Current Events in June 2020

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    App allows consumers to control the sale of their data to financial institutions

    The consumers who opt-in would receive compensation

    Rather than have your transactional data used without your explicit knowledge, it’s now possible for consumers to sell it to financial institutions for cash.

    Killi, a company providing consumer privacy services, has developed an app that integrates access to over 20,000 financial institutions so that consumers can opt-in to an agreement to share their data.

    If they do, they receive compensation from the participating firms, unlike the normal arrangement, when consumers often are unaware that their data is being sold.

    “The current market for transactional data is powered by firms that collect data from credit cards and bank cards, and sell it without explicitly informing or compensating the consumer," said Killi founder and CEO Neil Sweeney. 

    Consumers may be told their data is being accessed and sold, but Sweeney says the disclosure is usually masked in the fine print. He says companies will sometimes bait consumers by offering points or other amenities in exchange for financial information. However, the payout only represents a fraction of the real value of the data.

    Control and transparency

    Sweeney says Killi is changing this system by providing consumers with control and transparency on who is purchasing their data while providing them with direct compensation each time the data is acquired. 

    “Additionally, by putting explicit consent at the individual user level, Killi also removes privacy, fraud, and fidelity concerns for those that buy the data,” Sweeney said. “Killi gives full transparency to both buyers and sellers. When purchasing data from Killi, you know exactly where this data is coming from and vice versa.”

    How much your data could be worth all depends on what kind of data it is. Industry sources say your Facebook data may be among the most valuable.

    Congressional interest

    A year ago, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) proposed legislation to provide more transparency in consumer data transactions by requiring data sellers to tell consumers exactly how much their information is worth.

    Killi's Fair Trade Data program appears to come close to that goal. It allows for consumer inclusion in the sale of personal data and provides full transparency for buyers of data to see the exact source of what they are buying.

    The program launched in April, and the company says it could play a significant role in the movement toward universal basic income for individuals by establishing a new model that regularly sends money back to the consumer. 

    Rather than have your transactional data used without your explicit knowledge, it’s now possible for consumers to sell it to financial institutions for cas...

    Nissan recalls model year 2013-2015 Altimas

    The secondary hood latch may bind and not latch

    Nissan North America is recalling 846,000 model year 2013-2015 Altimas manufactured March 6, 2012, to December 31, 2014.

    The secondary hood latch may bind and remain in the unlatched position when the hood is closed.

    If the primary latch is inadvertently released and the secondary latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while the vehicle is being driven, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

    What to do

    These vehicles were previously included in recalls in 2014 and 2015, however the previous remedy plan may not have been performed consistently to remove the safety risk.

    To correct this issue, Nissan will re-notify all affected owners and dealers will replace the hood latch with a new one, free of charge.

    The recall began on February 17, 2016.

    Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 647-7261.

    Nissan North America is recalling 846,000 model year 2013-2015 Altimas manufactured March 6, 2012, to December 31, 2014. The secondary hood latch may bi...

    What the dads at ConsumerAffairs are asking for this Father's Day

    Hear what ConsumerAffairs dads want and get some ideas for your own dad

    Just like mothers last month, the dads of the world are anxiously awaiting Father’s Day this June — perhaps more so than ever due to the pandemic. With kids’ schools, daycares and after-school programs mostly closed nationally, they have put in more hours without much rest over the past few months. It’s time to say thanks to their tireless efforts.

    If your dad is tough to shop for, we’re here to help. Rather than blindly suggesting ideas we think the father in your life might enjoy, we went straight to the source and polled the dads here at ConsumerAffairs to find out what they want this year. Curiously, not a single dad mentioned any electronics, typically a safe standby gift for any dad — not AirPods, not a soundbar, not a new TV. So, what do these dads have in mind instead?

    R&R

    A day off

    One dad summed it up in three short words — a day off — to which many others agreed. What does a day off look like for the dad in your life? For many, that could mean others are pitching in for a day while dad lounges in the backyard hammock, relaxed, refreshed, recharged and ready to jump back into action on Monday.

    • 59” wide x 78” bed length
    • Soft polyester rope

    Buy on Amazon

    A solo hotel stay

    A solo stay takes the “day off” idea a step further. One dad has an agreement with his wife that each year on Mother’s and Father’s Day, the parent of honor will be sent away for a night to a local 5-star hotel. Dad can order room service, crank the AC down as cold as he wants, turn on the TV and unwind. He is guaranteed to be uninterrupted, then sleep in the following morning before returning home rejuvenated.

