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    Amazon launches new program to reduce counterfeit listings

    ‘Project Zero’ enables invited brands to remove fake listings themselves

    Amazon has launched a program designed to combat the surge in counterfeit products on the site by allowing brands to flag and remove counterfeit listings of their products from the platform on their own.

    The e-commerce giant said its new program relies on machine learning technology to offer what it calls “automated protections.” The company says the technology scans listings and will automatically remove products that it determines are counterfeit.

    Brands that are invited to participate in the program can remove listings off the site as well.

    “With Project Zero, brands no longer need to contact us to remove a counterfeit listing,” Amazon said in a statement. “Instead, they can do so, quickly and easily, using our new self-service tool.”

    Amazon said it will be monitoring this “self-service” ability closely.

    "Brands must maintain a high bar of accuracy in order to maintain their Project Zero privileges," Amazon notes in its FAQ section about the service. "We have a number of processes in place to promote accuracy, including required training as part of Project Zero enrollment and ongoing monitoring to prevent misuse of our tools."

    Working towards the goal of zero counterfeits

    Due to the sheer size of Amazon’s marketplace, the company has had a hard time contending with the issue of counterfeit products on its site. Amazon has been taking steps to drive down counterfeit sales for the past several years.

    The company’s latest counterfeit-spotting initiative has already been tested by a number of brands, including Vera Bradley, Thunderworks (a maker of pet calming solutions), Kenu, and Chom Chom Roller.

    Under the Project Zero program, Amazon said it was able to stop 100 times more suspected counterfeit products than what it’s usually able to take down in response to brands’ reports.

    “Project Zero, with its automated protections and the self-service removal of counterfeit products, is a significant development that will help ensure our customers receive authentic Vera Bradley products from Amazon,” said Mark Dely, chief legal and administrator officer at Vera Bradley.

    “Amazon’s product serialization service has been a game-changer for us. We are excited to have this self-service counterfeit removal tool for the U.S. Marketplace and consider this to be an insurance policy,” said Ken Minn, CEO, Kenu.

    Amazon has launched a program designed to combat the surge in counterfeit products on the site by allowing brands to flag and remove counterfeit listings o...
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      Experts rank the best frequent flyer programs of 2019

      Consumers should do their homework since the overall ‘best’ program may not actually be the best for them

      Do you have a favorite airline? If you’re like most consumers, probably not.

      Like most people, you probably look for the best price, the shortest time, and the fewest number of add-ons you have to pay for, like luggage. Simply put, passenger loyalty is hard to come by for most airlines.

      Yet, you’re probably sitting on at least one frequent flyer program that you chose because you actually liked the airline -- you had a good experience flying with them, there’s lots of flights in and out of your hometown, etc.

      But, did you pick one of the so-called “best” frequent flyer programs?

      WalletHub got out its calculator and ran the numbers on 23 key metrics ranging from the actual value of a rewards point/mile to the blackout date policies for the 10 largest domestic airlines’ loyalty rewards.

      Here’s what the researchers came up with as the best frequent flyer programs:

      1. Delta SkyMiles

      2. United Airlines - Mileage Plan

      3. JetBlue Airways - TrueBlue

      4. Southwest Airlines - Rapid Rewards

      5. Hawaiian Airlines - HawaiianMiles

      To find out which airline miles program is best for you, you might give WalletHub’s frequent flyer miles calculator a spin. The calculator can customize the results of this study based on your own annual airline budget.

      The “best” may not necessarily be the best for you

      While JetBlue’s loyalty program may be a Top 3 winner, you might not be anywhere close to an airport where JetBlue flies to or from, and paying extra to get to a JetBlue departure could cost you hundreds more.

      To gauge which programs might work best for you, take a few minutes to see how each airline fared in each of WalletHub’s 23 categories. Look at the number of destinations served, how long before your miles will expire, comments from other program users, and perks like if your membership gets you a freebie on luggage or if your program is tied to other brands such as the one Delta announced with Lyft.

      LifeHacker cites travel experts interviewed by WalletHub who say that consumers are likely to expect loyalty programs to pull back on their generosity as time goes on.

      “Airlines have been moving to more of a ‘bus in the sky’ experience, where any additional value has been stripped, when you analyze the offerings from only a decade ago,” says Donna Wertalik, director of marketing at the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business. “The model will continue to move in this direction.” Wertalik says you can expect the value of miles and points to decline over time.

      Do you have a favorite airline? If you’re like most consumers, probably not.Like most people, you probably look for the best price, the shortest time,...
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      J.C. Penney to close more stores due to poor performance

      The retailer is looking to its new CEO to turn things around for the company

      J.C. Penney announced Thursday that it plans to shutter 24 stores this year -- 15 of its department stores and nine home-and-furniture locations -- due to disappointing sales.

      The retailer said the stores that are slated to be shut down “represent a real estate monetization opportunity.” The chain hasn’t yet released a list of stores that will close.

      "Comparable sales performance for the closing stores was significantly below the remaining store base and these stores operate at a much higher expense rate given the lack of productivity," J.C. Penney said in a statement.

      "Associates who will be impacted by the store closures will receive separation benefits, which includes assistance identifying other employment opportunities and outplacement services, such as resume writing and interview preparation."

      In January, the company announced that it would be closing three of its full-line stores due to poor performance. The following month, the retailer said it would stop selling major appliances in its stores starting February 28 in an effort to "better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth."

      Course correcting amid online competition

      J.C. Penney and other brick-and-mortar retailers have been modifying their business strategies in an effort to align with changing consumer preferences to compete with online shopping channels such as Amazon.

      Back in 2017, J.C. Penney said it would be continuing to build its online presence while retaining its physical locations.

      “It is essential to retain those locations that present the best expression of the JCPenney brand and function as a seamless extension of the omnichannel experience through online order fulfillment, same-day pick up, exchanges and returns," Marvin R. Ellison, chairman and CEO, said in a statement at the time.

      Just recently, J.C. Penney rival Sears narrowly avoided Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was purchased through the hedge fund of chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert. However, falling foot traffic and declining sales have forced Sears to close hundreds of locations in recent years.

      J.C. Penney is looking to recently appointed CEO, Jill Soltau -- who approved the company’s decision to stop selling appliances and furniture -- to move the chain in a positive direction, and fast.

      "The future trajectory of the company will be down to her and success relies upon decisive action with a firm focus on the shopper," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, told USA Today. "Our main concern is that JCP has very little time to course correct. The business needs to move at pace and without any missteps – a tall order in today’s complex and fast-moving retail environment."

      J.C. Penney announced Thursday that it plans to shutter 24 stores this year -- 15 of its department stores and nine home-and-furniture locations -- due to...
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      Study finds nearly 20 percent of consumers use someone else’s video streaming account

      Nearly half are using their parents’ login

      Subscribing to Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu costs less than $15 a month -- a bargain some might say. But there are still a lot of people who avoid that modest monthly subscription by using a friend or family member’s login.

      These video streaming services spend billions of dollars each year obtaining existing and producing original content yet they have to contend with consumers sharing a subscription. A new report from CordCutting.com estimates that about 20 percent of people watching a pay video streaming service are using someone else’s account.

      The report finds that Netflix has the most freeloaders. Nearly half -- 48 percent -- are using their parents’ account. Another 14 percent use another family member’s login.

      Netflix has responded to this trend by creating a level of service -- at a higher rate -- that allows two users to be logged in at the same time.

      Freeloading millennials

      Broken down demographically, the report shows that millennials tend to make up a large segment of the freeloaders. They make up 18 percent of the Netflix pirates and 20 percent of those piggybacking on someone else’s Hulu account.

      No doubt they view it as a victimless crime, but the study shows that the practice can have a rather large impact on a video streaming service’s bottom line. In the case of Netflix, which spends more on content that Disney, the company is estimated to lose as much as $192 million a month from piracy.

      Piracy losses for Amazon are estimated to be $45 million and Hulu loses about $40 million a month.

      You could make the case that people freeloading on someone else’s Netflix account probably wouldn’t subscribe to the service anyway, but there are plenty of analysts who think otherwise. Netflix continues to add subscribers but much of its growth is coming from overseas.

      How much better could it do?

      The study suggests Netflix could be doing a lot better if everyone played by the rules. It surveyed a sample of people using someone else’s account and found that nearly 60 percent said they would pay for the service if they lost access. That would add an estimated $112 million a month to Netflix’s revenue.

      That said, the company appears to be doing just fine. In its latest earnings report, Netflix said it added 8.8 million new subscribers, a better-than-expected performance. It earned 30 cents a share on revenue of $4.19 billion.

      Subscribing to Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu costs less than $15 a month -- a bargain some might say. But there are still a lot of people who avoid that modest...
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      January showed mixed signals for the housing market

      There was an increase in contracts signed but a slowdown in new construction

      A leading indicator for the housing market showed new signs of life in January as pending home sales rebounded sharply after months of declines.

      Pending sales reflect sales contracts signed but not yet closed. In a home sale transaction, it typically takes 30 to 60 days for the sale to close and be recorded as an existing home sale. Existing home sales closing in January were down 1.2 percent.

      January’s pending sales, meanwhile, increased 4.6 percent from December, according to the Commerce Department. However, the number is still down from January 2018.

      The housing market has slumped in recent months as buyers faced the double whammy of rising mortgage rates and higher home prices. In a break for buyers, rates have fallen since December.

      "A change in Federal Reserve policy and the reopening of the government were very beneficial to the market," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

      Positive outlook

      A declining inventory of available homes has also been a drag on sales and discouraged some buyers who have been unable to find a suitable home in their price range. Yun says the combination of lower mortgage rates and rising inventory levels should mean sales pick up during the spring housing season.

      "Income is rising faster than home prices in many areas and mortgage rates look to remain steady. Furthermore, job creation will help lift home buying," Yun said.

      Despite Realtors’ optimism, home builders apparently remain cautious. In another housing market report this week, the Commerce Department released data showing that housing starts went into freefall in January, plunging 11.2 percent from the month before.

      Builders slow down

      That’s the slowest rate of builders having broken ground on new homes in nearly three years. It comes as new home sales have slowed, in part because builders have focused on large and expensive homes.

      In November, the government reported the average new home price was over $362,000, well outside the price range for most first-time buyers. As builders have found fewer takers for homes in this price range, they have curtailed construction. Housing starts are down 10.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.

      Taken together, the two reports suggest demand for homes may be picking up at exactly the time builders are cutting back. That could lead to further price increases for all types of housing and a reversal of rising inventories.

      A leading indicator for the housing market showed new signs of life in January as pending home sales rebounded sharply after months of declines.Pending...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2018-2019 GLA250s and GLA250 4MATICs.

      The sunroof bonding may allow water to leak into the vehicle

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 13 model year 2018-2019 GLA250s and GLA250 4MATICs.

      The sunroof bonding may allow water to leak into the vehicle.

      This could affect the electrical contacts of the window airbag, potentially causing it to fail to deploy as intended, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      Mercedes has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the bonding of the panorama sliding sunroof and the electrical contacts of the window air bag on the affected vehicles, replacing the components as necessary, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed February 13, 2019, to notify owners of the issue. A second letter will be sent once the repair is available.

      Owners may contact Mercedes customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 13 model year 2018-2019 GLA250s and GLA250 4MATICs.The sunroof bonding may allow water to leak into the vehicle.This...
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      Bellisio Foods recalls boneless pork rib frozen entrées

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

      Bellisio Foods of Jackson, Ohio, is recalling approximately 173,376 pounds of frozen pork entrées.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically pieces of glass.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions or injuries due to consumption of the products.

      The following items, produced from December 7, 2018, to February 15, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 14-oz. black cardboard box packages containing “BOSTON MARKET Home Style Meals BONELESS PORK RIB SHAPED PATTY WITH BBQ SAUCE & MASHED POTATOES” with “BEST BY:” dates of 12/07/2019 lot code 8341, 01/04/2020 lot code 9004, 01/24/2020 lot code 9024, or 02/15/2020 lot code 9046, represented on the label.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 18297” on the end carton flap of the package, were shipped to a Department of Defense facility in Tucson, Ariz., and retail locations nationwide.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but discard them or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Krista Cummings at (855) 871-9977.

      Bellisio Foods of Jackson, Ohio, is recalling approximately 173,376 pounds of frozen pork entrées.The products may be contaminated with extraneous mate...
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      Oregon set to become first state to enact statewide rent control program

      SB 608 is intended to protect renters from exploitation during the state’s housing crisis

      On Tuesday, the Oregon Legislature passed the nation’s first statewide rent control policy. Senate Bill 608, which passed by a vote of 35-25, caps rent increases at 7 percent (plus inflation) annually and places new limits on landlords’ ability to evict tenants.

      Under the measure, landlords are prohibited from terminating month-to-month leases without cause after the first year of occupancy, and rent increases are limited to once per year. Landlords must also have a government-approved reason for evicting a tenant (such as failure to pay rent or violating a lease agreement) and must pay the tenant one month’s rent in the event that eviction is necessary.

      The measure would allow for some “landlord-based” eviction causes, such as a major renovation or the landlord moving into the unit. But before evicting the tenant for one of these reasons, the landlord would have to provide 90 days’ notice and pay one month’s rent to the tenant.

      Landlords with fewer than five units are exempt from the bill, as are those with rental properties that are less than 15 years old.

      Protecting renters

      "This first-in-the-nation legislation will protect renters and ensure we have a fairer system for everyone," said Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D–Portland) after the measure passed.

      In the runup to the measure’s passage, Republicans argued that rent control will discourage investment in housing and add to the rental shortage.

      “I am deeply concerned about the rent control bill that passed out of the house today,” said Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond. “Studies have shown that rent control policies will reduce the quantity and quality of housing available.”

      Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat -- who has voiced her support for the measure and said she will sign the legislation -- argued that there is “no single solution — not one entity, or one person — that can solve Oregon’s housing crisis.”

      “This new legislation is one of many actions Oregon needs to take to address our housing crisis. While it will provide some immediate relief, we need to focus on building supply in order to address Oregon’s housing challenges for the long term,” Brown said in a statement.

      On Tuesday, the Oregon Legislature passed the nation’s first statewide rent control policy. Senate Bill 608, which passed by a vote of 35-25, caps rent inc...
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      Model year 2018 Lexus LS 500/500h vehicles recalled

      A crack could develop on the sidewall reinforcement layer of the tires

      Toyota is recalling about 6,300 model year 2018 Lexus LS 500/500h vehicles with run-flat tires.

      Because the tires were assembled to the wheels improperly, a crack could develop on the sidewall reinforcement layer of the tires.

      Under certain driving conditions, portions of the tire tread layer could separate, causing a reduction of vehicle stability and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners and dealers will replace all four tires with new ones at no charge to customers if one or more tire(s) are run-flat tire(s) manufactured by a specific tire supplier.

      The recall is expected to begin in late April.

      Owners may contact Lexus at (800) 255-3987.

      Toyota is recalling about 6,300 model year 2018 Lexus LS 500/500h vehicles with run-flat tires.Because the tires were assembled to the wheels improperl...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLC63 AMG Coupes, GLC63S AMG Coupes and GLC63s

      The front airbag may have a delayed deployment for unbelted front seat passengers

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 779 model year 2018-2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG Coupes, GLC63S AMG Coupes, and GLC63s.

      In the event of a crash, the front airbag may have a delayed deployment for certain unbelted front seat passengers, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      MBUSA has notified owners, and dealers will update the air bag control unit software parameters, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 8, 2019 to notify them of the issue. A second notification will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 779 model year 2018-2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG Coupes, GLC63S AMG Coupes, and GLC63s.In the event of a crash,...
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      BMW recalls model year 2007 through 2014 X series vehicles

      The passenger front airbag inflator may explode

      BMW of North America is recalling 83,016 model year 2007-2013 X5 xDrive30i, X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive48i, X5 xDrive50i & X5 M vehicles; model year model year 2008-2014 X6 xDrive35i, X6 xDrive50i & X6 M vehicles; model year 2009-2013 X5 xDrive35d vehicles and model year 2010-2011 X6 ActiveHybrids.

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front air bag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment.

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment, these inflators may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger front airbag module, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 4, 2019.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 83,016 model year 2007-2013 X5 xDrive30i, X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive48i, X5 xDrive50i & X5 M vehicles; model year model year...
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      Apple testing sleep-tracking functionality for Apple Watch

      The company could add it to the device as early as 2020 if tests are successful

      Apple is currently testing a built-in sleep tracking functionality for the Apple Watch, Bloomberg reports. If the tests are successful, a source says the company plans to add the functionality to the Watch by 2020.

      Bloomberg notes that Apple will have to increase the battery life of the Apple Watch or figure out a way to run the sleep-tracking functionality in low-power mode while the person sleeps. Alternatively, the company could also just ask users to charge their battery in the morning.

      “Each Apple Watch model to date is advertised as being able to last a day with the need to charge it each night,” Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman wrote. “In comparison, Fitbit’s watches with sleep tracking are marketed as being able to last as long as a week on one charge.”

      New health- and fitness-related functionalities for the Apple Watch are put through “rigorous testing at labs around its campus,” Bloomberg said.

      “The company also conducts in-house testing for new sensors on exercise equipment such as treadmills and bikes and has analyzed the Watch’s swim-tracking feature with testers at on-site swimming pools,” according to the publication. “The company also has testing chambers to mimic outside weather conditions and monitor users’ breathing and perspiration.”

