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    Amazon same-day delivery can now take as little as 5 hours in some areas

    The company’s investment in infrastructure is making consumer advantages like this happen

    It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five hours.

    The online shopping mecca is accelerating its same-day delivery for customers in Dallas, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Phoenix thanks to a $1.5 billion investment in its fulfillment centers in those areas.

    How quick and what’s available

    The time an order is delivered depends greatly on when it’s placed in these areas: 

    • Orders placed between Midnight and 8am, local time, will be delivered by 1pm; 

    • Orders placed between 8am and 1pm will be delivered by 6pm; 

    • Orders placed between 1pm and 5pm will arrive by 10pm; and 

    • Orders placed between 5pm and Midnight will arrive by 8am the next day.

    Customers shouldn't expect anything and everything to make it to their doorstep at lightning speed, but Amazon says its list of available items is in the 3 million range and includes lots of I-need-it-quick items like diapers, dog food, and device chargers. Eligible items are products marked with “Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery”.

    “Making so many daily deliveries across such a large selection of products isn’t an easy job,” Amazon’s Jon Alexander wrote in a blog post explaining the investment Amazon made in its warehouses to facilitate improvements like this. “We’re able to do so by storing need-it-today items in brand new facilities we built even closer to customers. These are first-of-their-kind buildings and serve as mini-fulfillment centers optimized for faster click-to-delivery speeds.”

    “And while it may seem counterintuitive, the faster delivery speeds enabled by these facilities actually help us lower carbon emissions in line with our Climate Pledge to be net zero carbon by 2040 -- 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. This is because these new facilities are in close proximity to customers, reducing the need for aircraft transport and generally decreasing the distance drivers have to travel to deliver packages to our customers,” Alexander said.

    It’ll cost you

    You may have thought that this bump-up in service is a total freebie, but that’s not quite the case. Prime members who spend over $35 will get the service gratis, but for any total order under $35, the sped-up delivery will cost an extra $2.99. 

    Amazon will no doubt be adding new markets for the faster delivery service. The best thing consumers can do to stay on top of when the service will become available for them is by entering their zip code on Amazon’s same-day delivery page.

    It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five...

    Net prices for prescription drugs are rising three times faster than inflation, study finds

    Even after discounts, researchers say consumers are feeling the pinch

    Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed in recent years, an issue that has galvanized both Republicans and Democrats.

    Drug companies have defended themselves by saying the posted price of a drug is rarely what consumers pay since health benefit policies pay the rest. But a new study questions that claim.

    A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) claims that the net cost of prescription drugs — meaning the sticker price minus manufacturer discounts — rose over three times faster than the rate of inflation over a 10-year period. 

    The study is the work of researchers in the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing (CP3) at the University of Pittsburgh’s Health Policy Institute.

    “Previously, we were limited to studying list prices, which do not account for manufacturer discounts,” said lead author Inmaculada Hernandez, assistant professor of pharmacy at Pitt. “List prices are very important, but they are not the full story. This is the first time we’ve been able to account for discounts and report trends in net prices for most brand name drugs in the U.S.” 

    Prices after discounts

    The researchers showed that the prices of prescription drugs have rapidly increased over the last decade. Their new findings used data for 602 brand-name drugs to track both the list and net prices from 2007 to 2018. 

    Accounting for inflation, they showed that list prices rose by 159 percent. Net prices, paid by consumers after all discounts were taken into consideration, rose by 60 percent.

    The research turned up one bit of good news. In 2015, the net price paid by consumers began to level off. Still, the authors say, it doesn’t mean prescription drugs are any more affordable.

    “Net prices are not necessarily what patients pay,” said senior author Walid Gellad, an associate professor of medicine and health policy at Pitt and director of the CP3. “A lot of the discount is not going to the patient.” 

    The authors suggest that the overwhelming majority of the discounts on prescription drugs are probably going directly to public and private insurers. Rebates don’t usually affect the amount patients pay through copays or coinsurance, which are based on the list price, not net. 

    Prices of some drugs rise faster than others

    The study found that the net price of some drugs is increasing faster than others. For example, insulins or TNF inhibitors saw a widening gap between list and net prices. For other drugs, such as cancer medications, list and net prices increased at about the same rate. 

