflu costs. Genentech is also providing a coupon for commercially insured patients to bring down the cost of Xofluza to $30.

      It is expected to hit the market within weeks.

      For the first time in almost twenty years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new influenza drug. Called Xofluza, the drug will pro...
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      The U.S. economy grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter

      Stronger-than-expected consumer spending made up for a drop in business investment

      Despite growing concerns that consumers are getting stretched, they kept up their spending pace in the third quarter.

      The Commerce Department, in its initial report on the third quarter, found gross domestic product (GDP), the sum of all goods and services sold in the U.S. economy, grew by 3.5 percent, slightly better than economists expected.

      Consumers had a lot to do with pushing the needle higher. Personal consumption increased 4 percent, the biggest increase in four years.

      "The American consumer continues to be the hero of the economy, with the 3.5 percent GDP beating estimates, supported by a healthy increase in disposable personal income," Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told ConsumerAffairs. "Also, the savings rate is still good, which shows people are balancing their spending with smart savings."

      Incomes rise despite stagnant wages

      Wages haven't risen that much, but Frick notes that household incomes continue to rise, most likely because more people get jobs or move from part-time to full-time work.

      Businesses contributed less to economic growth in the July through September quarter as investment dropped.

      "For GDP to rise above estimates of around 2.5 percent growth next year, businesses are going to have to kick in with higher wages as the workforce tightens, and with more investment," Frick said.

      Third quarter growth might have been even stronger if not for the sagging housing market. Housing investment fell by four percent. That was no surprise since existing home sales have been declining since late last year and home builders have produced fewer new homes.

      Despite growing concerns that consumers are getting stretched, they kept up their spending pace in the third quarter.The Commerce Department, in its in...
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      Sears’ Eddie Lampert asks for improved loan terms to keep retailer alive

      The former CEO has asked to be paid back before the banks

      Eddie Lampert, former CEO and current chairman of Sears, reportedly has a plan to support the retailer through bankruptcy through his hedge fund, ESL Investments. However, he’s now saying that he will only put in more money under certain conditions.

      Sears -- which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15 and is also trying to secure financing in bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid liquidation -- had about 700 stores left when it filed for bankruptcy, with plans to close 142 of them by year’s end.

      In a public filing late last month, ESL said that the retailer "must act immediately to have sufficient runway to continue its transformation."

      "We continue to believe that it is in the best interests of all stakeholders to accomplish this as a going concern, rather than alternatives that would substantially reduce, if not completely eliminate, value for stakeholders," ESL said.

      Asking for improved terms

      Earlier this month, Sears Holdings secured the first $300 million loan from a group of lenders that included Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, which would help to support the retailer through bankruptcy.

      “It was junior to the investment banks' loan, meaning ESL would get paid back after the banks,” CNBC noted. This week, however, Lampert went back to the investment banks asking to improve the terms of his loan.

      Lampert has specifically asked to have the “first lien,” meaning he would get paid back before the lenders. Sources also told CNBC that he’s only interested in buying Sears at a roughly 400-store footprint.

      Lampert, who is also the company’s largest shareholder, is currently the only known person who is planning to bid for the 400 of the company’s best-performing stores that will go up for sale at an auction in January. If the retailer can’t find a buyer, then liquidation will be the likely next step.

      Sears -- which has more than 68,000 employees -- expects to use up $220 million in the first month of its bankruptcy, according to court documents.

      Eddie Lampert, former CEO and current chairman of Sears, reportedly has a plan to support the retailer through bankruptcy through his hedge fund, ESL Inves...
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      Gas prices fall further as oil stockpiles grow

      Motorists may benefit from slowing global demand

      Motorists on the West Coast have experienced generally higher gasoline prices this week while prices have fallen all across the Southeast.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.83 a gallon, down three cents from last week. It's just a penny cheaper than a month ago.

      The average price of premium gas is $3.39 a gallon, down three cents from last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.29, the same as last week.