      Focusing on health

      Adding a sleep-tracking functionality to the Apple Watch would expand its lineup of health and fitness tracking offerings. The Apple Watch already informs users if their heart rate has reached an unusually high or low rate and can detect irregular rhythms that could indicate risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib).

      The company has also modified its Health App to allow users to view parts of their medical records. In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple may be aiming to allow patients to share their health information with other health apps.

      Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said health will likely be the company’s greatest contribution to mankind.

      “If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health,” Cook said in an interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

      Apple is currently testing a built-in sleep tracking functionality for the Apple Watch, Bloomberg reports. If the tests are successful, a source says the c...
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      J Bar B Foods recalls ready-to-eat smoked sausage

      The product contains milk, an allergen not declared on the label

      J Bar B Foods of Weimar, Texas, is recalling approximately 51,188 pounds of ready-to-eat cheddar smoked sausage.

      The product contains milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following item, incorrectly labeled as “Original Smoked Sausage” and produced on January 19, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 14-oz. vacuum-sealed packages of “H-E-B MADE IN TEXAS ORIGINAL Smoked Sausage” with a sell by date of 5/19/19 and lot code LN2 90149.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “7066A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations in Texas.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard it or return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Bonnie Hymen at (830) 788-7511, ext. 271.

      J Bar B Foods of Weimar, Texas, is recalling approximately 51,188 pounds of ready-to-eat cheddar smoked sausage.The product contains milk, an allergen...
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      Mercedes-Benz vehicles with steering issue recalled

      The Active Steering Assist system may malfunction

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,754 model year 2018 AMG S63 4MATICs, AMG S63 4MATIC sedans, AMG S63 4MATIC Cabriolets, S450 4MATIC sedans, S560 4MATIC coupes, S560 4MATIC sedans and Maybach S560 4MATICs.

      Due to an incorrect steering boot installation, the Active Steering Assist system may remain engaged despite the driver's hands not being on the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time.

      If the system remains active despite the driver not having his hands on the wheel, the driver's inattention may increase the risk of crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicles and correct the steering boot installation, as necessary, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 14, 2019 to notify them of the issue. A second notification will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact Mercedes Benz customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,754 model year 2018 AMG S63 4MATICs, AMG S63 4MATIC sedans, AMG S63 4MATIC Cabriolets, S450 4MATIC sedans, S560 4M...
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      Century Products recalls 4 million infant child seats

      The handle on the seats can crack and break

      Century Products is recalling 4 million rear-facing infant child seats that have a "type 1" handle and manufactured between January 1, 1991, and July 31, 1997.

      The handle on the seats can crack during normal use outside a motor vehicle, which can lead to an unexpected break.

      If the handle unexpectedly breaks, the child could fall to the ground possibly causing serious injuries.

      What to do

      To prevent future cracking or failure of the child seat handle, Century will provide owners with an improved handle and installation instructions.

      Owners should contact Century at (800) 345-4109, to obtain the free replacement handle.

      Century Products is recalling 4 million rear-facing infant child seats that have a "type 1" handle and manufactured between January 1, 1991, and July 31, 1...
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      Investors are making a big play in reversing food waste

      Don’t blame restaurants or farmers. Most of the squander happens right in our own homes

      Waste not, want not.

      The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coalition ReFed says that companies fighting food waste have pulled in some $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in 2018.

      And, like most everything else these days, consumers have technology to thank for the forward movement on keeping food products fresher for longer.

      As an example, ReFed points to Walmart. In its perishables supply chain, the big box retailer recently experimented with smart labeling technology where electronic devices are attached to produce shipping containers and crates in an effort to monitor spoilage. While the technology wasn’t part of its existing bailiwick, Walmart saw enough long-term potential in reducing inventory loss to make the investment.

      “Investors are seeing that food waste is a big business opportunity,” Michelle Masek, head of marketing at Apeel Sciences, told Bloomberg News. Apeel recently formed a partnership with a major European supplier of avocados that will use a water-based solution that the company says extends the ripeness for another four days or so.

      The environmental challenge

      “Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen how climate change and resource utilization are closely linked, and food is one of the most important resources in that equation,” wrote ReFed in an analysis of the study.

      “This puts food waste squarely at the center of many global challenges. Reducing food waste would have a game-changing impact on natural resources depletion and degradation, food insecurity, national security, and climate change. As one of the largest economies and agricultural producers in the world, we believe the United States has a major role to play in setting an example and contributing to significant food waste reduction.”

      Any way you look at it, food waste is a crisis. Today, the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten.

      Each and every year, more than 50 million tons of food ends up in landfills. On top of that, an additional 10.1 million tons remains unharvested at farms. An even sadder fact is that 49 million Americans have a hard time putting food on their table.

      Clean up your own backyard

      While having garbage pickup is a nice thing for the consumer to have, ReFed estimates that cities actually lose money on the deal. As an example, the coalition cites Baltimore.

      “If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection for composting in the Baltimore area by 10 percent, an annual systemwide net cost of $700,000 to collect and process 140,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $230,000. If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection in the Los Angeles area by 15 percent, an annual system-wide net cost of $5 million to collect and process 800,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $1.2 million.”

      While you might think that farms, manufacturers, and restaurants are to blame for most of that, think again. In the U.S., about 43 percent of all the waste happens at the end of the food chain -- in the kitchen at home, according to an earlier ReFed report. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found two-thirds of the food wasted at home is edible.

      ReFed says that consumers are fully aware of their shortcomings. They feel guilty, but just not guilty enough to try to make a difference.

      Waste not, want not.The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coal...
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      Apple and Goldman Sachs may be launching a credit card

      The new Mastercard would adopt some features from Apple Pay

      A new credit card provided by Goldman Sachs and Apple is reportedly in the planning stages. A report in The Wall Street Journal cites people involved in the project who say it will be a Mastercard product and use elements of Apple’s digital wallet, Apple Pay.

      The sources say the new card is expected to launch later in 2019 around the time Apple upgrades the iPhone. While industry analysts say the card should be a winner for both companies, Arielle O’Shea, NerdWallet personal finance expert, says it could also be good for consumers.

      “If reports are true and the card ends up offering 2 percent back on all purchases, it could directly compete with other top cash back cards on the market,” she told ConsumerAffairs.com.

      O’Shea says Goldman Sachs would like to engage with millennials, and she sees an Apple credit card as an effective way to bond with this next generation of bank customers.

      “The bank is likely hoping to piggyback on Apple's loyal following to convert users of the credit card to long-term Marcus banking customers that turn to the bank for other financial products,” O’Shea said.

      Slow to adopt Apple pay

      Apple Pay is widely used around the world, but the adoption rate among retailers lags far behind credit cards. The new Apple card is expected to go head-to-head with Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve travel cards, which are already popular with millennial consumers

      “Given that millennials tend to most value experiences and travel, they may continue to be attracted to travel rewards cards despite Apple's powerful brand,” O’Shea said. “Even the biggest Apple fans shouldn't blindly turn to this card: It's important to compare annual fees and features when shopping for a new card, and make sure it fits your spending habits.”

      The Journal Report makes clear that consumers who are already using Apple Pay may stand to benefit the most. Cardholders may get some special features in Apple Pay such as setting a budget and managing payments.

      A new credit card provided by Goldman Sachs and Apple is reportedly in the planning stages. A report in The Wall Street Journal cites people involved in th...
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      Volkswagen recalls various vehicles with driver's front airbag inflator issue

      The inflator may explode, causing injury or death

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 119,394 model year 2015 Passats, model year 2015-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2015-2017 CCs, model year 2016-2017 TT Roadsters and TT Coupes, model year 2017 Audi R8 Coupes & R8 Spyders.

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver's front airbag, the inflator could explode with metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants potentially causing serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front airbag inflator free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in March 2019.

      Volkswagen owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298; Audi owners may contact Audi at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69S8 (Audi) and 69Y5 (Volkswagen).

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 119,394 model year 2015 Passats, model year 2015-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2015-2017 CCs, model year 2016-2017...
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      BMW recalls model year 2015 X1 sDrive and xDrive vehicles

      The driver's front airbag inflator may rupture

      BMW of North America is recalling 12,880 model year 2015 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, and X1 xDrive35i vehicles.

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the driver front airbag modules, used as original equipment or replacement equipment, that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front airbag module, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 4, 2019.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 12,880 model year 2015 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, and X1 xDrive35i vehicles.The vehicles are equipped with airbag in...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls various vehicles with steering issue

      The Hands-off-Detection system may malfunction

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,200 model year 2018 S450 4MATICs, S560 4MATIC Coupes, S63 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, Maybach S560 4MATICs, S560 4MATICs, S63 AMGs & S63 AMG 4MATIC Cabrios.

      The Hands-off-Detection system may malfunction, causing the Active Steering Assist system to remain engaged despite the driver's hands not being on the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time.

      If the system remains active despite the driver not having his hands on the wheel, the driver's inattention may increase the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Mercedes has notified owners, and dealers will update the software of the steering control unit, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 14, 2019 to notify owners of the issue. A second notification will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact Mercedes customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,200 model year 2018 S450 4MATICs, S560 4MATIC Coupes, S63 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, Maybach S560 4MATICs, S560 4MATICs, S63 AMGs...
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      Lean Culinary Services recalls ready-to-eat chicken salads

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Lean Culinary Services of Hollywood, Fla., is recalling approximately 223 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

      The following items, produced on February 12, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 14.9-oz. plastic tub packages containing “classic chicken salad Made with Bell & Evans White Meat Chicken” and a Best By date of 2-17-19.
      • 8-lbs plastic bags containing “classic chicken salad Made with Bell & Evans White Meat Chicken” and a Sell By date of 2-19-19 for use behind the deli counter.
      • 7.8-oz plastic tub packages containing “DeliverLean CLASSIC CHICKEN SALAD” and a Use By date of 2/17/19.
      • 5.5-oz plastic tub packages containing “DeliverLean CHICKEN SALAD BENTO BOX” and a Use By date of 2/17/19.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-46167” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Florida.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but discard them or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Tammy Martinez at (312) 805-2230.

      Lean Culinary Services of Hollywood, Fla., is recalling approximately 223 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products that may be contaminated with Liste...
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      The Weekly Hack: Hackers break into Tampa mayor’s Twitter account and post that missiles are headed to Florida

      The medical records of Seattle-area patients were accessible via Google search

      Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had a dire warning for his constituents.

      “EMERGENCY ALERT,” he posted. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAD INBOUND TO TAMPA BAY AREA.

      SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

      It was not a drill, but it also wasn't real. The “emergency alert” was part of a thread of 60 some-odd posts on Buckhorn’s Twitter account that also included racist messages, child pornography, and a bomb threat against the Tampa International Airport.

      Buckhorn is now back online and thanking Twitter for kicking the hackers out of his account. Tampa police said that the threats were not credible and are currently investigating how the hackers managed to obtain Buckhorn’s password.

      In case anyone was still confused, the mayor’s spokesman sent out a news release yesterday telling followers that the Twitter posts were “clearly not Mayor Buckhorn.”

      Porn site visitors

      Are you using a secret credit card to subscribe to premium access on a porn site? Make sure the password is secret too. Security researchers are warning that user login details on porn websites have become a popular target for hackers, who then resell the information on the Dark Web.

      The New Kaspersky lab counted nearly 850,000 attempts to access user login info on PornHub and XNXX. There is a market for those details on the Dark Web, where some hackers may simply want to enjoy premium porn subscriptions bankrolled by a stranger. But others may use those login details to access credit card information.

      The attackers obtain passwords with fake videos connected to malware, so the researchers say that users should be careful to avoid any videos that don’t seem to fit on the site. In some cases, even people that don’t have premium accounts have been targeted.

      "Users of adult-content websites should keep in mind that such malware can remain unnoticed on a victim’s device for a long time, spying on their private actions and allowing others to do the same, without logging the user out so as not to arouse their suspicion," researchers told The Sun newspaper.

      The University of Washington Medical Center

      Someone in Seattle just wanted to do an innocent Google search on the name of a person they had met. Instead, the search led to the stranger's medical records.

      Megan Flory told the local news that she and a friend were able to access the medical records of strangers through Google searches in December. The records belonged to the University of Washington Medical Center, the county hospital.

      “It clearly said it was UW Medicine,” Flory recounted. She said she found as many 120 names through the Google search, revealing a list of people who had taken tests for HIV. The test results were not published.

      Flory says she immediately reported the breach to UW Medicine. The hospital is just now reportedly distributing letters to patients. Officials estimate that 974,000 people are affected by the breach.

      But hospital staff told KIRO 7 that the breached information did not contain medical records, patient financial information, or social security numbers.

      “UW Medicine became aware of a vulnerability on a website server that made protected internal files available and visible by search on the internet on Dec. 4, 2018,” a spokesman told the local news.

      Medical records are a popular target for hackers. A counseling center in Kentucky recently discovered that 16,000 patients records were accessed, and an American who had lived in Singapore is currently facing criminal charges for allegedly leaking a government-run HIV patient database online there.

      Arizona businesses

      A payment processor that works with numerous business in the Tucson area was hacked, potentially exposing the credit information of customers who shopped at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch, Karichimaka, Tucson Truck Terminal, or Voyager RV Resort, among other potential business. People who notice anything suspicious are urged to contact a local hotline.

      Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had a dire warning for his constituents.“EMERGENCY ALERT,” he posted. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAD INBOUND TO TAMPA BAY AREA....
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      Survey says millennials would take a pay cut to work for an environmentally conscious company

      The big question is who’s going to take responsibility for making America greener?

      Let’s talk trade-offs…

      Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pun intended) -- and, more than likely, a millennial.

      A new survey by Swytch -- a blockchain-based clean energy platform -- examined workforce sentiments as they relate to employers’ corporate sustainability pursuits.

      In that study, almost 50 percent of all respondents and 75 percent of millennial workers said they would make that trade-off. As a matter of fact, 10+ percent would take a cut in pay between $5,000-$10,000, and slightly more than three percent said they’d be willing to go even further and take a pay cut of over $10,000 a year if they believed the employer had a “green” frame-of-mind.

      Age matters when it comes to making that large of a trade-off, though. The survey found that fewer than 25 percent of Gen Xers (now between 40 and 53 years old) would make the change and that number drops to 17 percent for baby boomers.

      Are we green enough for you?

      Swytch’s study demonstrates that it’s not good enough just to say a company is green -- it needs to demonstrate that time after time, year after year.

      Close to 70 percent of the respondents said that a strong sustainability plan would affect their decision to stay with a company long term.

      And, they mean it. Nearly 30 percent said they’ve left a company because of its absence of a corporate sustainability plan. Eleven percent said they’ve pulled up and left over that factor more than once.

      “As a growing number of employees are eager to see corporations take a stand on environmental responsibility, employers will have to respond accordingly in order to attract and retain top talent,” Evan Caron, co-founder and managing director of Swytch told Medium.

      Red state, Blue state, Green state?

      If you’re thinking that being environmentally proactive is more of a liberal than a conservative thing, you’d be wrong, albeit slightly.

      A formidable number on both sides -- 95 percent of liberals and 89 percent of conservatives -- said that companies should be rewarded for producing and/or consuming renewable energy.

      However, finding the right party to step up and make that forward motion happen is a big question. More than 30 percent of respondents feel that the national government should be in charge of tackling climate change, while only about 25 percent think that large corporations should be responsible.

      Let’s talk trade-offs…Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pu...
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      Google to end forced arbitration agreements for employees

      The new policy will go into effect on March 21

      Google has announced that it will soon no longer require its employees to sign forced arbitration agreements, which essentially waive workers’ rights to a day in court if they suffer injuries, harassment, or other negative consequences from working at a company.

      Company officials said that the new policy would go into effect on March 21, and it would apply to all of its workers around the globe. However, the new policy would not apply to claims that have already been settled by arbitration, according to an Axios report. Workers will also still have the option of going to arbitration if they wish to do so.

      The new standards would not only apply to full-time workers, but to temporary and contract workers that work directly for the company – though firms that hire these workers may still choose to use arbitration clauses.

      Making changes following pressure

      Google’s decision likely isn’t one that was made by chance. Last year, approximately 20,000 of its workers around the world staged a walkout in protest of forced arbitration. Within a week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai released a blog post saying that the company takes its workers’ rights seriously.

      “At Google we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making changes we need to improve,” Pichai said.

      While the executive promised at the time to “double down” on the company’s commitment towards improving workplace conditions, the action plan he detailed in the post focused primarily on improvements to how the company would deal with sexual harassment claims. The new proposal has been hailed as being more comprehensive.

      Google has announced that it will soon no longer require its employees to sign forced arbitration agreements, which essentially waive workers’ rights to a...
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      Existing home sales drop again in January

      But the median home price rises for the 83rd consecutive month

      It was a little harder to sell a home last month. Sales of existing homes dipped 1.2 percent from December and were down 8.5 percent from January 2018, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      But even though there were fewer homebuyers last month, those who did buy a house paid more for it.

      “Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.”

      Home prices may be moderating, but they aren’t going down. The median price of a home sold in January rose 2.8 percent to $247,500. It was the 83rd consecutive month of year-over-year price increases.

      Not good for anyone

      This situation in January wasn’t that great for either buyers or sellers. If you were selling a home, it took a little longer. If you were buying one, you likely paid a little more for it.