    Multiple sclerosis treatments seemed to increase in price the fastest. Even after discounts, the authors say net prices more than doubled over the decade in inflation-adjusted dollars. 

    “We’re seeing a lot of discussion that net prices have stabilized over the last few years, and that does appear to be the case,” said Gellad.

    He also notes that the net price of many medications continues to rise, even for products that have not changed or been improved.

    Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed in recent years, an issue that has galvanized both Republicans and Democrats.Drug companies have defended the...

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      Printer toner exposure could increase consumers’ risk for disease

      It could be best for consumers to keep printers in separate rooms

      Most consumers don’t think twice about using printers, whether at work or at home, but a new study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University has shed light on the dangers associated with printer toner. 

      The study revealed that the nanoparticles that are released into the air from printer toner can affect the way genes respond throughout the body. The findings suggest that these particles could ultimately increase the risk of disease. 

      “I don’t want to alarm people, but special ventilation and exposure controls should be installed in rooms where laser printers are in heavy-duty use, because the concentration of nanoparticles released in the air during the printing and copying process is strongly correlated with the printing activities,” said researcher Nancy Lan Guo. 

      Understanding the risks

      The researchers mimicked a traditional office setting for the study but used mice to see how exposure from a laser printer can affect the body. For five hours a day for three weeks, the mice stayed in close contact with the printer. 

      The researchers assessed blood samples and lung cells from the mice periodically over the course of the study. With this information, the researchers were able to see if there were any genetic changes to the mice as a result from exposure to the printer. 

      After one day in close proximity to the printer, Guo found that the “changes [were] very significant.” However, the risks increased after observing the mice for the full three weeks. 

      The researchers found that consistent exposure to the nanoparticles from the laser printer affected the way genes are typically supposed to react and respond to one another, which can increase the risk of disease. 

      Because of the way the genes were altered, the researchers noted negative responses with the mice’s immune systems and metabolisms, both of which were compromised after exposure to the printer. Specifically, the team said that the mice were at an increased risk of cardiovascular and neurological disorders. 

      Human response

      After gathering these findings, the researchers then worked to translate them to humans. They investigated the effects of workers at a printing company and determined that their bodily reactions were nearly identical to the mice that were analyzed during the first part of the study. 

      While these findings are certainly cause for concern, the researchers want to warn pregnant women to be mindful of how much time they’re spending in front of printers, as the genetic effects can have even greater consequences. 

      “Because once a lot of these genes are changed, they get passed on through generations,” Guo explained. “It’s not just you.” 

      Most consumers don’t think twice about using printers, whether at work or at home, but a new study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University h...

      AT&T streaming service looks to help consumers cut the cord

      The company says it can offer faster internet and help consumers consolidate their entertainment options

      To try and stay ahead of the pack, AT&T is pulling a new streaming option out of its hat, one that lets consumers finally break free of the satellite dish.

      The service is called “AT&T” and is delivered via an internet-connected box that can record up to 500 hours of content. For all practical purposes, the new service has the same channels as DirecTV, short of NFL Sunday Ticket.

      Costs adds up quickly

      Like most streaming and internet services, consumers have to wade through a can of caveat worms to get what they want. In ConsumerAffairs’ call to AT&T, we found out that the basic $49.95/month price grows exponentially once you start figuring fees, taxes, and the like. 

      By the time we got around to a price on a basic service of 85 live channels, internet service, and the box, the monthly price was just a bit over $100 -- about the same as the average monthly cable bill in the U.S. 

      Of course, like any other streaming package these days, bundling is encouraged if the consumer is looking for some price breaks and content perks. There’s also a 24-month commitment with no guarantee of what the monthly fee will be once that two-year commitment ends. However, there’s a nice $250 Visa reward card being dangled as a carrot. For the tech-loving geek, a remote that includes Google Assistant is also included.

      Engadget reports that current AT&T customers get some extra love with added discounts, no annual contract, and the freedom to cancel whenever you want.

      To try and stay ahead of the pack, AT&T; is pulling a new streaming option out of its hat, one that lets consumers finally break free of the satellite dish...