      While scattered refinery and delivery issues have caused prices to rise in some western states, the overall trend is falling fuel prices. On Thursday, the Energy Information Administration reported another increase in U.S. oil stockpiles, the fifth straight week supplies have risen.

      "Continued growth in domestic crude bbl held in storage will likely cause prices to decline temporarily," AAA reported in its market update. "However, with pending U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran’s crude exports set to go into effect on November 4, lower crude prices may be short-lived as global supply tightens – amid robust global crude demand – later this fall."

      The only thing that might keep oil prices low is a prolonged drop in demand. Crude oil prices are down sharply from the start of the week to $66 a barrel after Saudi Arabia warned traders that an oil glut may be reforming. Meanwhile, U.S. motorists are benefiting.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.90)
      • California ($3.81)
      • Washington ($3.53)
      • Alaska ($3.39)
      • Oregon ($3.37)
      • Idaho ($3.13)
      • Nevada ($3.29)
      • Pennsylvania ($3.02)
      • Utah ($3.01)
      • Montana ($3.00)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      These states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas, the survey found:

      • South Carolina ($2.55)
      • Mississippi ($2.56)
      • Missouri ($2.56)
      • Alabama ($2.58)
      • Louisiana ($2.58)
      • Texas ($2.58)
      • Arkansas ($2.59)
      • Ohio ($2.60)
      • Oklahoma ($2.60)
      • Virginia ($2.60)
      Motorists on the West Coast have experienced generally higher gasoline prices this week while prices have fallen all across the Southeast.The AAA Fuel...
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      i play recalls infant rattles

      Pieces of the rattle can detach, posing a choking hazard

      i play. inc., of Asheville, N.C., is recalling about 6,100 infant rattles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      Pieces of the rattle can detach, posing a choking hazard to infants.

      The company has received three reports of pieces detaching from the rattle. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves the multi-colored Green Sprouts brand flower rattle made made from natural wood and measuring 2.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 4 inches high.

      Attached to the circular handle are three round wooden balls shaped like flowers, including one that contains a silver metal bell, all attached with an elastic cord.

      “Green Sprouts,” “Made in Taiwan” and a date code number (14714 or 21815) are printed on the circular rattle handle.

      The rattles were sold at Whole Foods Market stores and other stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and other websites from December 2014, through October 2018, for about $15.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled rattles away from children, stop using them and contact i play for instructions on how to receive a $50.00 coupon code to redeem towards the purchase of new products and shipping costs.

      Consumers may contact i play at (800) 876-1574 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at contactus@iplaybaby.com or online at www.iplaybaby.com and click on “ Health & Safety ” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      i play. inc., of Asheville, N.C., is recalling about 6,100 infant rattles sold in the U.S. and Canada.Pieces of the rattle can detach, posing a choking...
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      Hy-Vee recalls meat and potato products

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes

      Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling six of its meat and potato products across its eight-state region.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with these products.

      The following products "Best If Used By" date of October 22, 2018, or sooner are included in the call:

      • Hy-Vee Bacon Wrapped Cowgirl Chicken Grillers – 8 ounce each UPC Code 023092600000
      • Hy-Vee Fire Roasted Tomato, Spinach, Mozzarella Twice Baked Potato – 5 ounce each UPC Code 023755400000
      • Hy-Vee Cowgirl Chicken Griller Patty – 6 ounce each UPC Code 023100200000
      • Hy-Vee Gourmet Steakhouse Mushroom & Swiss Burger – 6 ounce each
      • UPC Code 023168400000
      • Hy-Vee Ground Beef Sliders Mushroom & Swiss – 2 ounce each UPC Code 023164300000
      • Hy-Vee Ground Beef Sliders Mushroom & Swiss – 12 count, 30 ounces UPC Code 023266600000

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them or return them to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Hy-Vee 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 772-4098.

      Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling six of its meat and potato products across its eight-state region.The products may be contaminated with S...
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      Brookstone wireless speakers recalled

      The lithium ion batteries in the wireless speakers can overheat

      Brookstone Purchasing of Merrimack, N.H., is recalling about 164,000 wireless speakers.