    Dad gathering

    Similarly, one dad is considering a safe, socially-distanced boat outing with some other dad friends. Renting a boat and heading out on the water might be just the refresher he needs after months of exhausting quarantining.

    Quality time

    Food and drink

    BBQ set

    One ConsumerAffairs dad is looking to up his grill game with a new deluxe BBQ accessory set that includes a spatula, scraper and tongs. Are grilling utensils a stereotypical Father’s Day gift? Sure. But it turns out, he’ll probably like them a lot, and they will no doubt get plenty of use. It’s also a win-win for the rest of the family, as dad can prepare delicious meats for everyone to enjoy.

    • 21 pc
    • Durable stainless steel

    Buy on Amazon

    A good meal and favorite brew

    The best way to thank several ConsumerAffairs dads is in the form of food and their favorite beverage. One employee wants nothing more than to bite into a “nice, thick-cut ribeye” and to wash it down with their beer of choice. Multiple ConsumerAffairs dads mentioned that they would love to receive top-shelf liquors. If you’re familiar with Parks & Rec, you’ll likely remember Leslie’s winning gift for Ron’s birthday. She set him in front of a TV with his favorite movie, a giant steak and a bottle of Scotch, plus, she ensured he was uninterrupted.

    Fun and games

    Cornhole set

    For the dad who enjoys backyard or tailgating games, look no further than a quality cornhole set. The popular game involves tossing bean bags onto a slightly elevated board with a hole in it. Land on the board and get one point; sink a bean bag into the hole for 3 points. If you’re handy with a saw, you could try to make a set yourself. Otherwise, sets can be found online, many with team colors or logos.

    • Weatherproof
    • Built-in bean bag storage

    Buy on Amazon

    Guitar

    A musically inclined father is always trying to get his hands on a Gibson Les Paul guitar. However, few families have several thousand dollars to commit to a Father’s Day gift. Otherwise, a less expensive guitar or maybe even lessons could be a delightful gift for the dad looking to take up a new hobby or resurrect an old one.

    • Ultimate starter kit
    • Includes digital tuner and 6 extra strings

    Buy on Amazon

    Motorized skateboard or scooter

    The dads in our office have mentioned that they would love one of the small motorized scooters we all see zipping around. Motorized skateboards or even scooters are fun and surprisingly fast, reaching top speeds of 18mph. Such a gift might be ideal for the adventurous dad looking for some fun, or an energy-efficient way of getting around.

    • Motorized skateboard
    • Made of maple wood and bamboo

    Buy on Amazon

    • 15.5 mph max speed
    • Folds up in 3 seconds

    Buy on Amazon

    Practical and useful gifts

    Tools

    One of our resident ConsumerAffairs' dads also asked for tools. Before buying tools, it’s best to get a feel for what exactly he needs. If you want it to be a surprise, try scouring the garage or tool shed to see what he already has. Most dads probably have essential tools, so something a little more specialized like a specific power saw or impact drill may be high on his list.

    • Mechanical 2-speed transmission
    • Optimized battery usage

    Buy on Amazon

    Lawn tools

    If the dad in your house enjoys an immaculately maintained lawn, he may be happy to receive an upgrade to his existing equipment. One dad cited “new lawn tools” as his go-to gift. Left to interpretation, that could mean anything from a push mower to an edger to a leaf blower. Many consumers with smaller, urban yards enjoy the battery-powered tools from Greenworks, which come equipped with a reasonably long-lasting rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

    • Trimmer and blower
    • 45-minute run time

    Buy on Amazon

    Auto tools

    For the do-it-yourself car maintenance dad, consider items that can help him around the shop. One dad needs a new creeper — essentially, a board on wheels that allows a mechanic to slide underneath a car on his back — and a reliable floor jack.

    • Padded bench
    • Adjustable headrest

    Buy on Amazon

    • 7,000-pound lift capacity
    • Lifts up to 22”

    Buy on Amazon

    Home upgrades

    Another dad had a very unusual, specific request — 6 ½” round gutters in black. Although your dad will most definitely have a different request, items that make some of his chores easier can make excellent gifts. Simple things like energy-efficient light bulbs, a stockpile of various batteries or even a new garage door are great options.