      Vice President Pence predicts the stock market will ‘come back’ from coronavirus lows

      But market analysts don’t think it will happen this week

      Vice President Mike Pence, the Trump administration’s lead official in monitoring and containing the coronavirus, says the stock market will bounce back from last week’s huge sell-off.

      Investors dumped stocks as the virus spread beyond China and concern mounted that the fallout would significantly slow global growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its largest point drop in history on Thursday, and the S&P 500 lost more than 11 percent of its value during the five trading days.

      The catalyst for the plunge was almost certainly coronavirus fears, but many analysts also said the market, which had been at record highs the week before, was due for a correction.

      Pence, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, expressed confidence that the “market will come back.”

      The financial markets may face another few days of uncertainty, however. Over the weekend, the U.S. reported 21 more cases of the virus, codenamed COVID-19, and two patients who were suffering other health problems died from complications of the illness.

      Without predicting when, Pence said the financial markets will eventually find a bottom and begin moving higher again, mainly because he said the virus is not likely to damage what he called a healthy U.S. economy.

      “We just saw some new numbers come out in housing and consumer confidence and business optimism,” Pence said. “Unemployment is at a 50-year low. More Americans are working than ever before.” 

      Global economic concerns

      But market analysts say there is more to be concerned about than the U.S. economy. Other economies have shown signs of weakness, and prolonged substantial drops in travel and interruptions of supply chains could be a serious drag on economic growth.

      According to The Wall Street Journal’s sampling of analyst opinion, the selling is probably not over. Some market analysts said the more than 11 percent drop in the S&P 500 may eventually end up as a 20 percent cut.

      “Such a fall sounds dramatic, but markets had reached quite extreme levels ahead of this week’s declines,” The Journal reports. 

      In other words, stocks had gotten extremely overvalued in late 2019 and early 2020 based on the belief that that economies and profits would continue to grow. That growth now appears far less certain.

      Vice President Mike Pence, the Trump administration’s lead official in monitoring and containing the coronavirus, says the stock market will bounce back fr...

      Supreme Court will decide the fate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

      A lawsuit claims the agency’s structure violates the Constitution

      Liberals and conservatives in Washington have spent the last decade arguing over the legality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This week, the Supreme Court begins the process of deciding the issue.

      The CFPB was created in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. The agency was the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, who at the time was a Harvard professor and later became a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. 

      The legislation established the agency as completely independent from Congress, getting its funding from the Federal Reserve. Its director serves a five-year term and can only be removed by the president for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”

      In the beginning, consumer advocates praised the agency, saying it would be free of political pressure and would only serve the interests of consumers. The target was “abusive” financial services companies, especially those that were deemed to be predatory lenders.

      Constitutional objections

      Conservatives objected on constitutional grounds, saying the Constitution establishes the president as head of the executive branch. They argued that an agency not accountable to Congress or the president violates the founding document.

      When the Trump administration came into office in 2017, the CFPB underwent a radical change. Its acting director was Mike Mulvaney, a former congressman who voted more than once to abolish the agency. In a remarkable report to Congress in 2018, Mulvaney asked lawmakers to limit the power of his agency, probably something that had never been done before. 

      “The Bureau is far too powerful, and with precious little oversight of its activities,” Mulvaney wrote in his report.

      Supporters become critics

      By and large, consumer advocates claimed the administration’s objection to the bureau had less to do with principles and more to do with defanging regulators, something the White House vigorously denied.

      Even so, CFPB under the Trump administration has remained a constant target. Last month, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) criticized the agency, charging that a proposed rule would clear the way for debt collectors to collect “expired” debt. 

      “Nearly one-third of adults among the nation’s 71 million consumers with active credit files are aggressively pursued by debt collectors based on information that is often in error, incomplete, or so old that the statute of limitations has passed,” said CRL Policy Counsel Kiran Sidhu.

      On Tuesday, the high court will begin hearing oral arguments in a suit charging the structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional. The agency is being represented by a court-appointed lawyer because the administration declined to offer a defense. 

      Liberals and conservatives in Washington have spent the last decade arguing over the legality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This week...