      The lithium ion batteries in the wireless speakers can overheat and catch fire, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received 12 reports of the speakers overheating and catching fire, resulting in five reports of property damage totaling about $2,000.

      This recall involves Brookstone Big Blue Party indoor/outdoor wireless speakers.

      The recalled speakers are silver or gray colored and measure about 6 inches wide by 6 inches deep by 16 inches tall. The SKU is printed on the bottom underside of the speaker.

      The speaker may also have “Brookstone” printed at the bottom on one side of the speaker, as well as on the label on the underside of the speaker.

      SKU

      Description/Color

      849504

      Graphite

      318417

      360 with Chromecast

      952645

      light gray

      The speakers, manufactured in China, were sold at Ace Hardware, Bloomingdale's, Bon-Ton, Brookstone, Macy’s, Patriot stores and other stores nationwide, on the Home Shopping Network and online at Amazon.com, Brookstone.com, RueLaLa.com, Wayfair.com, Zulily.com and other websites from December 2013, through August 2018, for about $200.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled speakers and properly dispose of the lithium-ion battery packs according to state and local regulations.

      Consumers may contact Brookstone toll-free at (866) 576-7337 any time or online at www.omnimgt.com/BrookstonerecallFAQ/ for more information.

      Brookstone Purchasing of Merrimack, N.H., is recalling about 164,000 wireless speakers.The lithium ion batteries in the wireless speakers can overheat...
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      Suzuki recalls DL and GSX motorcycles

      The fuel pump O-ring may be twisted, reducing the sealing performance

      Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 6,928 model year 2017-2018 Suzuki DL650A, DL650XA, GSX-R1000, GSX-R1000R, and model year 2018 GSX-S750 motorcycles.

      During installation, the fuel pump O-ring may have been twisted, reducing the sealing performance and possibly resulting in a fuel leak.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Suzuki will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump O-ring and the fuel tank inner vessel, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in October 2018.

      Owners may contact Suzuki customer service at 1-800-934-0934. Suzuki's numbers for this recall are 2A86-2A88.

      Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 6,928 model year 2017-2018 Suzuki DL650A, DL650XA, GSX-R1000, GSX-R1000R, and model year 2018 GSX-S750 motorcycles....
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      Attorneys General call for strict enforcement of the Military Lending Act

      Thirty-three state officials are asking the CFPB not to drop routine audits of lenders

      As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reportedly moves away from routine lender audits, 33 state attorneys general are asking the agency to reconsider.

      In August, the New York Times cited internal CFPB documents which revealed changes in the way the bureau monitors lenders for their adherence to the Military Lending Act. That law protects members of the armed forces from abusive lending practices. 

      Since its founding, the CFPB has conducted routine audits for signs of predatory practices targeting military personnel. Documents cited by the Times suggested that the agency will now take action only when a military consumer makes a complaint, either on the CFPB website or by calling a hotline.

      At the time, a spokesman for acting director Mick Mulvaney told the newspaper that the change is the result of a major review of the agency's procedures. Mulvaney, a long-time critic of the agency he heads, has characterized the CFPB's past enforcement efforts as overly aggressive.

      The state attorneys general disagree, at least when it comes to enforcing provisions of the Military Lending Act. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is among the state officials asking Mulvaney to reconsider.

      Responsibility to servicemembers

      “We have a fundamental responsibility to protect those who bravely protect us,” Underwood said. “Servicemembers and their families should not have to worry about being deceived by predatory lenders, and the CFPB must do its job and continue protecting them from potential financial harm.”

      The 2006 legislation was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush. It protects military servicemembers and their families against exploitative lenders and loans to prevent them from being saddled with burdensome debt. Underwood said the CFPB has the statutory authority to examine lenders’ compliance with the act.