    Garden aesthetics

    Along the same lines, one dad is asking for a new oak tree to be planted in his yard to replace one that had recently died and been removed. A tree can be one gift that will never be forgotten years down the road.

    Health and hygiene

    Home gym

    One ConsumerAffairs dad is missing his gym during the pandemic, so he decided to build a home gym instead of returning to his fitness center when it reopens. There are dozens of possibilities to begin a home gym without breaking the bank. A good starting point might be some dumbbells of various weights or even a punching bag.

    • Anti-rolling design
    • Use as dumbbells or barbell

    Buy on Amazon

    • Heavy-duty stitching
    • Comes with needed accessories

    Buy on Amazon

    Running shoes

    On the same wavelength, another dad is interested in upgrading his very worn running shoes. If you’re going to buy shoes, you probably want to do your homework. Not all running shoes are created equal, so it might be best to ask what shoes he wants before ordering. One ConsumerAffairs dad mentioned you can find a great shoe for under $60.

    • Lightweight
    • Rubber sole

    Buy on Amazon

    For the bearded dad

    Did the dad in your life grow out a quarantine beard and decide to keep it? One ConsumerAffairs dad mentioned he would enjoy a beard grooming kit from his kids. Most bearded men love beard accessories, from balms and leave-in conditioners to combs and clippers.

    • Shampoo and balm
    • Scissors and beard brush

    Buy on Amazon

    • 5-in-1 trimmer
    • 60 minutes shaving time

    Buy on Amazon

    Permission or sign-off

    Sign-off on dad’s project

    One thing that stands out between our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day lists is that the dads seem to ask for more “outside the box” gift ideas. This one barely qualifies as a gift at all, but one dad mentioned he’d love his wife to sign off on a landscaping project he conjured up. This dad is happy to do all the work himself; he just wants an okay to move forward with the project.

    A round of golf

    Along the same lines, another ConsumerAffairs office dad asked for, “A leisurely morning on the golf course.” Unless you want to add a new club or two to his bag, this gift requires little effort or monetary commitment on your part, just the thumbs-up to get away for a few hours. If he is a beginner golfer, or perhaps in need of a whole set of clubs, Callaway’s entry-level brand Strata is a great way to start.

    • Complete golf set
    • Financing available

    Buy on Amazon

    Handmade gifts

    Memories to cherish

    Moms aren’t the only ones who appreciate a handmade gift. One dad suggested he wanted, “A framed document listing all of my fatherhood achievements from the past year.” Joking or not, the idea could bring a chuckle to the dad in your life. It may take some brainpower to formulate a list of his achievements, but it may be a winning gift.

    • Free personalized message
    • 8 x 10 pictures

    Buy on Amazon

    Surprise!

    Sorry, this one isn’t going to be helpful for those looking for inspiration. Not every dad had something specific in mind. One dad, tired of making decisions, said he doesn’t want to have to think about a gift request. The idea of having to put hours of thought into a “perfect day” or ideal gift can be stressful for some. Put your heads together and surprise him with a gift you think he’d like.

    Keep it simple

    Sometimes, you’ll hear dads say they don’t want anything. If your dad’s response to receiving gifts is often, “I told you not to get me anything,” consider perhaps a simple card. Dad may just want a mere acknowledgment of the day.

    So, now that you know what the dads of ConsumerAffairs want this Father’s Day, will you follow their lead or go your own way? Tell us in the comments what you’re getting Dad. For more great advice on Father’s Day gifts and many other consumer decisions, check out our podcast The Confident Consumer.

    What the dads at ConsumerAffairs are asking for this Father's Day | ConsumerAffairs...

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      Coronavirus update: Protests may lead to a spike in cases, more stimulus a possibility

      Fewer homeowners are asking for forbearance

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,876,922 (1,856,118)

      Total U.S. deaths: 108,334 (107,281)

      Total global cases: 6,682,531 (6,551,290)

      Total global deaths: 392,321 (386,795)

      Protest marches trigger health worries

      In the last 24 hours, health officials have counted just over 1,000 additional deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19), and they fear the number of cases may follow deaths higher within days. That’s because of the widespread protests across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death while being arrested by Minneapolis police officers.

      Health experts worry that the protests will serve to spread the virus. They point to tightly packed groups of marchers, often not wearing masks, and shouting -- which more easily spreads the infection.