      Sleeping during the day can increase risk of disease for older consumers

      Seniors who are sleepy during the day after getting seven or eight hours of sleep may be in danger

      The majority of studies about sleep explore the consequences consumers could face if they don’t get enough sleep. However, sleeping too much can also be troublesome, especially for older people.

      A new study conducted by researchers from the American Academy of Neurology found that older consumers who sleep during the day, or experience excessive daytime sleepiness, could be at increased risk for several serious medical conditions, including diabetes and cancer. 

      “Paying attention to sleepiness in older adults could help doctors predict and prevent future medical conditions,” said researcher Dr. Maurice M. Ohayon. “Older adults and their family members may want to take a closer look at sleeping habits to understand the potential risk for developing a more serious medical condition.” 

      The risks of daytime sleep

      To better understand how daytime sleep can be a cause for concern for older consumers, the researchers had nearly 11,000 people participate in the study. 

      The researchers conducted two rounds of phone interviews with the participants to assess how their sleeping habits affected their health. The researchers checked in with the participants three years after the first interview. 

      Following the first round of interviews, the researchers found that 23 percent of participants reported feeling excessively tired during the day. This fatigue led to an increased risk of several serious medical conditions; those who experienced excessive sleepiness were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure by the time the participants were interviewed for the second time. 

      The experience was different for those who only reported tiredness after the second interview. The researchers found that this group was more likely to struggle with arthritis and other muscle-related conditions later on in life. 

      The researchers explained that all older consumers should be paying attention to their sleeping habits. However, this is particularly important for those who sleep seven or more hours each night and are still feeling tired throughout the day. Noticing a change in sleeping habits is key to seeking medical attention early and preventing any serious conditions. 

      The majority of studies about sleep explore the consequences consumers could face if they don’t get enough sleep. However, sleeping too much can also be tr...

      Eating more calories at breakfast and fewer late at night can help consumers lose weight

      Study findings show that consumers burn more calories earlier in the day

      While recent studies have highlighted how tracking food can be an important component of weight loss, a new study has found that when consumers eat could be just as important as what they’re eating. 

      The study revealed that the body’s natural circadian rhythm promotes fat burning in the morning/waking hours, but that process slows down in the evening before bedtime. For consumers looking to keep weight off, this means that it’s better to eat more calories for breakfast when the body will burn them off, as opposed to late at night when that isn’t as likely. 

      Managing food throughout the day

      To better understand how consumers’ circadian clocks can affect their weight loss, the researchers analyzed how middle-aged and older consumers’ metabolism changed over two 56-hour sessions. 

      The participants ate lunch and dinner at the same times during both sessions, but the researchers swapped out the time of the third meal. In one of the sessions, the participants ate a typical breakfast at around 8:00AM; in the second session, the third meal was administered around 10:00PM. 

      The researchers found that the participants burned less fat when they ate closer to bedtime; conversely, more fat was burned when they ate the majority of their calories during active, waking hours. 

      These findings are important because knowing when the body will burn more fat can help consumers better manage their weight. It can also help consumers optimize mealtimes so they can maintain their weight loss. 

      While recent studies have highlighted how tracking food can be an important component of weight loss, a new study has found that when consumers eat could b...

      FTC to send $2.2 million in refunds to victims of government impostor scheme

      A company said it was affiliated with the government to illegally sell immigration services

      While a company called the American Immigration Center may seem to have a certain air of legitimacy, regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say that its operators were actually involved with an illegal government impostor scheme. 

      The FTC announced today that it will be sending nearly 50,000 refunds to consumers who were misled by the company into thinking that it was affiliated with the federal government. The agency says that the operators used that deception to sell immigration form preparation services to those seeking to renew their green cards or apply for naturalization.

      In its consent order, the FTC has banned the defendants from engaging in future illegal conduct and is requiring the company to make a clear disclosure on its website that it is not affiliated with the federal government. It will also have to pay $2.2 million for its transgression, which will be used to reimburse consumers.

      Eligible consumers will receive just over $42 in the form of a refund check or a payment on PayPal. The refund administrator for this case -- Analytics, Inc. -- is beginning the mailing process today and reminds consumers that they will not have to pay money or provide any personal information to cash their checks. 