      “It’s hard to believe, but there are shady businesses and lenders who will actually target military servicemembers because they have a steady, albeit modest income, and are often away from home for training or deployment,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “State and federal law provide important protections for our servicemembers and their families, but those protections are only valuable if they’re enforced."

      Concerned about any weakening

      With Virginia's large population of military and veteran consumers, Herring said he's concerned about any possible weakening of oversight and enforcement of the Military Lending Act.

      "I understand that the Trump administration dislikes the CFPB, but I hope their disdain won’t lead them to abandon our servicemembers over it," Herring said.

      A year ago, the CFPB reported that it had handled over 91,000 complaints from servicemembers, veterans, and their families since 2011. Its 50-state snapshot showed servicemembers are less likely to submit complaints than non-servicemembers about mortgages and credit reporting.

      As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reportedly moves away from routine lender audits, 33 state attorneys general are asking the agency to re...
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      President signs measure to increase opioid treatment

      The measure also cracks down on opioid trafficking

      President Trump has signed legislation to make medical treatment more widely available to Americans addicted to opioid drugs.

      At a time when Democrats and Republicans have mostly been at one another's throats, the two parties in Congress found common ground and passed a law to help curb a problem that is directly linked to 72,000 drug overdose deaths last year.

      Under the provisions of the measure, people on Medicaid will have greater access to substance abuse programs. At the same time, the new law will create harsher penalties when people use the U.S. Mail to distribute fentanyl, an opioid that is highly addictive and more powerful than heroin.

      The measure also appropriates federal funds to pay for federal grants to states and organizations that are addressing the growing crisis.

      Widespread support

      The bill sailed through the Senate on a 98-1 vote last month after the House passed it by a 353-52 margin. Democrats and Republicans fell all over themselves getting in position to co-sponsor the bill. When it finally came up for a vote it had a near-record 252 co-sponsors.

      Despite administration efforts to counter the growing opioid epidemic, some Congressional Democrats say it falls short. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found the administration had not used all the resources at its disposal to counter the crisis.

      "Communities are desperately in need of more help to address the opioid epidemic," Warren said. "President Trump, as this report shows, has broken his promises to do his part."

      White House says it's a priority

      The White House says the president has “mobilized his entire administration” to address opioid abuse by directing the declaration of a nationwide public health emergency. A year ago the president said his administration was declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, authorizing all executive agencies to use every appropriate power to counter the crisis.

      In June, Canadian researchers reported that one in five deaths in 2016 was linked to an opioid overdose. The study found that deaths by opioid overdose increased 296 percent overall.

      The largest increase in deaths occurred among millennials. In 2001, only 4 percent of opioid-related deaths occurred in this demographic. By 2016, that number had grown to 20 percent.

      President Trump has signed legislation to make medical treatment more widely available to Americans addicted to opioid drugs.At a time when Democrats a...
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      Managing blood pressure could eliminate several health risks for diabetics

      Researchers say curbing high blood pressure could be the key to avoiding organ failure

      With over 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes, knowing the ins and outs of the disease is incredibly beneficial to those currently struggling with it.

      A new study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University -- the largest of its kind -- explored the ways extreme hypertension in African-Americans with diabetes can be avoided if blood pressure can be taken under control.

      Though lead researcher Irina Benenson noted just one to two percent of those with high blood pressure experience hypertension -- typically in the brain, heart, or kidneys -- those with diabetes are at an even greater risk.

      “Our study found that both diabetics and non-diabetics with hypertensive emegencies had similar rates of severe injury to target organs,” said Benenson. “Combined with the fact that diabetics with hypertensive emergency also had significantly higher levels of blood pressure, this suggests that the occurrence of severe damage to vital organs is not because of just diabetes but because of the accompanying severely elevated blood pressure.”

      Understanding the risks

      The researchers had nearly 2,000 participants involved in the study -- 783 who had diabetes and 1,001 who did not. All of the participants were patients at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, and each person visited the hospital for hypertensive emergencies from June 2013 through May 2016.

      The researchers examined the patients’ electronic medical records and compared the results from non-diabetic patients with the diabetic patients to look for significant clinical characteristics.