      Worse still, they say people who have been arrested have been packed into tight quarters where an infected person could easily spread the infection to others. Experts say they’ll be watching the case numbers a week from now to see if their worst fears have been realized.

      Vice President Pence doesn’t rule out more stimulus aid

      The Labor Department’s shocking May employment report has convinced some economists that the U.S. is recovering from the coronavirus shutdown much faster than anyone expected. But that doesn’t mean Americans won’t be getting more help from the government.

      Appearing on CNBC this morning, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration will continue to negotiate with House Democrats about the need for coronavirus relief.

      “We’re going to work in good faith to put the interests of the American families and American businesses first,” Pence said.

      The government reports that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May when economists expected the number of job losses to be in the millions.

      Fewer homeowners asking for mortgage forbearance

      The number of homeowners enrolled in mortgage forbearance programs as of Tuesday was 4.73 million, according to data analytics firm Black Knight. That’s a decrease of 34,000 over the past week, marking the first weekly decline since the crisis began.

      "The decline was actually greater among government-backed mortgages, which saw 43,000 fewer total forbearance plans than last week, but this was partially offset by an increase of 9,000 new plans on mortgages held in bank portfolios and private-label securities," said Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour.

      Despite the good news, Jabbour says the report shows a drop in the number of homeowners making their mortgage payments on time in May than in April.

      CDC chief ‘very concerned’ Americans’ behavior could cause cases to spike

      As the economy opens up across the country, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he’s “very concerned” that Americans are abandoning precautions put in place over the last three months.

      In a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Redfield said he has seen “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he expressed concern that Memorial Day, recent protests, and Saturday’s SpaceX launch have led to the formation of crowds. 

      Apple reportedly testing returning staff for COVID-19

      As Apple employees begin returning to offices, the company is reportedly testing them for the coronavirus. Bloomberg News cites people knowledgeable about the policy as saying the testing is optional, but wearing a mask at work is not. Office snack rooms are also being closed.

      Apple began reopening the main Apple Park office in May, bringing back some hardware and software engineers. If they choose, they can undergo a nasal-swab test to check for the virus, according to people familiar with the process. Temperature checks are required.

      Around the nation

      • Kentucky: Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, is asking state lawmakers to place limits on the emergency powers Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has used over the past few months to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Cameron said there are currently inadequate checks on the governor’s emergency power.

      • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf says that more counties will be allowed to enter the “green” phase of his pandemic reopening plan, which allows greater public activities. That’s in addition to the 16 that he already announced will enter that phase today. So far, 34 counties are under the “green” phase.

      • Virginia: Most of the state entered Phase 2 of coronavirus restrictions today as Virginia sees its number of cases rising toward 50,000. Under Phase 2, restaurants can have outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity and gyms can have indoor workouts and classes at 30 percent capacity.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,876,922 (1,856,11...

      Lawsuit claims Amazon caused COVID-19 deaths by failing to implement adequate safety measures

      Plaintiffs accuse the company of creating ‘a façade of compliance’ with safety standards

      Amazon has been hit with a lawsuit accusing it of failing to adequately protect its warehouse workers, specifically at a fulfillment center in New York. 

      One of the plaintiffs, Barbara Chandler, believes she contracted COVID-19 in March while working at a warehouse in the state. She claims she experienced “a culture of workplace fear reinforced by constant technological supervision, retaliation against those who speak out, and the threat of automatic and immediate job loss in a job market where it may be impossible to find work elsewhere.” 

      She says she brought the virus home to her family, and her cousin died less than a month later after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Several other Amazon workers are plaintiffs in the suit.

      The group of warehouse employees and their relatives say Amazon failed to enforce safety measures to keep workers and their families from contracting COVID-19. The lawsuit doesn’t seek damages, only “an order requiring Amazon to comply with public health guidance to prevent more harm in the future.” 

      Criticism over safety standards

      Amazon has faced criticism from workers and lawmakers alike over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Lawmakers have previously accused the company of not doing enough to protect warehouse workers. 

      Some workers have said they were still required to work in close proximity during the coronavirus outbreak, and others said they feared they would be fired for speaking out about their concerns. 