      Consumers who have questions can call Analytics, Inc. at 1-877-729-1539 or visit the FTC’s interactive dashboard for more information.

      While a company called the American Immigration Center may seem to have a certain air of legitimacy, regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say t...

      FCC proposes over $200 million in fines for wireless carriers that sold customer data

      The agency says the four largest carriers sold customer data and failed to protect information from hackers

      Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint could soon be facing stiff penalties for selling customers’ personal data and not protecting it from third parties.

      Late last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released details on more than $200 million in proposed fines that it may assess against each of the four major wireless companies. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai noted that allegations surrounding the sale of location data is particularly egregious.

      “American consumers take their wireless phones with them wherever they go. And information about a wireless customer’s location is highly personal and sensitive,” he said. “This FCC will not tolerate phone companies putting Americans’ privacy at risk.”

      Failure to safeguard data

      In a press release, the agency explained that its proposal followed the revelation that a Missouri sheriff had used a service operated by a third-party communications company called Securus to track consumers' location data from 2014 to 2017. 

      Regulators say that the fact that this wireless data was available to begin with was a major breach of the Communications Act, which requires telecommunications carriers to protect sensitive customer data. 

      “Since 2007, these companies have been on notice that they must take reasonable precautions to safeguard this data and that the FCC will take strong enforcement action if they don’t. Today, we do just that,” said Pai. 

      The proposed fines assess different penalties for each of the four carriers. T-Mobile is facing a potential $91 million fine; AT&T may have to pay $57 million; Verizon is looking at a $48 million fine; and Sprint could wind up paying $12 million. Each of the companies named in the proposal will have a chance to respond to the FCC, provide evidence, and take further action to resolve the challenge.

      Verizon, AT&T;, T-Mobile, and Sprint could soon be facing stiff penalties for selling customers’ personal data and not protecting it from third parties....

      Step2 recalls children’s grocery shopping carts

      The basket can break into sharp pieces, posing a laceration hazard

      The Step2 Company of Streetsboro, Ohio, is recalling about 20,500 Little Helper’s children’s grocery shopping carts sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The shopping cart’s basket can break into sharp pieces, posing a laceration hazard.

      The firm has received 22 reports of cart baskets breaking. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Step2’s Little Helper’s Shopping Cart with the following model numbers and color combinations: 700000 (blue basket with tan cart,) 708500 (pink basket with white cart) and 8567KL (pink basket with gray cart).

      The grocery shopping carts measure 18.5 inches by 13 inches by 21.5 inches and have a shopping cart base and basket, four wheels and a doll seat.

      Only units with date code combinations of 5 and 19 are included in this recall. The date code can be found on the center rib on the back of the basket below the handle. The model number is located on the product packaging.

      The carts, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at BJ Wholesale Club, Kohl’s and other stores nationwide and online at Step2.com from May 2019, through October 2019, for about $40.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take away the recalled shopping carts from children and contact Step2 for a free replacement shopping cart or a refund in the form of a $40 credit towards the purchase price of another Step2 product on www.Step2.com.

      Consumers may contact Step2 at (800) 347-8372 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.step2.com and click on “Services & Recall” at the top of the page, then on “Product Recall” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      The Step2 Company of Streetsboro, Ohio, is recalling about 20,500 Little Helper’s children’s grocery shopping carts sold in the U.S. and Canada. The sho...

      Tornel A/T-09 tires recalled

      The sidewall rubber may separate from the body ply cord

      Compañia Hulera Tornel, S.A.de C.V. is recalling 832 Tornel A/T-09 tires, size LT265/75R16, Load Range C.

      Due to improper manufacturing, the sidewall rubber may separate from the body ply cords and cause separation of the lower sidewall.

      Sidewall separation can lead to tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash

      What to do

      Tornel will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact Tornel customer service at (555) 354-0204. Tornel's number for this recall is 100.

      Compañia Hulera Tornel, S.A.de C.V. is recalling 832 Tornel A/T-09 tires, size LT265/75R16, Load Range C. Due to improper manufacturing, the sidewall ru...