      The researchers found that patients with diabetes accounted for 519 hypertensive emergencies, while those without diabetes accounted for 264 hypertensive emergencies. In total, patients with diabetes accounted for over 52 percent of all hypertensive emergency visits.

      Managing high blood pressure

      Benenson noted that the numbers from the study were even higher for those with both high blood pressure and diabetes.

      “Given the fact that the presence of severely elevated blood pressure is the strongest driver of damage to vital organs in individuals with diabetes, the most important intervention for preventing hypertensive emergencies would be to better manage patients’ blood pressure,” Benenson said.

      However, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are several ways for people with high blood pressure to try to keep their numbers under control.

      The association suggests eating a healthier, more well-rounded diet, while avoiding things that are high in salt. Fruits and vegetables, skinless poultry and fish, and whole grains are all heart-healthy foods. The organization says those with high blood pressure should limit red meat, salt, saturated fats, sweets, and alcohol.

      Maintaining a healthy weight and having a regular exercise regimen are also good ways to keep a healthy blood pressure. Ninety to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is recommended to stay active and avoid any flare-ups.

      Quitting smoking, reducing stress, and taking medications properly can also contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a better blood pressure. The AHA also suggests an at-home blood pressure monitor as a way to keep an eye on blood pressure on a daily basis; consumers can record the readings in a blood pressure journal to keep track and monitor treatments.

      With over 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes, knowing the ins and outs of the disease is incredibly beneficial to those currently struggling with...
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      United Kingdom fines Facebook for violating data privacy laws

      Regulators say the company ‘did not do enough’ to protect users’ sensitive information

      The United Kingdom’s (UK) Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has slapped Facebook with a 500,000-British pound fine ($641,517.50 U.S.) for what it calls “serious breaches of the data protection law.”

      Topping the list of Facebook’s infractions are charges that the company “unfairly processed personal data” and “failed to take appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data.”

      The ICO determined the nucleus of the social media’s missteps came in permitting third parties to obtain personal data through Facebook-associated apps -- a runamok data misuse that Facebook estimated to include 87 million users. The most celebrated of those privacy invasions was tied to the "thisisyourdigitallife" app, which led to the Cambridge Analytica privacy raid.

      “Facebook systematically went from interconnecting people to essentially having a surveillance system of their whole lives,” Roger McNamee, venture capitalist and an early Facebook investor told FRONTLINE in the forthcoming PBS special ‘The Facebook Dilemma.’

      Coulda, shoulda, woulda

      In the ICO’s eyes, Facebook "did not do enough" after the data breach was discovered in 2015.

      "Facebook failed to sufficiently protect the privacy of its users before, during and after the unlawful processing of this data," said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. "A company of its size and expertise should have known better and it should have done better."

      Facebook may have gotten off easy with the half-million pound fine. The monetary penalty is the most the ICO could hand down, but “for the statutory limitation on the amount of the monetary penalty, it would have been reasonable and proportionate to impose a higher penalty,” wrote the Commission in its notice.

      The hits just keep on coming

      Facebook’s uncovered tracks keep coming back to haunt the platform. The ‘Got another friend request from you’ scam hit Facebook users earlier this month. More recently, the company was threatened with a lawsuit from advertisers on the truth behind its video ad metrics.

      And, there’s still more around the corner. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hasn’t issued its findings on whether Facebook properly warned investors of data issues.

      The United Kingdom’s (UK) Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has slapped Facebook with a 500,000-British pound fine ($641,517.50 U.S.) for what it cal...
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      New York sues Exxon Mobil for allegedly misleading investors

      A lawsuit claims the company told investors that it had factored in the cost of climate change but never did

      On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued Exxon Mobil, alleging that it misled investors by minimizing the expected risks of climate change to its business.

      The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation, which began in November 2015. It “represents the most significant legal effort yet to establish that a fossil fuel company misled the public on climate change and to hold it responsible,” according to The New York Times.