      Amazon fired at least four workers who were outspoken about their experience working at a warehouse during the pandemic, prompting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to look into the matter

      ‘Facade of compliance’

      The lawsuit filed this week in federal court in New York is different from others like it because it accuses the company of causing the death of the plaintiff’s cousin. 

      “Amazon’s failures have already caused injury and death to workers and family members of workers. At least one JFK8 worker has died from COVID-19, and there are rumors of additional deaths among JFK8 workers. Workers have brought the virus home to family members, some of whom have also tragically died,” the complaint says. 

      Chandler and the other plaintiffs claim that, in actuality, Amazon created a “façade of compliance” with safety standards in the midst of the pandemic. The complaint accuses Amazon of purposefully miscommunicating with workers, engaging in “sloppy” contact tracing, and instilling a “culture of workplace fear” at JFK8 to “ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs.”

      Subsequently, workers “come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy,” the suit claims.

      Amazon responds

      Amazon’s measures to deal with the outbreak in terms of both the surge in demand and worker safety have included implementing hazard pay, expanding sick policies, and adding 175,000 new warehouse and delivery workers. 

      The company says it has updated 150 processes to protect worker safety and spent more than $800 million in the first half of this year on new safety programs.

      “We are saddened by the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends,” said Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski in a statement. “From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members.”

      Amazon has been hit with a lawsuit accusing it of failing to adequately protect its warehouse workers, specifically at a fulfillment center in New York....

      CDC director says public behaviors could lead to more coronavirus cases

      Protests could be a ‘seeding event’ for future COVID-19 cases

      Health officials are concerned that people are becoming more lax with current guidelines regarding mask wearing and social distancing, which could lead to an increase in the number of cases across the country. 

      Robert Redfield, CDC Director and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said Thursday that he’s “very concerned” about the public’s current response to the agency’s guidelines. 

      In a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Redfield said he has seen “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he expressed concern that Memorial Day, recent protests, and Saturday’s SpaceX launch have led to the formation of crowds. He said protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis could be a “seeding event” for additional coronavirus outbreaks. 

      Masks still recommended

      Given that the U.S. is still seeing around 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, the threat of the virus hasn’t yet abated. However, all 50 states have begun easing stay-at-home restrictions. Redfield said the agency will “continue to message as well as we can.” 

      “We’re going to encourage people that have the ability to wear masks when they are in their environment to continue to do that,” he said. 

      Redfield encouraged people who recently participated in protests to get tested for the coronavirus in the next few days. 

      “I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” he said. “And the way to minimize that is to have each individual to recognize it is an advantage of them to protect their loved ones, to [say] ‘Hey, I was out, I need to go get tested.’”

      Health officials are concerned that people are becoming more lax with current guidelines regarding mask wearing and social distancing, which could lead to...

      Dentists add ‘infection control’ charge to deal with COVID-19 costs

      The new fee will come out of patients’ pockets

      As dental offices across the country begin reopening, dentists have tacked on a new $10-$20 “infection control fee” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most consumers’ insurance won’t cover the new fee. 

      Some patients are annoyed with the extra charge because infection control is assumed to be industry standard, not an extra service. 

      Dentists say they’re putting the money towards the cost of masks and other equipment to help keep their offices clean. After months of being shut down, dentists say they need the extra money to pay for face shields, air purifiers, and other sanitization tools. These supplies have gotten pricier recently as a result of high demand. 

      Dentists say they’re seeing fewer patients since some people still don’t feel comfortable going back to the dentist. Offices are also spacing out appointments to promote social distancing in waiting rooms.

      Nearly two-thirds of dental offices across the U.S. have reopened for routine care, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). A spokesperson for the ADA told NBC News that dentists who plan to charge the new fee should let patients know about it before their visit. 

      "The infection control fee is helping us mitigate the costs of the extra expenses," said dentist Michael Scialabba, vice president of 42 North Dental, whose 75 dental offices in New England are charging an extra $10.

      As dental offices across the country begin reopening, dentists have tacked on a new $10-$20 “infection control fee” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most...

      Disrupted sleep can increase consumers' risk of cardiovascular disease

      Researchers say inflammation is the link between the two conditions

      While previous studies have highlighted how important it is for consumers to get adequate sleep, a new study explored how a lack of sleep can affect consumers’ heart health. 

      According to researchers, consumers who aren’t sleeping well at night could be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Their study found that inflammation is much more likely when sleep isn’t continuous and consumers are awake for portions of the night. That, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease. 