      Houses were on the market for an average of 49 days in January, up from 46 days in December and 42 days in January 2018. That said, 38 percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month

      Yun says mortgage rates started to fall in December but not enough to motivate buyers. But in the months ahead, he predicts lower rates will begin to make a difference.

      The housing market has been out of balance for at least two years with not enough homes on the market to meet demand. That’s the main reason home prices keep rising. But the January numbers suggest a positive trend.

      Positive trend

      The market is still suffering from an inventory shortage, but the number of homes for sale increased in January for the sixth straight month. However, much of the increase in inventory was for more expensive properties.

      “In particular, the lower end of the market is experiencing a greater shortage, and more home construction is needed,” Yun said.

      Home construction is still at about half the levels of 2006, just before the housing crash. Yun says finding ways to lower construction costs would help increase the pace of building, especially of entry-level housing.

      He says reforming local zoning ordinances and expediting the housing permitting process “would immediately increase homeownership opportunities and boost local economies.”

      It was a little harder to sell a home last month. Sales of existing homes dipped 1.2 percent from December and were down 8.5 percent from January 2018, acc...
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      Gas prices jump nine cents a gallon in the last week

      States with the cheapest gas saw the biggest increase

      Consumers who had grown accustomed to low and stable gasoline prices over the last four months got a jolt in the last week.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gas surged nine cents a gallon in the last seven days, to $2.38 a gallon. It’s 13 cents higher than a month ago but still lower when compared to last year.

      The average price of premium gas is up eight cents to $2.94 a gallon, and the price of diesel fuel is up only four cents a gallon, to $2.95.

      It was in states where gasoline is normally the cheapest that prices rose the most. In just seven days, the statewide average rose 14 cents a gallon in South Carolina and Texas, 13 cents a gallon in Kansas, and 11 cents a gallon in Alabama and Mississippi.

      States where gasoline is usually the most expensive bucked the trend and remained mostly stable. The average price in Hawaii actually went down a penny, making California the most expensive state for fuel in the last week.

      “Motorists are seeing more expensive gas prices as a result of ongoing refinery problems coupled with crude oil prices hitting their highest level so far this year as global crude inventories tighten,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Inventories are likely to continue to tighten and keep gas prices higher through the end of the month.”

      But it remains to be seen whether the pace of last week’s price hikes can be maintained. The latest report from the Energy Information Administration shows demand for fuel dropped for a second week. But because consumers are buying less gasoline, refineries have stepped up their exports.

      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:

      • California ($3.27)

      • Hawaii ($3.26)

      • Washington ($2.86)

      • Nevada ($2.84)

      • Alaska ($2.81)

      • Oregon ($2.74)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.59)

      • New York ($2.51)

      • Connecticut ($2.47)

      • Michigan ($2.46)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Alabama ($2.09)

      • Mississippi ($2.09)

      • Louisiana ($2.10)

      • Arkansas ($2.10)

      • Missouri ($2.11)

      • Texas ($2.12)

      • Colorado ($2.12)

      • Oklahoma ($2.15)

      • Kansas ($2.15)

      • South Carolina ($2.15)

      Consumers who had grown accustomed to low and stable gasoline prices over the last four months got a jolt in the last week.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey sh...
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      Model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks recalled

      The vehicle may stall when driven under high load

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,424 model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT).

      The pump impeller blades within the torque converter may detach, especially when driven under high load, potentially causing a vehicle stall.

      A vehicle stall, especially when driving a high rate of speed, can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota has notified owners, and dealers will replace the CVT and torque converter, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed on January 28, 2019, to notify owners about the issue. A second letter will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is J17/J07.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,424 model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CV...
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      SRAM recalls bicycle gear hubs

      The brakes in the gear hubs can fail

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,700 SRAM i-Motion 3 internal gear hubs (coaster brake version) for bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The brakes in the gear hubs can fail, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

      The firm has received five reports of brake failure, resulting in one minor injury.

      This recall involves SRAM i-Motion 3 three-speed internal gear hubs with a coaster brake installed on bicycles with no redundant braking system.

      The recalled hubs were sold on the following Electra model bicycles: Electra Cruiser Custom 3i, Electra Coaster 3i, Electra Hawaii 3i, Electra Hawaii 3i 24 and Electra Straight 8. They were also sold as aftermarket parts for other bicycles.

      The recalled hubs have “SRAM i-Motion 3” printed on the hub shell and a brake arm extending from the axle of the hub.

      The hubs, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at specialty bicycle retailers nationwide from April 2010, through December 2018, for between $400 and $800 for Electra bicycles equipped with the recalled hubs, and for about $90 for the recalled aftermarket gear hubs

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using bicycles with the recalled gear hubs and contact SRAM for instructions on how to receive a partial refund.

      Consumers may contact SRAM at (800) 346-2928 from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday, or online at www.sram.com or www.zipp.com and click on “Recall Information” at the top of the pages for more information.

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,700 SRAM i-Motion 3 internal gear hubs (coaster brake version) for bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The...
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      The FCC says rural broadband service has improved

      But one GOP Congressman says rural America is still underserved

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a draft report, says the U.S. has made great strides in closing the “digital divide” and expanding broadband internet services in rural areas of America.

      Rural counties have consistently lagged behind metro areas in the deployment of fast internet because consumers are spread out and it’s expensive to serve them. Increasing service to rural areas has been an FCC priority for nearly a decade but expansion of service has come at a slow pace.

      “We’ve been tackling this problem by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and providing efficient, effective support for rural broadband expansion through our Connect America Fund,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement

      The draft report says the number of Americans who lack access to a fixed broadband connection dropped by 25 percent in one year, from 26 million to 19.4 million between 2016 and 2017.

      Minimum speed

      To be considered broadband service, an internet connection must achieve a minimum speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. The report says a lot of the progress has come in rural America, where 5.6 rural consumers got faster internet over the course of 12 months.

      Earlier this month, the co-chair of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus released a letter he wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that urged her to include broadband spending in a potential infrastructure package.

      Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), whose district spans a wide area of rural Eastern Virginia, says President Trump’s proposal for an infrastructure bill should include funding for technology infrastructure too.

      “With that in mind, I am urging you to prioritize policies in the 116th Congress that will help promote broadband investments and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural America,” Wittman wrote in the letter.

      Virginia an underserved state

      According to Wittman, nearly 50 percent of consumers living in rural Virginia lack access to high speed internet and 29 percent don’t have any internet service at all. He says obstacles include government red tape and regulations, cost of service, and varying geographic factors.

      FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the Commission, took issue with the draft report that reports significant progress.

      “Millions of households -- in rural and urban communities -- have no access to high-speed service,” she wrote in a tweet. “That’s a fact.”

      The five commissioners -- three Republicans and two Democrats -- will meet later to vote on whether to adopt the draft as official FCC policy.

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a draft report, says the U.S. has made great strides in closing the “digital divide” and expanding broadban...
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      Johnson & Johnson subpoenaed by federal agencies over baby powder litigation​

      The pharmaceutical company has been asked to provide documents related to the safety of its baby product line

      Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby powder line.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have requested that the pharmaceutical giant produce documents that shed light on the safety of its baby powder products.

      The inquiries came in response to a Reuters report from December about product liability lawsuits against the company.

      Internal documents obtained by Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been aware since the 1970s that its talc and powder products occasionally tested positive for traces of asbestos -- a known carcinogen and lung irritant with no safe level of exposure. However, the company didn’t tell regulators or the public.

      J&J said the subpoenas “are related to news reports that included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information.”

      The company has denied the allegations presented in the Reuters report and argued that “decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”

      Johnson & Johnson has been sued numerous times by consumers who claim they got cancer after using the company’s products. The company said it intends to "cooperate fully” with the latest federal inquiries about the safety of its talcum powder products and that it will "continue to defend J&J in the talc-related litigation.”

      Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby...
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      Survey shows millennials are willing to move to buy an affordable home

      Young people now owe more in mortgages than older generations

      The image of millennials as uninterested in homeownership or stuck renting is misplaced, according to a new survey conducted by real estate marketplace realtor.com.

      The survey shows that millennials have taken on more in mortgage loans than both baby boomers or Generation X in recent months. While they typically purchase homes in more affordable markets, they are making smaller down payments and taking on larger mortgages as a result.

      "Millennials are getting older, with better jobs and deeper pockets, allowing them to expand their collective purchase power, and hence, their footprint in the market," said Javier Vivas, director of economic research at realtor.com. "The stereotype that millennials primarily choose to buy homes and live in large metro areas isn't the reality.”

      Cost of housing is the main factor

      In fact, millennials are more likely to choose a place to live based on its affordability than the two previous generations. As a result, they have been responsible for growth in some secondary markets like Nashville and Omaha. Vivas says this group continues to seek out less traditional secondary markets where homes and jobs are now available and plentiful.

      As home prices rise in those cities, millennials are seeking out other overlooked markets. The survey shows in recent months they have made Buffalo the most popular affordable market for their generation.

      The reason so many millennials have to relocate to become homeowners is the need for a so-called “starter home,” a house that is usually smaller and less expensive. That’s exactly the kind of house that is in short supply since builders have not built that many new ones since the housing crash of 2009.

      Leading the migration

      As a result, young consumers have led a migration of sorts, moving from large urban centers to smaller communities, often in other regions of the country. And when they move they buy houses.

      Beginning in early 2017, millennials became the largest segment of the population taking out mortgages, overtaking Generation X which had been the leader. At the end of last year, millennials were taking out 45 percent of all new mortgages, compared to 36 percent for Generation X and 17 percent for baby boomers.

      In addition to Buffalo, millennials are moving in great numbers to Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio. The median price of a millennial-purchased home is $238,000, $26,000 less than what the typical baby boomer pays and $51,000 less than what the average Gen-Xer pays.

      The image of millennials as uninterested in homeownership or stuck renting is misplaced, according to a new survey conducted by real estate marketplace rea...
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      BMW recalls older vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The airbag inflators in the sports steering wheels may explode

      BMW of North America is recalling 170,148 model year 2000-2003 525i Sedans, 530i Sedans, 540i Sedans, 525i Sports Wagons & 540i Sports Wagons, and model year 2000-2004 X5 SAV 3.0i, X5 SAV 4.4i, and X5 SAV 4.6is vehicles.

      The recall applies to vehicles where the original steering wheel has been replaced with the optional sports steering wheel.

      The sports steering wheel has a front airbag inflator that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicle for an optional sports steering wheel with an affected inflator. Dealers will replace the airbag module as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 4, 2019.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 170,148 model year 2000-2003 525i Sedans, 530i Sedans, 540i Sedans, 525i Sports Wagons & 540i Sports Wagons, and model ye...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2009 Muranos

      Additional brake pedal travel may be required to stop the vehicle

      Nissan of North America is recalling 86,265 model year 2009 Muranos.

      The valves within the ABS Hydraulic Control Units (HCU) may react with brake fluids containing specific corrosion preventative additives. This reaction may cause the valves to not close properly.

      If the valves do not properly close, additional brake pedal travel may be required to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan has notified owners, and dealers will flush the brake system with DOT 4 fluid. The HCU will then be tested to detect a possible stuck valve condition. If necessary, the HCU will be replaced, free of charge.

      The recall began February 7, 2019.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-867-7669.

      Nissan of North America is recalling 86,265 model year 2009 Muranos.The valves within the ABS Hydraulic Control Units (HCU) may react with brake fluids...
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      Model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks recalled

      A loose ground fastener could cause a loss of power steering assist

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 159,740 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.

      The battery ground fastener on the driver-side front fender may have been improperly secured, possibly resulting in a loss of power steering assist.

      A loss of power steering could vary the steering effort required, possibly causing vehicle oversteer or understeer, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will properly secure the ground fastener, free of charge.

      The recall began on February 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V04.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 159,740 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.The battery ground fastener on the driver-side front fender may have been im...
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      Southwest says mechanics union to blame for flight cancellations

      The carrier says the ‘unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft’ is due to problems with the group

      Over the last week, Southwest Airlines has canceled over 600 flights and delayed over 1,000 others -- more than any other U.S. airline and double its own daily average, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

      The unusually high number of out-of-service aircrafts prompted the carrier to issue a ‘state of emergency” earlier this week. In an interview with CNBC, a spokesperson for Southwest acknowledged the “slight increase” in flight cancellations and attributed it to an “uptick in maintenance items.”

      Now, the carrier is pinning the blame on a mechanics union called the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).

      Problems with mechanics union employees

      Southwest said the mechanics union it’s been negotiating with has a history of labor disruptions. The company said it’s investigating the "current disruption and exploring all possible remedies.''

      "On Feb. 12, just days after our last negotiations session with AMFA, we experienced an unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft in four specific maintenance locations despite no change in our maintenance programs, no changes in leadership, and no changes in our policies and procedures," Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

      "We are committed to operating a safe fleet, and every report is investigated, which is why we issued a notice to require an 'all hands' response to get out-of-service aircraft back into the fleet serving our customers."

      Southwest also noted that it has two pending lawsuits against the union.

      Mechanics union responds

      In response to the accusations, the mechanics union quickly countered by accusing Southwest of using it as a scapegoat for other issues.

      "Southwest Airlines scapegoating of its expert aircraft maintenance technicians does not bode well for the airline’s safe operations,'' Bret Oestreich, national director of AMFA, said in a statement. "Safety is, and always will be, our number one priority.''

      "For Southwest's leadership to connect the airline's self-declared 'operational emergency' to collective bargaining negotiations is simply an attempt to divert attention away from the airline's safety issues," the organization said in a statement.

      Over the last week, Southwest Airlines has canceled over 600 flights and delayed over 1,000 others -- more than any other U.S. airline and double its own d...
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      Google Nest Secure users were surprised to learn it has a built-in microphone

      The tech giant said it wasn’t a secret, it just forgot to mention it

      Google Nest is a system of smart home products that can control thermostats, smoke detectors, and security systems. But it turns out the Nest Secure product has a built-in microphone, which was news to the consumers who had purchased it.

      That information came to light earlier this month when the company announced an update for Nest Secure that would allow users to enable its virtual-assistant Google Assistant by using voice commands.

      But Nest users were surprised to learn they could do that since they didn’t know there was a microphone connected to Nest Secure. Various technology publications scanned the product’s technical specs and found no mention of a microphone.

      Omission made in error

      In statements to the media, Google officials said the omission was made in error. The company said there was never any attempt to keep the microphone a secret.

      It also said that the microphone comes from the factory in the off position. It can only be turned on if the user enables it, and if the user was unaware of its existence, the microphone was not listening to private conversations.

      Why even have a microphone? Google says it was originally included on the Nest Guard to enable future updates, like the ability to listen for an intrusion into an otherwise unoccupied home.

      “Security systems often use microphones to provide features that rely on sound sensing,” Google said in a statement. “We included the mic on the device so that we can potentially offer additional features to our users in the future, such as the ability to detect broken glass.”

      Scrutiny over privacy

      Even if it’s an innocent omission, the news that Google failed to mention that one of its security devices has a built-in microphone is sure to ruffle privacy feathers. Google, along with other major tech companies, has come under increasing scrutiny for how it manages consumers’ private data.

      For its part, Google has long maintained that the internet is all about transparency. CEO Eric Schmidt famously remarked in 2009 that people who have things they don’t want people to know probably shouldn’t be doing them in the first place.

      Writing in Fortune in 2017, Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, maintained that “Google still doesn’t care about your privacy.”

      Turow said the bargain whereby consumers agree to give up personal information in exchange for seeing only relevant ads is a one-sided deal, suggesting that consumers have little understanding of what they’re giving up.

      Google Nest is a system of smart home products that can control thermostats, smoke detectors, and security systems. But it turns out the Nest Secure produc...
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      Toyota recalls 1.3 million vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The inflator may explode causing injury or death

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling nearly 1.3 million vehicles including:

      Model year 2014-2016 Toyota 4Runners, model year 2014-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2014 Toyota Siennas, Lexus IS-Fs, and model year 2014-2017 Lexus GX460s sold, or ever registered in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands – or "Zone A."

      Model year 2011-2013 Toyota Corollas, Corolla Matrixs, Lexus IS250s, IS350s, model year 2011-2016 4Runners, model year 2011-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2011-2014 Toyota Siennas, Lexus IS-Fs, model year 2011-2017 Lexus GX460s, and model year 2011-2012 Lexus ES350s ever registered in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – or "Zone B."

      Model year 2010-2013 Toyota Corollas, Corolla Matrixs, Lexus IS350s, model year 2010-2016 4Runners, model year 2010-2013 Lexus IS250s, model year 2010-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2010-2017 Lexus GX460s, model year 2010-2014 Lexus IS-Fs, and model year 2010-2012 Lexus ES350s ever registered in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming – or "Zone C."

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules, used as original equipment or replacement equipment (such as after a vehicle crash necessitating replacement of the original air bags), that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners. Depending on the vehicle model, dealers will replace the front passenger airbag inflator, or replace the airbag assembly.

      The recall was expected to begin February 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331.

      Toyota's codes for this recall are "Zone A" Toyota: G0P, Lexus: GLG; "Zone B" Toyota: G0R, Lexus GLH; "Zone C" Toyota: H0A, and Lexus: HLA.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling nearly 1.3 million vehicles including:Model year 2014-2016 Toyota 4Runners, model year 2014-2015...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.

      The headlights may be improperly adjusted

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104 model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.

      The horizontal adjustment screw may not be effectively sealed, allowing the headlights to be improperly adjusted.