      In the complaint, New York’s Attorney General claims the Texas-based energy giant “engaged in a longstanding fraudulent scheme” by telling investors that it was managing risks posed to its business by future and existing climate change regulations.

      The suit claims Exxon applied “proxy costs” to its books that “were materially false and misleading” when it came to accounting for the effects of climate change on company stocks. The suit alleges that Exxon applied “much lower proxy costs or no proxy costs at all.”

      "This was especially true of investments with high GHG emissions, where applying the publicly represented proxy cost would have had a particularly significant negative impact on the company’s economic and financial projections and assessments,” the complaint said.

      Exxon denies wrongdoing

      The lawsuit -- which focused solely on Exxon’s business practices, not on its role in climate change -- calls for Exxon to revise its financial statements and pay damages, restitution, and any gains made through alleged misrepresentation. All told, that could amount to a cost in the hundreds of millions for the company.

      A spokesperson for Exxon told the Times that it considers the lawsuit the result of a “tainted, meritless investigation.” The company contends that the allegations in the lawsuit are “baseless” and “a product of closed-door lobbying by special interests, political opportunism and the attorney general’s inability to admit that a three-year investigation has uncovered no wrongdoing.”

      “The company looks forward to refuting these claims as soon as possible and getting this meritless civil lawsuit dismissed,” Exxon said in a statement.

      Underwood claims the company intentionally misled investors through its underestimations of the effects of climate change on its profits.

      “Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon — which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions,” Underwood said in a statement.

      “Yet as our investigation found, Exxon often did no such thing. Instead, Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations.”

      On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued Exxon Mobil, alleging that it misled investors by minimizing the expected risks of climate c...
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      New car leases got more expensive in October

      An industry source reports that dealers are offering fewer incentives

      Consumers often opt to lease a new car because the monthly payment is usually significantly lower than financing a purchase of the same car.

      But many leases got more expensive in October. Wantalease, an online marketplace for lease deals, reports that most new car dealers increased lease prices, or at the very least kept them the same. As a result, there are fewer monthly lease payments under $200.

      The company reports Nissan hiked the monthly payment on the Sentra by nearly 23 percent from September, representing the biggest monthly increase. Toyota wasn't far behind, increasing the lease payment on the Corolla by more than 16 percent.

      Consumers negotiating a lease on a Nissan Altima found they had to pay 15 percent more than if they had leased the same car last month.

      Still affordable

      But even with the hefty increase, the Nissan Sentra lease is still pretty affordable. Wantalease lists the Sentra lease at $149 a month, while the Toyota Corolla is offered at $229 per month and the Nissan Altima can be leased for $239 per month.

      Leasing the Chevrolet Impala also got more expensive, rising nearly 15 percent. Leases on the Ford Fusion and Ford Focus also rose by double-digit percentages. You can lease an Impala this month for $349 a month, the Fusion for $261, and the Focus for $199.

      “More than likely, prices continue to increase over the last few months as OEMs look to offer stronger incentives and overall deals for financing loans as opposed to leases,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Wantalease.com. “While this may not be the case for all leases, it’s also a reason why our sister marketplace – Swapalease.com – continues to see more activity as people search alternate channels for the right lease deal outside of the dealer showroom.”

      Still some deals

      Not all leases got more expensive, however. Chrysler discounted its lease on the Ram 1500 Crew Cab by more than 35 percent, dropping the payment to just $129. A lease on the Cadillac CTS 2.0 dropped 8 percent to $409 per month.

      While some of these monthly payments may sound enticing, all require down payments that are usually $2,000 or more. That amount has to be taken into consideration when a consumer is trying to decide between a lease or a purchase.

      Lease payments are always smaller than for a purchase because the "buyer" is only purchasing the right to drive the vehicle for a set period of time, usually 36 months. After that, the vehicle must be returned and usually requires payment of a "return fee."

      Consumers often opt to lease a new car because the monthly payment is usually significantly lower than financing a purchase of the same car.But many le...
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