      “These findings may help inform public health guidelines that seek to increase the continuity of sleep as a way to improve health and decrease the burden of heart disease on society,” said researcher Matthew Walker. 

      Nighttime risks

      To understand how consumers’ sleeping patterns can affect their heart health, the researchers had over 1,600 participants involved in the study. 

      For one week of the study, the participants’ sleep was monitored using a wearable wrist monitor. For one night of the study, sleep was monitored using polysomnography, which is a more formal type of sleep study that assesses overall sleep quality. The researchers also collected blood samples, as white blood cell count can often indicate inflammation. 

      Ultimately, the researchers learned that the participants were more likely to experience inflammation throughout their bodies when their sleep was disrupted. 

      Poor sleep was also associated with a higher count of neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell that increases inflammation. This was cause for concern because this was associated with an increased risk of another condition known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is a build up in the arteries, and those who have it often don’t feel symptoms. 

      The researchers hope that these findings can be beneficial for both consumers and medical professionals in the future, as analyzing sleep habits can be a key component of maintaining consumers’ heart health. 

      “Improving sleep may be a novel way to reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risk of atherosclerosis,” said Walker.  

      While previous studies have highlighted how important it is for consumers to get adequate sleep, a new study explored how a lack of sleep can affect consum...

      The Children’s Place hit with class action lawsuit over alleged fake sale scams

      Other consumers report additional problems with the specialty chain ranging from unfulfilled orders to refunds

      The Children’s Place -- a specialty retailer of children’s apparel and accessories -- is facing a class action lawsuit brought by one of its customers who alleges that the chain baits shoppers with emails advertising bogus sales. 

      Washington state resident Elaine Dougan -- the customer behind the lawsuit -- claims that the “sales” promoted in emails sent to her were phony because the items that were supposedly discounted were never even offered at the higher, “original” price, or if they were, it was a rare occurrence.

      Hook, line, and sinker

      According to TopClassActions, Dougan contends that since March 2019 -- and possibly before -- The Children’s Place blasted out hundreds of emails, all promoting fake sales. 

      She says that the deception starts right in the subject line, touting discounts like “XX% Off Entire Site,” “XX% Off Entire Store,” or similar language. 

      “Allegedly, The Children’s Place is well aware that consumers are more likely to make a purchase if they believe it is being offered on sale, because they perceive its value to be higher than the price,” commented TopClassAction’s Emily Sortor regarding the case. 

      “According to Dougan, the store took advantage of this essential way that consumers attempt to understand value, and misled them by misrepresenting the value of the items.”

      Other consumers raise issues

      The Children’s Place gets one star (out of five) from ConsumerAffairs reviewers. Complaints include a lack of follow-through, unauthorized charges, and unfulfilled refunds. One reviewer -- Tiffany of Hanover, IN -- detailed an experience similar to Dougan’s.

      “I ordered from The Children's Place on May 12th because they are having a 60-70 percent off storewide/online sale. I understand that shipping is taking longer than usual. ... HOWEVER I most definitely am not pleased that they have taken multiple transactions out that I did not make,” Tiffany writes. 

      “They are stealing from all customers and do so by drawing you in with the sale. I ordered $143.43 of product and saved $201. Since May 12th I have had 11 transactions come out totaling $546.50. I have bought from the actual store multiple times so I had no reason to believe they would do this.”

      The Children’s Place has not yet replied to ConsumerAffairs’ request for comment on this issue.

      The Children’s Place -- a specialty retailer of children’s apparel and accessories -- is facing a class action lawsuit brought by one of its customers who...

      In a stunning surprise, the economy added 2.5 million jobs last month

      Economists say the recovery is happening faster than expected

      In a report that turned conventional wisdom on its ear, the Labor Department says the economy actually added jobs in May after millions of people were laid off in April.

      Total nonfarm payrolls increased by 2.5 million last month as the unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent. Some Wall Street estimates put the May unemployment rate at 20 percent.

      “These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a press release.

      It was rehiring in leisure and hospitality businesses, devastated by quarantines across the country, that helped lead the unexpected resurgence. But there was also very heavy hiring in construction, education, health services, and retail trade. By contrast, employment in government continued to decline sharply.

      Major surprise

      Economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisers says the May report was a major surprise, showing that the reopening of the economy is going a lot faster than expected.  