      If the headlights are not properly adjusted, the driver may have reduced visibility, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the horizontal headlight adjustment screws, sealing them as necessary, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 13, 2019, notifying them of the issue. A second owner notification letter will be sent when the repair is available.

      Owners may contact Mercedes-Benz customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104 model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.The horizontal adjustment screw may not be effective...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2015-2017 Altimas

      The rear door may open when the window is lowered

      Nissan North America is recalling 341,003 model year 2015-2017 Altimas, previously remedied under an earlier recall.

      The door latch-lock cable may not have been routed properly in the rear door when the remedy was applied. As a result, it may interfere with the window regulator causing the rear passenger door to unlatch and inadvertently open without warning when the window is lowered.

      If the rear passenger door opens while the vehicle is moving, the passengers have an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will secure the latch-lock cables in the correct position using the new remedy procedure, free of charge.

      The recall began February 5, 2019.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7669.

      Nissan North America is recalling 341,003 model year 2015-2017 Altimas, previously remedied under an earlier recall.The door latch-lock cable may not h...
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      U.S. court gives people unfairly placed on the ‘No-Fly List’ the right to sue

      Questions of bullying and discrimination continue to be raised

      In a 7-3 vote on Thursday, a federal appeals court said that American Muslims who found themselves on the “No-Fly List” because they refused to become a government informant can file lawsuits against FBI agents and seek monetary damages.

      The plaintiffs -- which include all U.S. citizens or permanent residents born abroad --  had sought damages under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 United States federal law that "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected." The plaintiffs claimed that being on the “No-Fly List” precipitated social alienation, the inability to visit relatives, and even job loss.

      “The dissent argued that the decision places an unacceptable burden on federal employees tasked with protecting national security,” commented aviation blog LiveAndLetsFly. “The dissent feared these professionals will become too intimidated to protect national security for fear of being held personally liable. The dissent also argued that Supreme Court precedent specifically limited the liability of government officials for such misconduct.”

      “...should not government officials be held accountable for essentially bullying innocent parties who do not wish serve as government informants? Perhaps it is time for Congress to change the law.”

      This is the second such No-Fly List court ruling already this year. Reuters recently reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-3 that the government should pay millions of dollars to lawyers for a Muslim woman it put on the No-Fly List after mistakenly branding her a terrorist.

      One might think the government would have its airline passenger scrutiny act together by now. As far back as 2005, ConsumerAffairs reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) found itself in a stew when it mistakenly put 30,000 unsuspecting airline passengers on a "terrorist watch" list.

      What is the No-Fly List?

      The No-Fly List is a list created and maintained by the federal government's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). It is made up of people prohibited from boarding commercial aircraft for travel within, into, or out of the United States.

      The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long criticized the list as “bloated, discriminatory, and unfair.”

      “Because of the extreme secrecy surrounding the No-Fly List, people generally only discover that they are on it when they are denied boarding at the airport,” writes the ACLU.

      “The public does not know how many people are on the No-Fly List, and the criteria for inclusion are so broad and vague that they inevitably ensnare innocent people engaged in First Amendment-protected speech, activity, or association. The process the government has established for people on the No-Fly List to challenge their blacklisting is grossly insufficient and violates the Constitution’s due process guarantee.”

      Name-calling consumers has major consequences

      As credit reporting agency TransUnion found out a couple of years ago, misidentifying a consumer as a terrorist can be a costly mistake.

      When TransUnion labeled consumers as criminals in their credit reports, a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 8,000 consumers ensued, eventually resulting in a $60 million jury award to the plaintiffs.

      In a 7-3 vote on Thursday, a federal appeals court said that American Muslims who found themselves on the “No-Fly List” because they refused to become a go...
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      FAA probing Southwest’s system for calculating cargo weight

      An investigation reportedly found ‘systemic and significant’ discrepancies

      Federal regulators are reportedly investigating Southwest Airlines for the way it calculates the weight of checked bags on suspicion that it is under-reporting its load.

      The Wall Street Journal reports the investigation began a year ago and has turned up “systemic and significant” mistakes. It’s a critical issue because pilots make calculations based on the weight the plane is carrying.

      The investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly found the difference between what the pilots believed to be the weight they were carrying and the actual weight was as much as 1,000 pounds.

      According to the aviation website Skybrary, it is important to know the exact weight on board because any excess weight reduces the efficiency of an aircraft and the safety margin available if an emergency condition should arise.

      “Overloading effects stability,” the site’s editors write. “An aircraft that is stable and controllable when loaded normally may have very different flight characteristics when overloaded. Although the distribution of weight has the most direct effect on this, an increase in the aircraft’s gross weight may be expected to have an adverse effect on stability, regardless of the location of the CG (center of gravity).”

      In a statement to the media, Southwest said it is continuing to track and report its operational data to the FAA “so that we can mitigate and eliminate any operational risks.” There have been no Southwest operational incidents attributed to a misloaded aircraft.

      State of emergency

      February hasn’t been especially kind to Southwest. On Friday the airline issued a “state of emergency” after the out-of-service rate for its fleet of Boeing 737s doubled. Around 100 flights had to be canceled because of maintenance issues, complicating weather delays.

      "The uptick in maintenance items we experienced over the last few days have resulted in a slight increase" in cancellations, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told CNBC on Friday.

      Southwest said it believes any weight discrepancies reported to the FAA have been resolved, though it is continuing to closely monitor its baggage control system. The FAA said its investigation will remain open until such time that it is satisfied that the airline has resolved the issue.

      Federal regulators are reportedly investigating Southwest Airlines for the way it calculates the weight of checked bags on suspicion that it is under-repor...
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      Amazon vows to reduce its carbon footprint

      The company is aiming to make half of its shipments carbon-neutral by 2030 under a new sustainability initiative

      Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is aiming to make 50 percent of all Amazon shipments carbon-free by 2030.

      In a blog post, Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of world operations, said that with improvements in electric vehicles, aviation biofuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy, the company can now “see a path to net zero carbon delivery of shipments to customers.”

      “It won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but it’s worth being focused and stubborn on this vision and we’re committed to seeing it through,” Clark said.

      Going green

      Amazon said it will share its company-wide carbon footprint “along with related goals and programs” later this year. The data will be obtained from an advanced scientific model capable of accurately mapping Amazon’s carbon footprint, which will also help the company identify ways to reduce carbon use in its operations, Clark added.

      The e-commerce giant’s “Shipment Zero” initiative complements other sustainability programs currently being run by Amazon, including Frustration-Free Packaging and Ship in Own Container.

      Amazon also noted that it has a network of solar and wind farms, solar installations on its fulfillment center rooftops, and investments in the circular economy. The company said it employs more than 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers who are dedicated to developing new ways to leverage Amazon’s scale for the “good of the customers and the planet.”

      Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Fusion Energi vehicles

      The vehicles not meet required enhanced level of high voltage access protection

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,100 model year 2019 Ford Fusion Energi vehicles.

      The cars do not meet the enhanced level of high voltage access protection required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 305.

      This condition could allow contact with an uncovered high voltage fuse through a small gap behind the access panel, potentially increasing the risk of injury.

      Ford has not received any reports of accidents or injuries resulting from this condition.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners and dealers will install a cover over the high voltage battery electrical center.

      Owners may contact Ford at (866) 436-7332 . Ford's reference number for this recall is 19C05.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,100 model year 2019 Ford Fusion Energi vehicles.The cars do not meet the enhanced level of high voltage access protec...
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      Model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300s and C300 4MATICs recalled

      The headlights may not be adjusted properly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,364 model year 2018 C300s and C300 4MATIC.

      The headlights on these vehicles may not be properly adjusted. As a result, the driver may have reduced visibility, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the setting of the headlights and adjust them, as necessary, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to customers to notify them of the issue on February 11, 2019. Owners will receive a second letter when the repair is available.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,364 model year 2018 C300s and C300 4MATIC.The headlights on these vehicles may not be properly adjusted. As a...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees

      The instrument cluster may fail resulting in a lack of activation of warning chimes

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.

      The instrument cluster may fail resulting in a lack of activation of warning chimes, messages, and gauges.

      A lack of warning chimes, messages, and gauges providing vehicle information to the driver, could increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the instrument cluster, free of charge.

      The recall began February 7, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is UC4.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.The instrument cluster may fail resulting in a lack of activation of warning chime...
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      NYC mayor disappointed in Amazon’s decision to cancel HQ2 plans

      Bill de Blasio called Amazon’s decision ‘an abuse of corporate power’

      New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not hold back when it came to venting his frustrations about Amazon canceling its plans to build a second headquarters in Queens.

      "This is an example of an abuse of corporate power," de Blasio told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press” on Sunday. "Amazon just took their ball and went home. And what they did was confirm people's worst fears about corporate America."

      Last week, de Blasio said Amazon “threw away” an opportunity by backing out of the deal.

      "You have to be tough to make it in New York City," he said in a statement. "We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."

      Amazon reneges on the deal

      De Blasio, a Democrat, had been a huge supporter of the plan to have Amazon’s second headquarters in New York. Last November, he claimed that it would be a boon to locals, including residents of a large public-housing development located near the proposed site.

      But Amazon ultimately decided not to carry out its plan to build HQ2 in New York.

      "After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," the company wrote in a blog post last week.

      The company said it will not look to replace New York with another city, but it “will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville” and will “continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” according to CNN.

      Democrats split

      Although some Democrats are disappointed in Amazon’s decision, others have declared it a victory. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district is near the site where Amazon would have been located, gave her take to NBC.

      “I think it’s incredible. It shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities.”

      De Blasio acknowledged the division among progressives on Sunday, but argued that it’s possible for progressives to govern effectively while also creating jobs.

      "I am representing 8.6 million people, and a clear majority of those people believe we need more fairness in our economy. But of course, we need jobs, we need growth, we need revenue,” he said. “Progressives can do both.”

      In an op-ed for the New York Times published Saturday, de Blasio wrote that the deal would have created up to 25,000 jobs. He expressed his dismay that Amazon couldn’t handle even a small amount of public criticism about income inequality.

      “The lesson here is that corporations can’t ignore rising anger over economic inequality anymore,” de Blasio wrote. “We see that anger roiling Silicon Valley, in the rocks hurled at buses carrying tech workers from San Francisco and Oakland to office parks in the suburbs.”

      New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not hold back when it came to venting his frustrations about Amazon canceling its plans to build a second headquarte...
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      Housing inventory is growing again, reversing a four-year decline

      Here’s why it might not help most buyers

      The number of homes for sale nationwide increased in January, reversing a trend that began in 2014 and has contributed to steadily rising home prices.

      A new report from real estate marketplace Zillow shows housing inventory grew 1.2 percent last month, compared to January 2018. Theoretically, more homes for sale should balance out the supply and demand equation, which has favored sellers for more than four years.

      But a closer look at the numbers suggests the average home buyer might not benefit from the shift, at least not yet. The Zillow report notes that the biggest increase in housing inventory occurred in five red-hot markets where homes are among the most expensive in the country and out of reach for the average buyer.

      Housing inventory in more modestly priced markets like Pittsburgh and Baltimore continued to fall, with both those cities seeing the number of available homes on the market falling by 10 percent. In fact, property in the entry-level segment of the market -- the so-called “starter homes” -- is still not that easy to find.

      Fewer homes mean higher prices

      Inventory levels are closely tied to price increases. When the market is flooded with a glut of homes for sale, buyers have more negotiating leverage. But the reverse is true when there are fewer homes than people who want to buy them.

      Zillow reports the median-priced home in the U.S. in January cost $225,300, up 7.5 percent year-over-year. Price increases are nearly twice as high in some of the nation’s more modestly priced housing markets like Indianapolis and Atlanta. Even so, Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas believes the current trend is encouraging.

      "For four years, it felt like home buyers couldn't catch a break as for-sale inventory became tighter and tighter with each passing month," Terrazas said. "But during the second half of 2018, something shifted. Home buyers aren't out of the woods yet, but there is a glimmer of light on the horizon”

      Hurdles for first-time buyers

      The number of homes on the market is moving higher, albeit at a slow pace. And first-time buyers still face hurdles due to rising prices and mortgage rates that are higher than at this time a year ago. Terrazas concedes that demand still outweighs supply so that the market remains competitive.

      First-time buyers who are still renting are also facing rising costs as the Zillow report shows rents grew on an annual basis for the third straight month. Rents rose in January by  2.1 percent over a year ago to a median of $1,468.

      The number of homes for sale nationwide increased in January, reversing a trend that began in 2014 and has contributed to steadily rising home prices.A...
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      Chrysler recalls 1.4 million vehicles with driver's front airbag issue

      Excessive internal pressure may cause the airbag inflator to explode

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,413,222 model year 2010 Dodge Ram 3500s, Ram 4500s/5500s, model year 2010-2011 Dodge Dakotas, model year 2010-2014 Dodge Challengers, model year 2010-2015 Dodge Challengers, Chrysler 300s, and model year 2010-2016 Jeep Wranglers.

      Excessive internal pressure may cause the driver's front airbag inflator to explode upon deployment.

      An exploding inflator could cause metal fragments to strike the vehicle occupants, potentially resulting in serious injury or death

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front airbag inflator, free of charge.

      The recall began February 4, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V01.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,413,222 model year 2010 Dodge Ram 3500s, Ram 4500s/5500s, model year 2010-2011 Dodge Dakotas, model year 2010-2014 Dod...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Mustangs and Lincoln Nautilus & Navigators

      The instrument panel cluster assemblies may be blank upon vehicle startup

      Ford is recalling about 4,300 model year 2019 Mustangs and Lincoln Nautilus & Lincoln Navigator vehicles.

      The vehicles' instrument panel cluster assemblies may be blank upon vehicle startup.

      Ford says it has received any reports of accidents or injuries resulting from this condition.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners and dealers will update the instrument panel cluster software.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19C03.

      Ford is recalling about 4,300 model year 2019 Mustangs and Lincoln Nautilus & Lincoln Navigator vehicles.The vehicles' instrument panel cluster assembl...
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      Model year 2010-2011 Chevrolet Malibus recalled

      The driver front airbag inflator may explode due to being overpressurized

      General Motors is recalling 1,145 model year 2010-2011 Chevrolet Malibus.

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver front airbag, the airbag inflator may explode due to being overpressurized.

      If the inflator explodes, sharp metal fragments may strike the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      GM has notified owners, and dealers will replace the front driver airbag module, free of charge.

      Interim notices informing owners of the safety risk were mailed February 8, 2019. Owners will receive a second notice when the remedy becomes available, which is expected to be in late March 2019.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at 800) 522-9559.

      GM's number for this recall is N182206630.

      General Motors is recalling 1,145 model year 2010-2011 Chevrolet Malibus.In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver front airbag, t...
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      The Weekly Hack: Hackers used one marine’s stolen info to steal cars and get surgery

      A hacker is advertising the sale of 620 million log-ins obtained from WhitePages, Coffee Meets Bagel, MyFitnessPal, and other services

      One missing wallet proved to be especially valuable to skilled identity thieves.

      A marine named Brandon Reagin for years has faced accusations that he was stealing cars and then undergoing surgery without paying for it. He traces the bizarre accusations back to 2004, when he lost his wallet. The wallet thief used the information to somehow obtain Reagin’s healthcare data.

      Ever since then, Reagin says that he regularly has to make phone calls to creditors and hospitals to get the unpaid hospital bills taken off his credit report.

      "It worked until the next billing cycle," he told CBS.

      Though the identity thief is now in prison, "that hospital may still have his information, his blood type under my name at that hospital," Regain added.

      Hacker sells millions of log-ins

      A single hacker has access to over 620 million usernames and passwords from 16 different services and is trying to sell them on the Dark Web.

      The British Newspaper The Register discovered the sale on Dream Market, an online market part of a Dark Web network called Tor. For less than $20,000 in Bitcoin, the hacker offered the consumer login information belonging to the following services:

      • Dubsmash (162 million)

      • MyFitnessPal (151 million)

      • MyHeritage (92 million)

      • ShareThis (41 million)

      • HauteLook (28 million)

      • Animoto (25 million)

      • EyeEm (22 million)

      • 8fit (20 million)

      • Whitepages (18 million)

      • Fotolog (16 million)

      • 500px (15 million)

      • Armor Games (11 million)

      • BookMate (8 million)

      • CoffeeMeetsBagel (6 million)

      • Artsy (1 million)

      • DataCamp (700,000)

      The services either have already warned consumers about data breaches in recent years or months, or confirmed to the newspaper that their data had been hacked recently.

      Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app, had to make the unfortunate announcement to its users on Valentine’s Day.

      “As a reminder, we never store any financial information or passwords,” the service told users.

      The seller told The Register that one person already purchased the records for Dubsmash, a video messaging app where users can lipsync over music videos and film clips.

      Security Experts say that login information is valuable to identify thieves because buyers can potentially re-use the same passwords for numerous apps -- yet another reason to use different passwords for all of your different accounts.

      One missing wallet proved to be especially valuable to skilled identity thieves.A marine named Brandon Reagin for years has faced accusations that he w...
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      Amazon pulls its plans for a second headquarters in New York

      The question of where next looms for the digital empire

      “Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today. We want no part of it -- New York, New York!”

      Amazon is deep-sixing its plans to build a new headquarters (HQ2) in Sinatra’s old New York. The company says it’s had enough of the Big Apple’s pushback.

      "After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," Amazon said in a statement. “For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term.”

      A road paved with good intentions?

      The short version is that, despite its best efforts to make New York one of its two new East Coast HQs and create 25,000 new in-city jobs, Amazon wasn’t feeling any love from New York politicians or workers.

      As an example, Amazon’s New York’s Long Island warehouse workers moved to unionize in late 2018 amid complaints of being overworked and underpaid.

      “Ever since they opened, management has forced everyone at the warehouse to work 12-hour shifts for five or six days a week,” said warehouse employee Rashad Long in a press conference employees held to voice their dissatisfaction.

      As you can imagine, Amazon took an opposite stance, claiming its “pioneering spirit,” wages as high as $23 an hour, and “world class benefits” was an employment package workers would have a tough time finding just anywhere.

      New York calls out Amazon

      New York’s City Hall thinks Amazon might be calling foul on the wrong team. Some have suggested that the online retail giant has been somewhat unappreciative of the $3 billion tax incentive New York gave it as part of its relocation incentives package.

      "You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world," New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted out on Thursday. "Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."

      Carolyn Maloney, a New York congresswoman, was skeptical from the start, and her spin took a decidedly sour turn upon hearing Amazon’s announcement.

      “Disappointed that NYC won’t be home to 25K+ new jobs from HQ2 & that LIC (Long Island City) will lose out on infrastructure improvements that would have accompanied this project. This is not the Valentine that NY needed,” Maloney tweeted.

      “The deal could have been improved. There were legitimate concerns raised and aspects that I wanted changed. I was ready to work for those changes. But now, we won’t have a chance to do that and we are out 25K+ new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments.”

      Where next?

      Amazon says it has no plans to "reopen the HQ2 search at this time." Rather than roll the dice before the dust on the New York brush-off settles, the company says it “will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.”

      However, the company isn’t completely bailing out of New York -- simply out of its new Long Island City headquarters.

      “We love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture -- and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.”

      “Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today. We want no part of it -- New York, New York!”Amazon is deep-sixing its plans to build a new headquarter...
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      Relationship success could hinge on commitment readiness

      Researchers suggest there are several factors that contribute to feeling ready for commitment

      In the wake of Valentine’s Day, many coupled-up consumers are taking stock of their relationships, and a new study may have them thinking about the future.

      According to researchers, the success -- or failure -- of a relationship is greatly affected by both partners’ readiness to commit to one another.

      “Feeling ready leads to better relational outcomes and well-being,” said researcher Chris Agnew. “When a person feels more ready, this tends to amplify the effect of psychological commitment on relationship maintenance and stability.”

      Feeling ready

      The researchers used a number of studies and independent responses from consumers in relationships to gauge how readiness affects the success of relationships.

      In the first study, over 400 adults were asked to respond to a survey based on their relationships so the researchers could gauge stability and each partner’s investment in their commitment. Another study involved over 200 college-aged students who were coupled up, all of whom were asked similar questions about their relationships. The researchers then followed up with them five months and seven months later to see if they stayed together and how the relationships were doing since the initial analysis.

      The researchers found that in both cases, those who reported feelings of “readiness” during the survey were in healthier, more stable relationships, while the inverse was also true.

      The researchers determined that those who felt ready to be committed were 25 percent less likely to break up with their partners than those who weren’t ready. However, despite how confident participants were in their partners, if the timing wasn’t right, the relationships ultimately failed.

      The researchers note that there are many factors that could play a role in participants’ feelings of relationship readiness, all of which should be taken into consideration when consumers are thinking about starting a new relationship.

      “People’s life history, relationship history, and personal preferences all play a role,” Agnew said. “One’s culture also transmits messages that may signal that one is more or less ready to commit.”

      Things to consider

      While many consumers turn to interest-specific dating apps to meet new love interests, those who are already in relationships have a lot to think about -- particularly where financial matters are concerned.

      Not only is financial compatibility a large indicator of relational compatibility, but nearly half of consumers reported that they would end a relationship over spending concerns. Forty-six percent of couples surveyed said they would end a relationship if their partner spent money irresponsibly.

      "It's probably not a great idea to ask for someone's financial history on the first date," said credit card analyst Mike Cetera. "However, it's better to know if a potential partner has a history of bad financial decisions before the relationship goes too far, especially if you plan on making large purchases together or sharing bank accounts."

      In the wake of Valentine’s Day, many coupled-up consumers are taking stock of their relationships, and a new study may have them thinking about the future....
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      Gas prices hold steady over the last seven days

      A steep drop in demand kept prices at the pump stable

      Motorists continue to enjoy relatively low gasoline prices, but price increases could be just around the corner.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.29 a gallon, a penny more than last Friday. That’s about 27 cents less than at this time last year.

      The average price of premium gas is unchanged from last week at $2.86 a gallon. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.92 a gallon, also unchanged from last week. One reason gas prices have remained stable is a drop in demand. Cold weather may have played a role in that.

      “For two weeks, demand numbers have been decreasing,” AAA said in its latest market update. ‘The latest Energy Information Administration data reveals that gas demand fell by approximately 425,000 barrels a day from the previous week to 8.6 million barrels a day.” This latest rate is down by more than 400,000 barrels a day when compared to last year at this time.

      On Twitter, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reported prices have begun to lurch higher in the Great Lakes region.

      “We'll likely see the national average rise to its highest in a few months before tapering off slightly in the days ahead,” he wrote.

      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 ($3.27)

      • California ($3.26)

      • Washington ($2.87)

      • Nevada ($2.84)

      • Alaska ($2.82)

      • Oregon ($2.75)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.50)

      • New York ($2.46)

      • Connecticut ($2.45)

      • Arizona ($2.44)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($2.00)

      • Arkansas ($1.97)

      • Oklahoma ($2.02)

      • Alabama ($1.98)

      • Mississippi ($1.98)

      • Texas ($1.98)

      • Kansas ($2.02)

      • South Carolina ($2.01)

      • Louisiana ($2.02)

      • Colorado ($2.03)

      Motorists continue to enjoy relatively low gasoline prices, but price increases could be just around the corner.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the nat...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks

      The brake pedal may move too far and separate from pedal assembly

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 193,813 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks with adjustable pedals.

      The vehicles have a brake pedal that may move too far and separate from pedal assembly. This condition could prevent the driver from braking the vehicle, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will repair the adjustable pedal assembly, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin on March 27, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V07.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 193,813 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks with adjustable pedals.The vehicles have a brake pedal that may move too far...
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      Ford recalls model year 2017-19 Lincoln Continentals

      The door latch may not fully engage

      Ford is recalling about 28,200 model year 2017-19 Lincoln Continentals.

      The autos may have an intermittently functioning door latch motor due to the buildup of silicon contamination, resulting in the door latch not fully engaging.

      This condition could increase the potential for the door to open while the car is being driven, increasing the risk of injury.

      Ford is not aware of any reports of accidents or injuries resulting from this condition.

      What to do

      Dealers will remove and replace the door latch assemblies in all four doors of the recalled vehicles.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S03.

      Ford is recalling about 28,200 model year 2017-19 Lincoln Continentals.The autos may have an intermittently functioning door latch motor due to the bui...
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      Valentine’s spending is up, but consumer participation is down

      Just 51 percent adults in the U.S. are expected to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2019

      American consumers will spend nearly $21 billion for Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But although Valentine’s spending is up 5.6 percent from last year, shopper participation in the holiday has dropped in recent years.

      “Ten years ago, more than 60 percent of adults planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day; today, that’s dropped to just over half,” the NRF said.

      “At the same time, spending for the holiday has continued to rise and is projected to reach more than $20 billion this year. Driving these opposing trends are three critical shifts in how consumers view and celebrate love’s official holiday.”

      Key insights

      The NRF estimates that consumers who will celebrate the holiday will spend $162, on average, per person. Last year, that number was about $144.

      For Valentine’s Day 2019, the NRF estimates that:

      • One in every three American adults will celebrate with a night out this year;

      • 52 percent of Americans will mark the occasion by buying candy;

      • 44 percent will buy a card;

      • 35 percent will buy flowers; and

      • An estimated $886 million will be spent on pet gifts this year.

      Consumer participation falling

      While the average amount spent for Valentine’s Day per person is on the rise, the share of consumers who actually plan to celebrate the holiday has been steadily falling for “three overwhelming reasons,” according to Katherine Cullen, the NRF director of industry and consumer insights.

      “We did some surveying to understand why people might choose not to participate,” Cullen told Moneyish. “And three overwhelming reasons were that: there was a sense of feeling among some consumers that Valentine’s Day is over-commercialized; people also tend not to participate if they do not have a significant other; and then they just weren’t interested anymore.”

      Surveys commissioned by the NRF in recent years have also suggested that younger consumers often choose to mark the holiday differently than their older peers, such as by treating themselves or having an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration.

      “The definition of how you celebrate on Valentine’s day has broadened a lot,” Cullen noted.

      American consumers will spend nearly $21 billion for Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But although Valentine’s...
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      MoviePass delisted by Nasdaq following tumultuous 2018

      Subscriptions are still valid, but who knows for how long

      MoviePass ended Wednesday with one foot in the grave.

      Less than two weeks after MoviePass subscribers filed a class action lawsuit for pulling a “bait and switch” con, and less than a month since the company went back to its original subscription model in an attempt to win back subscribers, the grim reapers at the Nasdaq have delisted the company.

      Once and for all?

      The situation is looking bleak for the once-popular movie subscription service. MarketWatch reports that HMNY, the stock for Helio & Matheson Analytics (H&M), MoviePass’ parent company, was suspended from trading when the markets opened on Wednesday. However, the stock will still be available to traders via the over-the-counter market system, where trading can be done directly between two parties, without the supervision of an exchange.

      Nasdaq sent H&M word in December that its stock would be delisted if it failed to maintain the minimum $1 bid price and the company appealed, but with no success. H&M has an extra 15 days to ask for one reprieve, but the company says it has no plans to make that move.

      What about my movie subscription?

      Consumers who are signed up for the movie subscription service can still take advantage of it, at least for the time being.

      An H&M spokesperson told CNN that the delisting "has no effect on the day-to-day business operations" of Helios & Matheson and its subsidiaries, including MoviePass, adding that there’s a possibility that MoviePass may be in for a partial spin-off.

      MoviePass ended Wednesday with one foot in the grave.Less than two weeks after MoviePass subscribers filed a class action lawsuit for pulling a “bait a...
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      There was almost no inflation in the economy in January

      Increases in the cost of food and health care were balanced by cheaper gasoline

      You might not notice any change in the high cost of college or health care, but the overall inflation rate didn’t budge in January.

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was unchanged last month. For the year, the CPI is up only 1.6 percent, well below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.

      Food and energy costs, which together were lower in January, kept the CPI in check. When those two categories are removed, prices were up 0.2 percent. Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, says it’s almost as though Goldilocks wrote the CPI report since it was “just right.”

      “The overall index was unchanged for January, and all items were up just 1.6% over the last year,” Frick said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “Just as important, wages again ticked up, rising 0.1 percent in January. No increase in inflation combined with a rise in wages means American workers' real wages -- nominal wages minus inflation -- increased for another month.”

      Moving in the right direction

      While wages were higher, Frick says consumers haven’t seen the kind of real wage gains that have been present in other late-stage expansions. Even so, he says paychecks are moving in the right direction -- and the report holds more good news for consumers.

      “This also argues against the Fed raising rates soon, at least, keeping the expansion expanding to the benefit of workers,” Frick said. “They should expect a continued strong jobs market together with rising real wages for the foreseeable future."

      If the Fed decides there is no need to raise interest rates again, it means the interest rate on credit cards will likely remain stable over the next few months. Consumers carrying large credit card balances have seen their credit card interest payments rise every time the Fed hiked the federal funds rate.

      Gasoline prices fall

      In a big break for consumers, energy costs went down for a third consecutive month. The price of gasoline was down 5.5 percent.

      The price of food was slightly higher last month, rising 0.2 percent from December. The biggest increase in food costs came in the restaurant sector.

      Consumers paid more for housing, clothing, medical care, recreation, and household furnishings and operations last month. Airfares were cheaper and so were car insurance policies.

      You might not notice any change in the high cost of college or health care, but the overall inflation rate didn’t budge in January.The Bureau of Labor...
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      Honda recalls Acura MDXs & TLXs and Honda Accords

      The fuel pump may suffer reduced performance, resulting in a stall

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 437,032 model year 2016-2018 Acura MDXs and model year 2015-2019 TLXs and model year 2015-2017 Honda Accords equipped with a 3.5L V6 engine.

      Particulates in fuel may adhere to the internal components of the fuel pump, reducing its performance.

      Reduced fuel pump performance can result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will update the fuel injection engine control unit software and -- if necessary -- replace the fuel pump, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin on March 25, 2019.

      Owners may contact customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Acura's recall number for this recall is P3W. Honda's recall number for this recall is N3X.

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 437,032 model year 2016-2018 Acura MDXs and model year 2015-2019 TLXs and model year 2015-2017 Honda Accords equippe...
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      Birdseed Food recalls Craft Granola Goldenola: Turmeric & Ginger

      The product contains cashews, an allergen not declared on the label

      Birdseed Food Co., of Bend, Ore., is recalling Craft Granola Goldenola: Turmeric & Ginger.

      The product contains cashews, an allergen not declared on the label.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product was sold from October 3, 2018 – February 7, 2019, in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York Oregon and Pennsylvania at retail stores (https://www.birdseedfoodco.com/pages/where-to-find) and online at https://www.birdseedfoodco.com/collections/all, https://getintothebubble.com/, and https://www.farmtopeople.com/.

      It comes in 3-oz., and 11-oz., yellow bags with all expiration dates and includes up to 061419.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product and are allergic to cashews should not consume it.

      Consumers desiring a product replacement or further information, may contact Ashley at (541) 788-6352.

      Birdseed Food Co., of Bend, Ore., is recalling Craft Granola Goldenola: Turmeric & Ginger.The product contains cashews, an allergen not declared on the...
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      Ford recalls 1.48 million model year 2011-13 F-150s

      The vehicle may experience an unintended downshift into first gear

      Ford is recalling 1.48 million model year 2011-13 F-150s with 6-speed automatic transmissions.

      The transmission that may experience an intermittent loss of the transmission output speed sensor signal to the powertrain control module, potentially resulting in a temporary, unintended downshift into first gear.

      Depending on vehicle speed, a downshift to first gear without warning could result in a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      Ford is aware of five reports of accidents, including one report of “whiplash” potentially related to this condition.

      What to do

      Dealers will update the powertrain control module software in the affected vehicles.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. The Ford reference number for this recall is 19S07.

      Ford is recalling 1.48 million model year 2011-13 F-150s with 6-speed automatic transmissions.The transmission that may experience an intermittent loss...
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      Lufthansa sues passenger over using the ‘hidden city’ fare ploy

      The strategy is neither illegal or immoral insists one airfare deal aggregator

      In an interesting twist, Lufthansa has filed a lawsuit against a passenger for leveraging a ploy that seasoned flyers use to cop cheaper fares.

      CNN reports that Lufthansa has dragged a passenger into court for not showing up to the last leg of his ticketed journey. While that might seem like an innocent enough act, the German airline claims that the passenger was trying to leverage the "hidden city" ticket trick, a method experienced airline passengers employ to get cheaper fares.

      Before travelers were pulled into the digital world of algorithms that airlines use to maximize their revenue stream, they would often try ploys like “hidden city ticketing,” where the passenger books a ticket to a fictitious destination (the "hidden" city) with a connection at the intended destination, then walks away at the connection node and discards the remaining segment.

      Why? Because the flight between point A to point C, with the connection at point B, might be less expensive than a flight from point A to point B.

      In Lufthansa’s situation, an unnamed passenger booked a return flight from Oslo, Norway to Seattle, Washington that had a planned layover in Frankfurt, Germany. However, the wily passenger used all legs of the outbound flight, but opted out of the Frankfurt to Oslo return flight and, instead, flew on an unconnected Lufthansa reservation from Frankfurt to Berlin, Germany.

      Lufthansa didn’t like that. The airline saw the flyer’s tactic as a violation of its terms and conditions and is asking for more than $2,000 in compensation.

      A German district court gave a thumbs-down to the airline’s lawsuit in December, 2018, but a Lufthansa representative confirmed to CNN that the airline has "already filed the appeal against the decision."

      Unethical or just playing the game?

      Leveraging the hidden city ploy is old hat to veteran flyers. Bill Rieke, a Cincinnati-based elite, frequent, and long distance traveler, told ConsumerAffairs that when Comair was in Cincinnati  -- and Cincy had the highest average ticket prices in the country -- he would often use the hidden cities maneuver.

      “I would simply have someone drive me 80 miles to Dayton, then fly back through Cincinnati to some destination. Then on the return home, I’d just fly back to Cincinnati and never go to Dayton,” Rieke said.

      Whether playing that game is kosher or not is up for debate. Some say it’s unethical because a flyer is taking a seat they’re not going to actually use -- one that another passenger might need to get somewhere at the last minute.

      The legal hounds at an airline’s headquarters might argue that hidden city ticketing violates their “contract of carriage,” but some travel industry observers disagree.

      "’Hidden city’ ticketing is neither illegal nor immoral,” Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights told ConsumerAffairs. “No law is broken when a passenger decides not to take a flight he or she bought, and twice now when airlines have sued to cut back on the practice, their lawsuits have been dismissed. There's a reason the New York Times' Ethicist gave his seal of approval to ‘hidden city’ ticketing -- when consumers buy something they're under no obligation to use the entire product. This is true whether it's a plane ticket or an extra-large pizza.”