      “The rise in payrolls and the decline in the unemployment rate indicate that the collapse in the economy brought on by the virus-related shutdowns is coming to an end,” Naroff told ConsumerAffairs. “Hopefully, that means we will be able to start moving forward and recoup the losses we saw during the shutdowns.”

      Businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector led the way, increasing their payrolls by 1.2 million after slashing 7.5 million jobs in April and 743,000 in March. Bars and restaurants, which began to reopen in some states as early as late April, accounted for about half of the job gains.

      Contractors go back to work

      Construction hiring surged by 464,000 in May, gaining back almost half of April’s losses, with growth about equally split between the residential and nonresidential sectors. 

      Education and health services added 424,000 jobs in May, after giving up 2.6 million in April. Health care employment increased by 312,000 over the month, with many of the gains in dentist offices and other health care practitioners.

      Retail businesses, shut down during the height of the pandemic, also contributed to last month’s wave of hiring. Retail hiring rose by 368,000 after that sector shed 2.3 million jobs in April. Hiring was the greatest among clothing retailers, car dealers, and general merchandise stores.

      At the same time, the pain continued for some types of retailers. Electronics and appliance stores and businesses selling auto parts and tires continued to lose employees.

      In a report that turned conventional wisdom on its ear, the Labor Department says the economy actually added jobs in May after millions of people were laid...

      Gas prices hit $2 a gallon for the first time since late March

      Formerly home-bound consumers have hit the road again

      The price of gasoline has reached a post-COVID-19 milestone, inching back over the $2 a gallon mark for the first time since the virus forced millions of Americans to stay home and demand for gasoline crashed.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline hit $2 a gallon today, higher than it’s been in months but 80 cents a gallon cheaper than it was a year ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.60, only two cents higher than last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.40 a gallon, a penny cheaper than last Friday.

      Prices have risen over the last three weeks as states begin to lift travel restrictions. Even so, gasoline supplies are abundant though demand for fuel has suddenly accelerated.

      GasBuddy demand data shows demand for gasoline was 5.5 percent higher by mid-week from the previous week and 8 percent higher than a month ago.

      “Americans are slowly but steadily returning to driving, causing gas prices to increase across the country,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “The good news is gas is still cheap. Motorists can fill-up for $2/gallon or less at 70% of gas stations across the country.”

      Prices were mostly stable across the U.S., rising two to three cents a gallon in most states. Idaho was an outlier, with the average statewide price jumping seven cents a gallon.

      At week's end, the greatest uncertainty about fuel prices centered on a tropical depression moving north through the Gulf of Mexico. Should it strengthen to hurricane status before Monday's expected landfall, it could pose a threat to the region's oil refineries.

      The states with the most expensive gas

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

      • Hawaii ($3.19)

      • California ($2.92)

      • Washington ($2.55)

      • Nevada ($2.48)

      • Oregon ($2.46) 

      • Alaska ($2.30)

      • Illinois ($2.25)

      • Utah ($2.25)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.24)

      • Idaho ($2.24)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.61)

      • Louisiana ($1.66)

      • Texas ($1.66)

      • Arkansas ($1.67)

      • Alabama ($1.67)

      • Oklahoma ($1.68)

      • Missouri ($1.68)

      • South Carolina ($1.69)

      • Kansas ($1.71)

      • Tennessee ($1.73)

      The price of gasoline has reached a post-COVID-19 milestone, inching back over the $2 a gallon mark for the first time since the virus forced millions of A...

      9 Binge-able Netflix series

      Looking to marathon a series on Netflix but can’t find anything? Here is out our list of great shows to check out

      It happens to all of us — we go through all our favorite series, and now we need a new one. We search through the massive list of titles and get lost in the search. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Netflix, check out our list of binge-able shows. Go put on your coziest pj's and get ready for some serious viewing.

      1. Stranger Things

      If you haven’t seen this show, it’s a must-watch! Set in the 1980s, Stranger Things centers around a group of kids that find themselves caught up in a mysterious turn of events. This show has everything — from crazy monsters to adorable romance — and will delight anyone that has a soft spot for 80s nostalgia.

      • Rated: TV-14
      • Episode length: 1 hour
      • Seasons: 3

      2. The Office

      The Office is a classic US adaptation of the British original. Filmed documentary-style, this character-driven sitcom is set in an office that is far more hilarious than you can imagine. For new watchers, welcome; however, The Office is always worth a re-watch for those of us that deserve a Dundie Award.