      The almighty dollar vs. the besmirched consumer

      Airline deregulation has created sky high profits for carriers but few silver linings for travelers.

      In Lufthansa’s case, that’s the big question: which has more value? Is it the almighty dollar and potentially negative public relations value of taking on a customer for trying to get a deal on airfare or grinning and bearing a crease in the company’s policies?

      Lufthansa’s consumer satisfaction rating is pockmarked with experiences that beg for an answer to that question.

      “Lufthansa used to be my go-to airline even when I worked for a certain ‘5 star’, top rated Skytrax airline, I would always use, recommend and speak highly of Lufthansa,” said one consumer. “However, their new fare paradigm which includes economy and ‘premium economy’ and less than competitive fares has me jaded.”

      In an interesting twist, Lufthansa has filed a lawsuit against a passenger for leveraging a ploy that seasoned flyers use to cop cheaper fares.CNN repo...
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      Eddie Lampert says future Sears stores will be smaller

      The company may also go public

      Sears chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert, whose $5.2 billion bid to buy Sears Holdings through his hedge fund ESL investments was approved earlier this month, told the Wall Street Journal that future Sears and Kmart stores will be smaller than they were in the past.

      “Our goal is to continue to shrink the size of our stores,” Lampert told the Journal. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather be bigger than smaller. We still have enough of a critical mass.”

      In addition to being about a third of the size that they were before the company went bankrupt, Lampert said future stores will have less apparel and more tools and appliances.

      Possibility of becoming a public company

      Lampert -- who now owns 425 stores in total (223 Sears and 202 Kmart stores) -- also told the Journal that Sears could eventually go public.

      “If I am a betting person, which I am, I would say at some point we would be public again,” Lampert said in the interview.

      Sears isn’t the first struggling brick-and-mortar retailer to announce that it’s changing its game plan in an effort to stay afloat. Last week, competitor J.C. Penney announced its decision to stop selling appliances as part of a larger home department reorganization.

      The retailer said that removing major appliances would help it "better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance, and drive profitable growth."

      Some have expressed skepticism over Sears’ post-bankruptcy revival plan.

      “They have a shot, but it’s a long shot,” Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, told the Journal.

      Sears chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert, whose $5.2 billion bid to buy Sears Holdings through his hedge fund ESL investments was approved earlier this...
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      Mortgage rates fall for most home buyers in January

      An industry report shows the rate for the average borrower dropped below 5 percent

      Home buyers have faced challenges over the last year because of rising mortgage rates, but those rates have dipped in the last month -- at least for buyers with the best credit.

      According to the latest monthly report from LendingTree, buyers with the best credit profiles were offered 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates that averaged 4.19 percent, down from 4.35 percent in December.

      The difference of 16 basis points on a $200,000 mortgage lowers the monthly payment by $18.75.

      There was a bigger drop for consumers refinancing their mortgage. The average offer to refinance an existing loan fell from 4.34 percent to 4.14 percent.

      Credit scores a major factor

      LendingTree is a mortgage marketplace. It allows homebuyers to enter their information, and then participating mortgage lenders try to offer the most competitive terms. The company says while credit scores are a major factor in getting a low interest rate, other factors are also considered, such as the type of property, the borrower’s income, and the loan-to-value ratio.

      The average borrower also saw mortgage rates decline from December to January, but the average rate was higher than for those with the best credit profiles. The average mortgage rate for all borrowers was 4.98 percent, 19 basis points lower than in December.

      Mortgage rates have risen over the past 12 months, but home buyers caught a break in January when the rate on the 10-year Treasury bond -- a key benchmark for mortgages -- dropped from 3.18 percent in December to 2.5 percent.

      Credit scores made a big difference in the interest a home buyer paid in January. Buyers with a credit score of 760, which is considered “excellent,” secured a mortgage rate of 4.79 percent. Those with a score of 639 paid an average rate of 5.75 percent.

      That’s a difference of $119 a month on a $200,000 mortgage, underscoring one of the major benefits of improving your credit score.

      Lower rates good news for the market

      Realtors are hopeful that a softening of mortgage rates could help housing recover from a lackluster 2018. Home prices continued to rise in most markets, but the pace of home sales declined.

      Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), said 2018 ended on a promising note, all things considered .

      “Home prices continued to rise in the vast majority of markets but with inventory steadily increasing, home prices are, on average, rising at a slower and healthier pace,” Yun said.

      Total existing-home sales, including single-family homes and condos, fell 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.180 million in the fourth quarter of last year, down from 5.273 million in the third quarter. That number is significantly lower than the sales pace during the fourth quarter of 2017.

      Home buyers have faced challenges over the last year because of rising mortgage rates, but those rates have dipped in the last month -- at least for buyers...
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      Hearing loss linked as a sign of cognitive decline in old age

      However, a study shows that consumers could slow the effects of aging

      Not too many consumers want to think about getting older; however, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California - San Diego may have people planning for the future.

      Researchers found that hearing loss is one of the first signs of advanced aging, and it could lead to cognitive difficulties in old age. However, according to the study, higher education can help with mild hearing loss.

      “We surmise that higher education may provide sufficient cognitive reserve to counter the effects of mild hearing loss, but not enough to overcome the effects of more severe hearing impairment,” said Linda K. McEvoy, PhD.

      Fighting hearing loss

      The researchers note that nearly 75 percent of adults over the age of 70 experience hearing loss, and they used this study to try to help combat any other aging issues that could come along with that.

      Using a longitudinal study, the researchers followed over 1,100 participants for about two and a half decades. The majority of the participants were women, and the average age was roughly 74 years old.

      None of the participants used a hearing aid when the study began, and they all had their hearing tested at the outset. Five additional examinations were conducted during the study period -- typically every four years.

      At the start of the study, the participants also completed several tests to analyze their cognitive functioning, and the researchers found that those with more severe hearing loss didn’t perform as well on these tests as those with more mild hearing loss.

      The tests revealed that less than 20 percent of participants had moderate to severe hearing loss, while nearly half of the group was classified as having mild hearing loss. However, the researchers found that participants who had finished college performed better cognitively over time than those who didn’t.

      “This was a somewhat unexpected finding,” said researcher Ali Alattar. “Others have postulated that cognitive deficits related to hearing impairment may arise from social isolation, but in our study, participants who had hearing impairment were as socially engaged as those without hearing loss.”

      The researchers hope these findings serve as a warning to healthcare professionals, and they encourage their patients to start protecting their hearing as early as possible.

      Other risks

      The researchers emphasize in their study that hearing loss cannot be reversed, and as their findings showed, patients can experience more than just impaired hearing.

      Another recent study found that hearing loss could be associated with premature death.

      The study found that those with spouses or partners were less likely to die early due to hearing loss; however, the researchers found that accidental deaths were a much larger risk for those who were on their own.

      “Old age greatly increases the risk for hearing loss,” said Dr. Vegard Skirbekk. “Therefore, as the population ages, we are seeing increasing numbers of people with hearing loss. At the same time, there are greater numbers of adults living without a partner -- putting people with hearing loss at an increased risk for death.”

      Not too many consumers want to think about getting older; however, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California - San Diego may h...
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      Ford recalls nearly 800k vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The passenger front airbag inflator may explode

      Ford Motor Company is recalling the following 782,384 vehicles:

      Model year 2014 Ford Mustangs sold, or ever registered, in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- or "Zone A."

      Model year 2011 Ford Rangers and Mercury Milans;, model year 2011-2012 Ford Fusions and Lincoln Zephyr/MKZs; and model year 2011-2014 Ford Mustangs sold, or ever registered, in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia -- or "Zone B."

      Model year 2010 Ford Edges and Lincoln MKXs, model year 2010-2011 Ford Rangers and Mercury Milans, model year 2010-2012 Ford Fusion and Lincoln Zephyr/MKZs, and model year 2010-2014 Ford Mustangs sold, or ever registered, in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- or "Zone C."

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules, used as original equipment or replacement equipment (such as after a vehicle crash necessitating replacement of the original airbags), that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger front airbag inflator, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin February 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall 19S01.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling the following 782,384 vehicles:Model year 2014 Ford Mustangs sold, or ever registered, in Alabama, California, Florida,...
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      Target recalls toddler boots

      The unicorn horn on the boot can detach, posing a choking hazard

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 22,600 pair of Cat & Jack Unicorn “Chiara” boots.

      The unicorn horn on the boot can detach, posing a choking hazard.

      Four consumers reported the unicorn’s horn detached. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall includes the Cat & Jack “Chiara” toddlers’ unicorn boots in sizes 5-13, and size 1. The boots are white with silver shimmer, include a white zipper, and white faux fur lining.

      The unicorn’s horn and inner ears are silver glitter and its eyelashes and nostrils are stitched and gray in color. At the base of the unicorn’s horn is pink, purple, and blue faux fur. The back and sides of the boots contain multi-colored stripes.

      The model numbers are located on the inside tag of the boot. The recalled model numbers begin with TARGET0930156XX, where XX corresponds to a specific sized boot.

      Item Number

      Product Name

      093-01-5653

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 5

      093-01-5654

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 6

      093-01-5655

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 7

      093-01-5656

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 8

      093-01-5657

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 9

      093-01-5658

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 10

      093-01-5659

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 11

      093-01-5660

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 12

      093-01-5661

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 13

      093-01-5662

      Cat & Jack "Chiara" Boots Size 1

      The boots, manufactured in China, were sold at Target stores nationwide, online at Target.com, and on Google Express from October 2018, through November 2018, for about $27.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled boots away from children and return them to any Target Store for a full refund. ​​

      Consumers may contact Target at (800) 440-0680 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) daily or online at www.target.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page, then on “Clothing” for more information. Consumers can also click the “Product Recalls” tab on Target’s Facebook page for more information.

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 22,600 pair of Cat & Jack Unicorn “Chiara” boots.The unicorn horn on the boot can detach, posin...
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      CDC calls out Juul and others for driving increase in teen tobacco use

      Rising teen vaping rates have caused a spike in tobacco use among teens, health officials say

      Federal health officials say the sharp increase in the use of vaping devices among teens has caused a significant spike in the number of teens using traditional products.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released its annual National Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey found that the number of high school students using tobacco products, which include e-cigarettes, rose by about 38 percent.

      The survey revealed that more than 1 in 4 high school students and about 1 in 14 middle school students used a tobacco product in 2018.

      Threatens to undo past progress

      The CDC said the ongoing rise in vaping among teens threatens to undo past progress in reducing rates of tobacco use among minors.

      "The skyrocketing growth of young people's e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use. It's putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

      Products manufactured by Juul have been shown to be especially attractive to minors because they come in fruity flavors such as mango, mint, and fruit and creme. Kids and teens who use e-cigarettes could be more likely to start smoking tobacco, the CDC said, citing previous research on the subject.

      In a statement, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the survey results were “deeply troubling.”

      “They add to mounting concerns that the rise in youth use of e-cigarettes, especially Juul, is vastly expanding the number of kids addicted to nicotine, could be leading kids to and not away from cigarettes, and directly threatens the decades-long progress our nation has made in reducing youth smoking and other tobacco use,” Myers said.

      Trends that require ‘unprecedented action’

      The FDA shares the CDC’s concerns about the alarming surge in e-cigarette use among teens. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has described the issue as an “epidemic” and repeatedly called for e-cigarette manufacturers like Juul to step up their efforts to combat youth use of their products.

      On Monday, Gottlieb expressed concern that e-cigarette manufacturers may be reneging on vows they made last year to counter teen use. In January, the FDA warned that e-cigarettes could be pulled from the market entirely if youth use continues to rise.

      "These trends require forceful and sometimes unprecedented action among regulators, public health officials, manufacturers, retailers and others to address this troubling problem," Gottlieb said in a statement.

      Juul’s Senior Director of Communications Victoria Davis has maintained that the company is “committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”

      Federal health officials say the sharp increase in the use of vaping devices among teens has caused a significant spike in the number of teens using tradit...
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      Average tax refunds are down 8 percent so far this year

      The IRS has processed fewer returns than at this point last year

      Taxpayers were supposed to pay less in taxes in 2018 under the latest overhaul of the tax system. But so far, federal income tax refunds don’t reflect that.

      New data from the IRS show that returns are lagging the pace of last year’s filing -- not surprising given the government shutdown. But the refunds that have been sent out so far are about 8 percent less than at a similar point last year.

      Refunds to date have averaged $1,865 compared to $2,035 for 2017 returns. On the surface it would seem to suggest that the tax cuts passed by Congress in late 2017 aren’t helping the average consumer. But there could be another explanation. Many taxpayers may have adjusted their withholding and didn’t pay into the system as much as they did in previous years.

      We’re also early in the tax-filing season because of the government shutdown. At this point in 2018 the IRS had processed nearly 18 million tax returns. To date, the agency has processed just over 13 million.

      Significant changes

      There were significant changes to the tax law for 2018, many of them affecting middle-income earners. First, the new tax law lowered most tax rates. More importantly, it nearly doubled the standard deduction, shielding more income from taxation.

      Many workers saw an increase in their paychecks after their employers made adjustments, but it is possible many employers slightly under-withheld, resulting in smaller refunds.

      According to the IRS data there have been 4.6 million refunds so far this year, but that is running well behind the 6.1 million refunds that had been sent out at this time last year. The IRS has distributed $8.7 billion in refunds so far compared to $12.5 billion in refunds at this time last year.

      Taxpayers were supposed to pay less in taxes in 2018 under the latest overhaul of the tax system. But so far, federal income tax refunds don’t reflect that...
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      Apple to launch Health Records feature for veterans

      The feature will allow veterans to see their medical information in the Health App

      Apple has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to enable veterans to see their medical records -- including allergies, known conditions, medications, procedures, and more -- on the iPhone Health Records app.

      “We have great admiration for veterans, and we’re proud to bring a solution like Health Records on iPhone to the veteran community,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “It’s truly an honor to contribute to the improved healthcare of America’s heroes.”

      The tech giant said the new feature for veterans is coming “soon,” but it didn’t say if the access would come by way of an iOS update.

      Betting on healthcare

      Last March, Apple announced that iPhone users at more than 100 hospitals and clinics across the country would be able to access parts of their medical records through the Health app. In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple may be aiming to allow patients to share their health information with other health apps.

      Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said health will likely be the company’s greatest contribution to mankind.

      “If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health,” Cook said in an interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

      Apple said the goal of its forthcoming feature for veterans is to “empower people to better understand and improve their health, enabling them to view their medical information from multiple providers in one place easily and securely.”

      “We’re excited to bring this feature to veterans across the US,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology.

      Apple has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to enable veterans to see their medical records -- including allergies, known conditions, medic...
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      General Motors recalls model year 2019 Cadillac XTS vehicles

      The front seat belt buckles may be missing a rivet

      General Motors is recalling 175 model year 2019 Cadillac XTS vehicles.

      The front seat belt buckles may be missing a rivet that secures the buckle head to the cable mounting strap.

      If the securing rivet is missing, the buckle may separate from the cable mounting strap in the event of a crash, preventing the occupant from being properly restrained, thereby increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front seat buckle assemblies, replacing them if the rivets are missing, free of charge.

      The recall was expected to begin on February 8, 2019.

      Owners may contact Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006. GM's number for this recall is N18-2204040.

      General Motors is recalling 175 model year 2019 Cadillac XTS vehicles.The front seat belt buckles may be missing a rivet that secures the buckle head t...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2018 Audi A5 Sportbacks

      A front wheel may come loose, posing a crash risk

      Volkswagen Group of North America is recalling model year 2018 Audi A5 Sportbacks.

      The front suspension fasteners may not have been sufficiently tightened during production, possibly resulting in a front wheel becoming loose.

      A loose front wheel may increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the front suspension fasteners, and replace them as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall began January 23, 2019.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 40O2.

      Volkswagen Group of North America is recalling model year 2018 Audi A5 Sportbacks.The front suspension fasteners may not have been sufficiently tighten...
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      New Texas bill looks to prevent mobile phone throttling during disasters

      The state wants to avoid what California firefighters endured during recent wildfires

      Net neutrality found itself at another fork in the road over the weekend, with the Texas State House of Representatives considering a bill to make throttling data during emergency situations unlawful.

      Specifically, State Representative Bobby Guerra’s proposed bill lays out that, effective September 1, 2019, “mobile Internet service provider(s) may not impair or degrade lawful mobile Internet service access in an area subject to a declared state of disaster.”

      Having had its fill of recent disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Texas wants to make sure it doesn’t suffer the same money grab that California did in the midst of its 2018 firestorm. During the Golden State’s incendiary ravage, Verizon was heavily criticized when it throttled the data plans of firefighters working at the Santa Clara County fire department.

      “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said at the time. “Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

      Money over sense?

      Reportedly, Bowden's staff approached Verizon to try to remedy the situation. While Verizon confirmed that throttling did occur, it agreed to restore the fire department to “essential” data speed if -- and only if -- the fire department upgraded to a new plan.

      “If that situation sounds slightly ridiculous to you, you certainly aren't alone,” wrote Techspot. “The fire department was frustrated by Verizon's response, to say the least, and sent Verizon account manager Silas Buss a series of hectic emails in a desperate attempt to get the restrictions lifted.”

      Reports say that Buss finally relented somewhat and offered a $99 plan that would cost the fire department an extra $8 per gigabyte once it reached its 20GB cap. Ars Technica reported the fire department decided that plan was the best fix, but only for the short-term.

      Evan Greer, deputy director of the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future, points out that Texas' proposed law could be a good first step towards restoring protections that were overturned by the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

      "Telecommunications companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T hold tremendous power. We saw during the wildfires in California that, without proper oversight, they can abuse this power in ways that not only undermine free speech but also public safety. It's great that states like Texas are pushing for legislation to hold these mega-corporations in check, but it's not a replacement for a functional FCC that is actually doing its job and protecting the public," Greer said in a statement to ConsumerAffairs. 

      "Congress should act immediately to reverse Ajit Pai's repeal of basic open internet protections, and demand that the FCC engage in proper oversight of internet providers to ensure they don't behave in ways that put people in danger." 

      Debate over an even internet playing field continues

      All of this push-and-pull goes back to net neutrality -- the assumption that internet service providers should treat all transmission of data over the internet equally and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, or method of communication.

      In its power to the people stance, California has spared no effort to try to reverse the FCC's controversial decision to roll back Title II net neutrality protections.

      However, the state’s attempts might be an uphill climb. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that net neutrality, as envisioned by California law, hurts consumers. Pai says that under the law, large service providers like Verizon would be prohibited from offering some free data plans that he says allow consumers to stream video and music, exempt from any data limits.

      “They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans,” Pai said. “But notwithstanding the consumer benefits, this state law bans them.”

      Net neutrality found itself at another fork in the road over the weekend, with the Texas State House of Representatives considering a bill to make throttli...
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      Chrysler recalls model-year 2013-2017 Ram pickup trucks

      A steering-linkage configuration may separate over time

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling an estimated 573,876 heavy-duty trucks in the U.S.

      A specific steering-linkage configuration on certain vehicles may separate over time, resulting in a loss of steering.

      The company says it is aware of one potentially related injury and eight potentially related accidents.

      The recall includes model-year 2013-2017 Ram 3500 pickups and model-year 2014-2017 Ram 2500 pickups and 3500 chassis cabs.

      In addition, an estimated 62,734 vehicles in Canada, 17,682 in Mexico and 5,837 in certain markets outside the NAFTA region may be recalled.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners when they may schedule service.

      Owners with questions or concerns may call Chrysler at (800) 853-1403, or go online at recalls.mopar.com to determine if their vehicles are being recalled.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling an estimated 573,876 heavy-duty trucks in the U.S.A specific steering-linkage configuration on certain vehicles may...
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      Bankruptcy judge approves former CEO’s bid to acquire Sears

      Opposition from unsecured creditors wasn’t enough to derail the deal

      A bankruptcy judge in New York has brought the Sears saga to an end, ruling that chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert’s bid to keep the retailer alive -- accepted by the company on January 17 -- is approved.

      Lampert’s offer of $5.2 billion for 425 stores was seen as a way to keep Sears in business while saving at least 45,000 jobs. But the deal quickly faced a legal challenge from the company’s unsecured creditors -- including manufacturers that had provided inventory and landlords who were owed back rent.

      These creditors told Judge Robert Drain that they would benefit more if the bankrupt company was forced to liquidate and its assets sold at auction. The hearing went on for several days and, at one point, entered the political realm when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voiced objections to Lampert taking control of the company.

      While Lampert promoted the job-preserving aspects of his buyout plan, Warren voiced skepticism that his rescue plan would be that beneficial for employees, accusing him of “slashing jobs” during his tenure as Sears CEO.

      "If your offer is accepted and approved, Sears will remain open and tens of thousands of American workers will keep their jobs in the short term," Warren wrote in a letter to Lampert. "But I am concerned that under your leadership, Sears may continue to struggle and employees will continue to face uncertainty and anxiety over their future employment and ongoing risks to their benefits and economic security."

      Alleged fraudulent activities

      Warren also called attention to the suit filed by unsecured creditors to block the sale to Lampert, noting that their 570-page motion alleged fraudulent activities by Lampert and his hedge fund during his tenure as chairman and CEO of Sears.

      The creditors got their day in court earlier this week, making one final appeal to the judge to not grant control of the retailer to Lampert and ESL Investments, his hedge fund. They argued that Lampert’s management of the company is one reason it is bankrupt.

      In a filing last week, Lampert accused Sears’ unsecured creditors of engaging in efforts intended to “poison the well” against ESL with "page after page of its pleadings with smears and false narratives that are completely irrelevant" to his potential Sears’ takeover.

      In the end, Judge Drain sided with Lampert, whose firm will take control of Sears’ remaining stores and assets.

      A bankruptcy judge in New York has brought the Sears saga to an end, ruling that chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert’s bid to keep the retailer alive --...
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      FDA commissioner concerned that Juul, Altria are backing away from teen vaping promises

      The agency head has requested a meeting to ensure that the companies are staying on track

      Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has reportedly questioned whether or not Juul and Marlboro-maker Altria are truly committed to combating the rise in teen vaping. Gottlieb has asked to talk with the CEOs of these companies about "public statements that seem inconsistent" with the vows they made last year to curb youth use of e-cigarettes.

      Gottlieb once again threatened to remove e-cigarettes from the market entirely if youth use continues to rise.

      The FDA has previously called the alarming surge in teen vaping an “epidemic.” From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

      “If youth use goes up 40 percent or 50 percent this year, we’re going to be having a very different discussion come this summer or fall,” Gottlieb said in an interview with Bloomberg.

      Accused of backing off plan

      In September, Gottlieb ordered the five largest e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their proposed plans for reducing use of e-cigarettes among minors.

      Altria, Juul Labs, and other e-cigarette makers have all maintained that they fully support efforts to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes. In November, Juul said that it would halt sales of many of its flavored e-cig pods in retail stores, as fruity flavors have been shown to appeal to underage users.

      Not long after these promises were made, Juul announced that it made a $12.8 billion deal with Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and makers of Marlboro cigarettes. Altria said it planned to use its distribution experience to get Juul into more stores.

      Questioning commitments

      In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Gottlieb stated that he’s "concerned."

      "Did something change? Do they have new data? Do they have a new understanding? Because they just made a very big commitment to support the expansion of pod-based products, which they said contributes to the youth epidemic."

      Altria said it still shares Gottlieb’s belief that "underage vaping has to be addressed” and that it’s still "committed to being part of the solution.”

      "We look forward to meeting with the commissioner," Altria spokesman Steve Callahan told CNBC.

      In December, Gottlieb expressed similar concerns over the lack of action from e-cig makers to curb teen use of their products. Gottlieb said he would be contacting e-cigarette makers “to meet to discuss commitments they made last month, and why some are changing course.”

      “There’s no reason manufacturers must wait for [FDA] to more forcefully address the epidemic. Yet some already appear to back away from commitments made to FDA and the public,” Gottlieb tweeted.

      Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has reportedly questioned whether or not Juul and Marlboro-maker Altria are truly committed to com...
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      Apple threatens to pull apps that record users’ screens

      Recording users’ activity without their knowledge is in violation of App Store Review Guidelines

      Just days after TechCrunch reported that a number of popular iPhone apps are recording users’ screens without their knowledge, Apple has sent a warning to developers threatening “immediate action” if they don’t remove the software that enables them to record user activity.

      Apps that don’t remove the technology or start informing users that their activity is being recorded could risk being banned from the app store, the tech giant warned.

      “App Store Review Guidelines require that apps request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity,” the company told TechCrunch.

      Earlier this week, the tech website released the results of an investigation conducted with mobile security blog The App Analyst. The investigation revealed that companies including Air Canada, Hollister, Hotels.com, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Expedia are “recording every tap and swipe” that users make in their iOS apps and sending the information back to the app developers.

      Use of a digital analytics tool

      The apps named are able to record user activity using Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm that allows developers to embed "session replay" technology into their apps. This enables developers to record users’ screens and play them back to glean information on how people use the app.

      “Since this data is often sent back to Glassbox servers, I wouldn’t be shocked if they have already had instances of them capturing sensitive banking information and passwords,” The App Analyst told TechCrunch.

      In response to these findings, Apple reportedly reached out to the developers and threatened to pull the apps if they don’t cease these privacy-violating practices. Recording users screens or actions without informing them violates Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, a spokesperson for the company said.

      Apple gave the app developers a deadline of 24 hours to remove the code that allows them to record screen activity.

      Potentially exposing sensitive data

      In response to the report, Glassbox maintained that its software is intended to be used to spot potential bugs and improve overall user experience. A spokesperson for the company told Fortune that it’s not “spying on consumers.” Rather, it’s providing customers with “tools that record and analyze user activity on websites and apps.”

      However, the App Analyst found that Air Canada, for example, wasn’t adequately masking sensitive information.

      “While there may be value in documenting user activity through screenshots, there is also a large amount of risk that the screenshots may capture sensitive data. Air Canada has attempted to mitigate this risk by configuring black boxes to cover sensitive fields. However this attempt has failed, potentially condemning a user’s sensitive data to residing in various screenshots stored by Air Canada.”

      Just days after TechCrunch reported that a number of popular iPhone apps are recording users’ screens without their knowledge, Apple has sent a warning to...
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      TSA confiscated 4,000+ firearms fliers tried to get through baggage screening in 2018

      ‘If you are not sure if an item is allowed in your bag, ask us!’ the agency begs

      It was a banner year for the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) in 2018. More than 800 million travelers and airline crew members passed through TSA screening. While those metrics are great to wave around, there’s another record-breaking metric within that 800 million that could raise some eyebrows.

      In its review of 2018, the TSA reports that it found an average of nearly 12 firearms every day in security checks -- 4,239 in all.

      “Throughout the year, TSA officers demonstrated great professionalism, dedication, integrity and remained committed to the mission to secure you – the traveling public. Thanks to their vigilance and skills, TSA officers intercepted a record number of firearms in 2018,” the agency wrote.

      Most of the firearms were discovered in carry-ons at checkpoints across the U.S. -- 86 percent of those loaded with ammunition, and 33 percent with a round of ammo already chambered.

      Airports on alert

      It’s not exactly a championship ring that airport employees would be proud to wear, but TSA agents at Atlanta-Hartsfield -- the world’s busiest airport -- discovered 298 firearms in 2018, more than any other U.S. hub and up 53 from 2017.

      The Top 10 airports seizing the most firearms are as follows:

      1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 298 – an increase of 53 compared to 2017 (253 loaded);

      2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 219 (193 loaded);

      3. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 129 (120 loaded);

      4. Denver International Airport (DEN): 126 (95 loaded);

      5. Orlando International Airport (MCO): 123 (112 loaded);

      6. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 117 – a decrease of 25 firearms compared to 2017 (115 loaded);

      7. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): 96 (80 loaded);

      8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS): 93 (76 loaded);

      9. Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL): 89 (83 loaded);

      10. Nashville International Airport (BNA): 86 (80 loaded).

      Along with firearms, the TSA hauled in a bevy of other prohibited items, including smoke grenades, lighter fluid, fireworks, knife combs, scissors (longer than 4 inches), miniature Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and mortar shell replicas.

      Fake or not, those mortar shells brought baggage screening to a screaming halt until an explosives specialist could examine the shells and give the all-clear.

      “Anything resembling an explosive item is prohibited in carry-on and checked bags,” the TSA’s Jay Wagner reminds travelers. “If you are not sure if an item is allowed in your bag, check out our What Can I Bring tool, snap a photo and Tweet or Facebook Message us, call us at (866) 289-9673, or shoot us an email (pun intended).”

      It was a banner year for the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) in 2018. More than 800 million travelers and airline crew members passed throug...
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      The average apartment rent rose 4.2 percent in the last year

      Rents rose the most in Northeastern cities

      Consumers who have been priced out of the housing market, and those who just prefer to rent, are facing higher costs.

      In its 2019 Rent Report, Apartment Guide reports the average rent is up 4.2 percent in the last 12 months. A big driver of the increase is an increase in demand for affordable housing, as home ownership has leveled off.

      The report makes calculations based on the costs of a studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartment. It also makes adjustments for different geographic locations within the U.S.

      Among the report’s significant findings -- the Northeast has the highest average rents in the U.S., with the average two-bedroom apartment going for more than $3,000 a month. While the average rent is up on an annual basis, it’s down slightly from September’s peak.

      You can get the best deal on an apartment in the South. The average rent has risen there in the last 12 months, but not by much. The next-smallest increase in rent took place in Midwestern markets.

      Biggest increase in Newark

      Breaking down the top 100 housing markets, the biggest annual increase in rent occurred in Newark, N.J., where rents went up more than 17 percent during 2018. On the other end of the scale, rents actually went down in New Orleans, falling 11.4 percent.

      Rising rent has been a growing problem because so many people are unable to purchase homes. Rising home prices and a steady increase in mortgage rates have made more homes in more markets unaffordable.

      While construction of new apartments has increased in recent months, it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the demand, which has served to push rents higher.

      Rent-burdened

      A 2018 report by the Pew Charitable Trust found that increases in rent have pushed more people into a classification called “rent-burdened.” That’s defined as a household spending 30 percent or more of its monthly income on rent.

      These households will typically find it much more difficult to transition to homeownership and tend to be more “financially fragile.”

      In the wake of the housing crash, mortgage lenders dramatically increased their lending standards, meaning fewer consumers could qualify for a mortgage to purchase a home. That kept more consumers in the rental market, dramatically raising rents in most areas.

      Mortgage standards have been relaxed a bit, but there are fewer homes to buy because home builders have scaled back their production over the last decade. That means some families that might be able to afford a home continue to rent.

      Consumers who have been priced out of the housing market, and those who just prefer to rent, are facing higher costs.In its 2019 Rent Report, Apartment...
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      Despite rising oil prices, gasoline prices remained stable in the last week

      The national average increased just three cents a gallon

      Gasoline prices rose slightly over the last week but remain remarkably stable amid fluctuating oil prices.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.28 a gallon, up two cents over the last seven days. Prices have risen only five cents a gallon over the last month.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.86 a gallon, two cents more than last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.92 a gallon, the same as last Friday.

      The numbers on fuel supplies from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) have been up and down since early January, making it difficult to get a fix of the state of the market. U.S. oil production has risen sharply in 2019, but gasoline demand has been up one week and down the next.

      Two weeks ago, gasoline demand was at mid-summer levels. But the EIA reports that demand went down again last week, heading off supply problems that can cause gasoline prices to spike. Despite increases in U.S. production, oil prices continue to creep higher. OPEC has pledged to cut production while the U.S. has imposed sanctions on oil from Venezuela.

      “In the weeks ahead, rising crude prices will likely increase pump prices for motorists across the country since the price per barrel of crude comprises approximately 50 percent of the cost consumers pay at the pump,” AAA said in its latest market update.

      Some states have seen sharp price hikes in the last week. The average price is up 20 cents a gallon in Michigan and is 17 cents a gallon higher in Ohio.

      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 ($3.26)

      • California ($3.26)

      • Washington ($2.87)

      • Alaska ($2.86)

      • Nevada ($2.85)

      • Oregon ($2.76)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.49)

      • New York ($2.48)

      • Arizona ($2.46)

      • Connecticut ($2.46)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($1.93)

      • Arkansas ($1.95)

      • Oklahoma ($1.96)

      • Alabama ($1.97)

      • Mississippi ($1.97)

      • Texas ($1.98)

      • Kansas ($1.99)

      • South Carolina ($1.99)

      • Louisiana ($2.00)

      • Tennessee ($2.04)

      Gasoline prices rose slightly over the last week but remain remarkably stable amid fluctuating oil prices.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national...
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      iPhone apps found to record users’ screens without their knowledge

      Technology embedded in several apps reportedly records every action users take for analytical purposes

      A host of popular travel, shopping, and banking iPhone apps record users’ screens without their permission, according to a new report by TechCrunch and mobile security blog The App Analyst.

      Companies including Air Canada, Hollister, Hotels.com, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Expedia are “recording every tap and swipe” that users make in their iOS apps and sending the information back to the app developers, TechCrunch reported.

      None of the apps named ask users for their permission to have their activity recorded, nor do they state that they are recording user actions.

      The recordings are generated through the companies’ use of Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm that allows developers to embed "session replay" technology into their apps. This allows developers to record users’ screens and play them back to obtain information on how people use the app.

      “Since this data is often sent back to Glassbox servers, I wouldn’t be shocked if they have already had instances of them capturing sensitive banking information and passwords,” The App Analyst told TechCrunch.

      Not shielding sensitive information

      The App Analyst demonstrated the problematic issue using Air Canada’s app, which used Glassbox to screenshot credit card information and user passwords.

      “While there may be value in documenting user activity through screenshots, there is also a large amount of risk that the screenshots may capture sensitive data,” The App Analyst noted. “Air Canada has attempted to mitigate this risk by configuring black boxes to cover sensitive fields. However this attempt has failed, potentially condemning a user’s sensitive data to residing in various screenshots stored by Air Canada.”

      In response to the new findings, Air Canada provided the following statement to TechCrunch:

      “Air Canada uses customer provided information to ensure we can support their travel needs and to ensure we can resolve any issues that may affect their trips,” said a spokesperson.” This includes user information entered in, and collected on, the Air Canada mobile app. However, Air Canada does not—and cannot—capture phone screens outside of the Air Canada app.”

      A host of popular travel, shopping, and banking iPhone apps record users’ screens without their permission, according to a new report by TechCrunch and mob...
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      Instacart changes its tipping policy in response to worker complaints

      The startup will stop docking worker pay based on the size of their tips

      Instacart has changed its tipping policy after workers argued that it ultimately lowered their take-home pay.

      “We heard loud and clear the frustration when your compensation didn’t match the effort you put forth,” Apoorva Mehta, Instacart’s chief executive, wrote in an open letter to Instacart’s contract workers, known as shoppers.

      Instacart, an app that lets customers order groceries and other household items and have them delivered, unveiled the update to its compensation policy back in November. Under the policy, Instacart would sometimes reduce its contribution to a worker’s pay if the person received a certain amount in tips.

      In one case, an independent contractor was paid 80 cents by Instacart for a delivery job.

      "While our intention was to increase the guaranteed payment for small orders, we understand that the inclusion of tips as a part of this guarantee was misguided. We apologize for taking this approach," CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a blog post on Wednesday.

      Reversing the policy

      After acknowledging the misstep, the platform announced that it will be doing away with the controversial tipping policy.

      Instacart says it will now always separate tips from compensation from the company. Additionally, the startup raised the guaranteed pay for some jobs (at least $5 for orders that require only delivering an item, and $7 to $10 for orders that involve picking items off supermarket shelves).

      The San Francisco-based startup also promised to also offer back pay to workers who were adversely affected by the previous tipping policy.

      "Instacart shouldn't be paying a shopper $0.80 for [an order]," Mehta wrote. "It doesn't matter that this only happens 1 out of 100,000 times -- it happened to one shopper and that's one time too many."

      Mehta said the revised tipping policy will increase Instacart’s overall contribution to worker earnings. “We believe that the change in tip structure will separate Instacart from an industry standard that’s no longer working for our shoppers and our customers,” he said.

      Instacart has changed its tipping policy after workers argued that it ultimately lowered their take-home pay.“We heard loud and clear the frustration w...
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      United Airlines adding more ‘premium’ seats to its flights

      It’s good news if you fly business class, but not so good if you fly coach

      Airlines can boost profits if they can sell more of their “premium service” tickets, but to do that they need more premium seats. In most airliners, there are a dozen or so first-class seats, maybe as many in business class, and the rest in coach.

      United Airlines has just announced it is reconfiguring at least 100 of its planes to add more space for its upgraded travelers. Those flying economy, however, will likely be giving up some space.

      "In an era where many airlines are adding seats to their aircraft to crowd more passengers onto the plane, we're re-configuring more than 100 of our aircraft and doing exactly the opposite – for the benefit of our customers," said Andrew Nocella, United's executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

      The extra space will come at an added ticket cost. But the airlines have figured out that most of their profit comes from passengers who want comfort and amenities and are willing to pay for them. In this move, United is adding premium seats on its most traveled and lucrative routes.

      Zac Honig, who writes The Points Guy Blog, reports that the retrofitted planes include some of United’s Boeing 767-300 ERs that will have “an exceptionally high number of lie-flat” seats to accommodate passengers on longer flights.

      Adding a smaller aircraft

      United also announced that it will deploy a fleet of 50-passenger jets on some highly traveled regional routes, and these aircraft will have mostly premium seating. The introduction of the Bombardier CRJ 550 aircraft is subject to government certification, which is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

      These mostly first-class aircraft will feature LED lighting, a self-serve beverage and snack station for customers seated in the premium cabin, Wi-Fi, and extra overall legroom. United says the aircraft will also provide four storage closets for storage of carry-on bags.

      The CRJ 550 will be configured in two cabins and feature 10 United First seats; 20 Economy Plus seats and 20 Economy seats.

      For more than two decades airlines have struggled to raise fares, not daring to raise them too much out of fear of losing the traveler to a competitor. United’s strategy appears to be one aimed at keeping economy fares stable while increasing revenue from travelers willing to pay more in return for a more pleasant experience.

      "From adding more premium seats on aircraft that serve some of our most traveled routes, introducing a revolutionary, best-in-class 50-seat experience or simply offering free DIRECTV on more than 200 aircraft, we are committed to making United the airline that our customers choose to fly," Nocella said.

      Airlines can boost profits if they can sell more of their “premium service” tickets, but to do that they need more premium seats. In most airliners, there...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Rangers

      The shifter may not lock in the park position

      Ford is recalling about 3,500 model year 2019 Ford Rangers built at Michigan Assembly Plant from June 4, 2018, to January 9, 2019, and sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The PRNDL bezel wiring may interfere with the shifter interlock override, preventing the shifter from locking in the park position and allowing the driver to shift the transmission out of park with the vehicle off and without a foot on the brake pedal.

      No accidents or injuries have been reported.

      What to do

      Dealers will verify shifter interlock functionality by attempting to move the transmission shifter out of park with the vehicle off and without a foot on the brake pedal. If the shifter moves out of park, dealers will look for wiring interference, relocate the wiring and retest.

      Owners may contact Ford at (313) 594-3744 or by email at mbrentle@ford.com. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19C02.

      Ford is recalling about 3,500 model year 2019 Ford Rangers built at Michigan Assembly Plant from June 4, 2018, to January 9, 2019, and sold in the U.S. and...
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      Fisher-Price recalls children’s Power Wheels Barbie Campers

      The wheels can continue to run after the foot pedal is released, posing an injury hazard

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 44,000 Power Wheels Barbie Dream Campers.

      The ride-on Power Wheels can continue to run after the foot pedal is released, posing an injury hazard.

      The firm has received 17 reports of the power wheels continuing to run after the foot pedal was released. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves children’s Power Wheels Barbie Dream Campers with model number FRC29 with a grey foot pedal. The recalled ride-on vehicles are hot pink with blue accents and have the Barbie logo printed on the back.

      They are battery-operated and have a play kitchen, a fold out grill and pretend campfire. The model number is printed on a label under the hood.

      The campers, manufactured in Mexico, were sold exclusively at Walmart stores nationwide and online at Walmart.com from July 2018, through January 2019, for about $400.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled Power Wheels away from children, stop using them and contact Fisher-Price for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Fisher-Price at (800) 348-0751 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.service.mattel.com and click on “Recalls & Safety Alerts” at the top of the page, or www.fisher-price.com and click on “Recall Notice” at the top of the page for more information.

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 44,000 Power Wheels Barbie Dream Campers.The ride-on Power Wheels can continue to run after the f...
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      T-Mobile promises to keep prices the same if cleared to buy rival Sprint

      The carrier’s CEO said the new T-Mobile will offer the same or better prices as those offered currently by T-Mobile or Sprint

      In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), T-Mobile CEO John Legere vowed not to increase prices for three years if the carrier’s $26 billion merger with Sprint is approved.

      "To remove any remaining doubt or concerns about New T-Mobile’s prices while we are combining our networks over the next three years, T-Mobile today is submitting to the Commission a commitment that I stand behind – a commitment that New T-Mobile will make available the same or better rate plans for our services as those offered today by T-Mobile or Sprint," Legere said.

      "We believe this merger makes consumers better off, and we're willing to put our money where our mouth is. Period,” Legere added.

      Opposed by numerous consumer groups

      T-Mobile and Sprint have argued that joining forces is necessary to introduce 5G services, as it will create a stronger competitor to AT&T and Verizon.

      However, a number of consumer groups oppose the deal, arguing that eliminating one of the four largest carriers would reduce competition, cost thousands of jobs, and lead to higher prices for consumers. Legere addressed these concerns in the letter.

      “Critics of our merger, largely employed by Big Telco and Big Cable, have principally argued that we are going to raise rates right after the merger closes. I want to reiterate, unequivocally, that New T-Mobile rates are NOT going to go up. Rather, our merger will ensure that American consumers will pay less and get more.”

      Last week, a pair of U.S. House panels announced that they will hold a joint hearing to discuss the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

      At the hearing, which is set to take place on February 13, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Judiciary Committee will “examine the merger’s potential impacts on consumers, workers and the wireless industry.” The CEOs of both wireless providers will testify at the hearing.

      In December, the merger gained approval from U.S. national security officials. However, the deal must be approved by the FCC and DOJ before it can take place.

      In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), T-Mobile CEO John Legere vowed not to increase prices for three years if the carrier’s $26 bill...
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      Almost 40 percent of young kids use too much toothpaste when they brush

      Care is necessary when dealing with fluoride, experts say

      Many young children are using more toothpaste than recommended by dentists, according to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

      Using too much toothpaste can be harmful to kids’ health as it can lead to children ingesting too much fluoride while their teeth are developing, the CDC says.

      “Fluoride use is one of the main factors responsible for the decline in prevalence and severity of dental caries and cavities (tooth decay) in the United States,” the agency wrote.

      After evaluating the brushing habits of about 5,000 children ages 3 to 15, the CDC found that about 60 percent of children and teens aged 3 to 15 used a half or full load of toothpaste. Among kids in the 3 to 6 age range, about 12 percent used a smear, 49.2 percent used a pea-size amount, 20.6 percent used a half load, and 17.8 percent used a full load.

      "The findings suggest that children and adolescents are engaging in appropriate daily preventive dental health practices," the authors said. "However, implementation of recommendations is not optimal."

      Preventing overuse of toothpaste

      Children younger than 3 should use an amount of toothpaste that is the size of a grain of rice, and kids ages 3 to 6 should use no more than a pea-size amount, the CDC stated.

      Increasing to a “pea-sized” amount is best put off until this time frame because “by which time the swallowing reflex has developed sufficiently to prevent inadvertent ingestion,” the study authors explained.

      "Ingestion of too much fluoride while teeth are developing can result in visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discolouration and pitting (dental fluorosis),” the researchers said.

      The CDC survey also found that most children (nearly 80 percent) began brushing after 1 year. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a smear of fluoride toothpaste is used as soon as baby teeth erupt, from about six months on.

      Many young children are using more toothpaste than recommended by dentists, according to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Pr...
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      Survey shows couples going overboard on Valentine’s Day spending

      A poll finds both men and women spend more than their partner expects

      Just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day is fast becoming a holiday on which consumers spend too much money and sometimes go into debt.

      A new survey from LendingTree found that couples plan to spend an increasing amount of money, often a lot more than their significant others expect them to. Men tend to be the biggest spenders, typically shelling out almost two and a half times what their significant others expect on what was once a fairly minor holiday.

      The survey found that men plan to spend an average of $95 dollars on Valentine’s Day, more than double the $41 women plan to spend. Compare that to what men and women expect their partner to spend -- no more than $39.

      If you are early into a romance you are more likely to spend the most money. For example, couples who are engaged both plan to spend an average of $92. People who are just dating plan to spend around $88. If you’re married, the spending level drops to $57.

      Financial obligations tend to reduce Valentine’s Day spending. Consumers who have car loans, mortgages, or substantial credit card debt plan to spend well under the averages.

      Young love spends the most

      Generation Z is most in the Valentine’s spirit, with expectations to spend an average of $113. On the other hand, one out of three baby boomers said they would be upset if their partner spent too much money.

      Here’s a tip: your partner probably does not want the extravagant gift you’re planning. What 32 percent of consumers say they want is a nice meal at a restaurant. Twenty-nine percent would be happy with a card.

      Women are more likely to prefer a dinner out or flowers or candy. Men, on the other hand, would like a dinner at home or maybe a night out at the movies.

      Making your mate happy on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to put you in debt. Esquire magazine notes that most couples’ first date is most likely a movie. It suggests buying her a poster from the first movie you saw together and a copy of the soundtrack.

      For guys, the website Askmen.com has a number of low-cost suggestions, including the Amazon Dot smart speaker, giving him someone else to talk to besides you.

      Just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day is fast becoming a holiday on which consumers spend too much money and sometimes go into debt.A new survey from Le...
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      Red chili ingredient in Hello Fresh brand and Chefs Plate brand meal kits recalled

      The ingredient may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Hello Fresh Canada is recalling the red chili ingredient included in Hello Fresh brand and Chefs Plate brand meal kits.

      The red chili ingredient in the kits may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

      The following items, sold in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec, are being recalled:

      Brand NameCommon NameSizeCode(s) on ProductUPC
      Hello FreshRed chili

      1 (included

      in the 902

      g kit)

      Included in Hello Fresh brand Coconut Dal meal kit coded as 
      Best Before 19 JA 29
      WK19041920
      2P
      None
      Hello FreshRed chili

      1 (included

      in the 1804

      g kit)

      Included in Hello Fresh brand Coconut Dal meal kit coded as 
      Best Before 19 JA 29
      WK19041920
      4P
      None
      Chefs PlateRed chili1 (included in the 856 g kit)Included in Chefs Plate brand Beef Chow Mein meal kit coded as January 19, 2019 (A2)None
      Chefs PlateRed chili1 (included in the 856 g kit)Included in Chefs Plate brand Beef Chow Mein meal kit coded as January 22, 2019 (A2)None
      Chefs PlateRed chili1 (included in the 1712 g kit)Included in Chefs Plate brand Beef Chow Mein meal kit coded as January 19, 2019 (A4)None
      Chefs PlateRed chili1 (included in the 1712 g kit)Included in Chefs Plate brand Beef Chow Mein meal kit coded as January 22, 2019 (A4)None

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them or return them to the store where they were purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact Hello Fresh Canada at (855) 272-7002 or by email at foodsafety@hellofresh.ca.

      Hello Fresh Canada is recalling the red chili ingredient included in Hello Fresh brand and Chefs Plate brand meal kits.The red chili ingredient in the...
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      Super Bowl ratings hit record 10-year low

      Reporters in New Orleans said that a street party for people boycotting the NFL was more fun than the game

      Average viewership for Super Bowl XLIII dipped below 100 million, marking the first time since 2009 that ratings were that low.

      Nielsen said yesterday’s game scored a 44.9 household rating, a five percent decrease from last year and the lowest score since the 2009 game.

      The New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams also made for the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history, and it was widely described by football fans as one of the most boring games they had ever seen. But that may not have been the only factor.

      Amid allegations of racism, unfair calls, and other problems plaguing the NFL, people across the country called for a Super Bowl boycott this year. In New Orleans, Saints fans and others even organized a massive street party to give boycotters alternate entertainment to the big game. Reporters on the scene said the festival was more fun than the actual game.

      Average viewership for Super Bowl XLIII dipped below 100 million, marking the first time since 2009 that ratings were that low.Nielsen said yesterday’s...
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      Bud Light uses the Super Bowl to start a conversation about corn syrup

      Corn growers aren’t happy, and neither is Bud Light’s competitors

      What would Super Bowl commercials be without a little controversy?

      Anheuser Busch set off the Twitterverse with its commercial promoting the fact that Bud Light contains no corn syrup while the ingredient is part of beers made by the MillerCoors.

      While that might not seem offensive to many consumers and viewers of last night’s game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, the folks who grow corn didn’t like it one bit.

      “America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you,” the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) said in a tweet directed at Bud Light. “Our office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits of corn!”

      The tweet then went on to thank Miller and Coors for supporting the corn industry, thereby making the commercial’s point. In case you missed it, the commercial is below.

      Implies that corn syrup isn’t good

      In the commercial, Anheuser Busch never explains why its Bud Light product is better because it doesn’t use corn syrup, but it implies that’s the case.

      Corn syrup is a sweetener used in place of sugar in a wide range of processed foods and beverages, but there is a difference between regular corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is also widely used in processed foods and beverages. The two are often confused.

      Dr. Mike Roussell, who writes a nutritional blog, says HFCS is made up of approximately 45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose. Plain corn syrup is simply glucose, “the most basic sugar molecule.”

      Recent studies have suggested HFCS’s high caloric content may play a role in the obesity epidemic, something the beverage industry has pushed back against with research of its own.

      A study published on a National Institutes of Health website says the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increased more than 1000 percent between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in consumption of any other food group.

      “HFCS now represents greater than 40 percent of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States,” the authors wrote.

      While MillerCoors took to Twitter last night to point out that none of its products contain HFCS, it  claimed “a number” of Anheuser Busch products do. It also claimed that Miller light has fewer calories and carbs than Bud Light.

      What would Super Bowl commercials be without a little controversy?Anheuser Busch set off the Twitterverse with its commercial promoting the fact that B...
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      Apple to issue fix for FaceTime bug next week

      The company said it’s ‘committed to improving the process by which we receive and escalate’ reports of bugs

      Apple has apologized for the FaceTime privacy vulnerability that became public news on Monday after having been discovered by a user and reported to the company more than a week prior.

      The bug allowed callers to hear the person on the other line before they agreed to accept the call. If the recipient tried to block the call or turn off the device, their video camera would automatically begin recording. That video would then be sent back to the caller.

      Apple disabled group FaceTime as a temporary fix, but only after reports of the bug had been shared widely in the media. The company had originally become aware of the flaw more than a week before it became public.

      More permanent fix to come

      On Friday, Apple said it will roll out a fixed version of the group calling feature next week.

      “We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week," the company said in a statement.

      The tech giant credited the family of a 14-year-old boy who helped discover the flaw and report it to Apple.

      "We thank the Thompson family for reporting the bug. We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process,” Apple said.

      Slow response to the issue

      Earlier this week, New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office would be opening an investigation on the bug -- specifically, Apple’s lag time in informing consumers of the flaw.

      “We’re launching an investigation into Apple’s failure to warn consumers about the FaceTime privacy breach & their slow resp