      • Rated: TV-14
      • Episode length: 30 minutes
      • Seasons: 9

      3. Avatar The Last Airbender

      If you're looking to find a great anime, you should check this one out. This unrivaled, iconic animated series follows the adventures of Aang — a master of all the elements — and his friends as they try to save the world! Avatar has action, adventure, romance, and intrigue, and best of all, the kids can join in on the fun!

      • Rated: TV-Y7-FV
      • Episode length: 30 minutes
      • Seasons: 3

      4. Tiger King

      Tiger King is a true-crime docuseries filled with so many twists and turns your head will spin. Set around a private Oklahoma big cat zoo, the series follows several owners of large exotic animals and a crime perpetrated too wild to believe. You won't be able to stop watching Tiger King once you start.

      • Rated: TV-MA
      • Episode length: 40 minutes
      • Seasons: N/A

      5. Altered Carbon

      Altered Carbon is an addictive Cyberpunk series set in the distant future where you can upload your consciousness to a new body — essentially granting you immortality. The series is filled with action and mystery, and the plot will keep you guessing.

      • Rated: TV-MA
      • Episode length: 1 hour
      • Seasons: 2

      6. Better Call Saul

      Better Caul Saul is an exceptional spin-off of the award-winning series Breaking Bad. This drama takes you on a journey through the origin story of Saul Goodman, a struggling bottom-feeding lawyer living in his brother's shadow and trying to work the system his own way. If you like intricate character arcs with a good helping of humor, Better Call Saul doesn't disappoint.

      • Rated: TV-MA
      • Episode length: 1 hour
      • Seasons: 5 (4 available on Netflix)

      7. New Girl

      Follow along as 4 unlikely roommates in an LA loft maneuver their way through the awkwardness that so often comes with relationships. It's a great choice if you're looking to start a series with your significant other as it's funny, sweet and has some great moments. The New Girl’s witty banter alone will keep you glued to all 4k of those little pixels.

      • Rated: TV-14
      • Episode length: 30 minutes
      • Seasons: 7

      8. Sherlock

      Benedict Cumberbatch gives a commanding performance as Sherlock Holmes in this updated adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic series. In the series, watch Holmes and Watson defeat nefarious villains and solve gripping mysteries in modern-day England. If you're a fan of the original book series, love unsolvable mysteries or simply want to watch a stellar cast, try Sherlock.

      • Rated: TV-14
      • Episode length: 90 minutes
      • Seasons: 4

      9. Street Food

      Street Food is a fantastic journey around the world, exploring how chefs from numerous cultures prepare unusual and remarkable dishes. This docuseries focuses on "street food," the delicious and inexpensive delicacies from exotic locations. If you're a fan of food and cooking, you should give this series a shot — just don't watch it if you're hungry!

      • Rated: TV-G
      • Episode length: 30 - 34 minutes
      • Seasons: 1

      This list should keep you busy marathoning amazing shows for some time. However, if your streaming service is lagging and it's difficult to watch shows without buffering, here are some tips for fixing a spotty WiFi signal.

      Here is our list of great new Netflix series to binge when you’re at home...

      Coronavirus update: Unemployment still rising, Vegas is back in business

      American Airlines is seeing an increase in flight bookings for July

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,856,118 (1,835,681)

      Total U.S. deaths: 107,281 (106,312)

      Total global cases: 6,551,290 (6,425,284)

      Total global deaths: 386,795 (381,528)

      New unemployment claims stubbornly high

      Initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 1.8 million last week. The report by the Labor Department shows the economy is continuing to shed jobs at a faster-than-expected rate, though the number is much lower than when the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown began in late March.

      Continuing claims for benefits, a number that shows how many Americans remain unemployed, totaled 21.5 million for the week, rising 649,000 over the previous week. It, too, was worse than expected.

      The insured unemployment rate, a ratio of those collecting benefits compared with the total labor force, rose 0.5 percentage points to 14.8 percent.

      The Las Vegas Strip lights up again

      Casinos in Las Vegas opened their doors again just after midnight, but gamblers were met with a number of new safety protocols as they returned. Dealers and other personnel wore masks, and hand sanitizer was as plentiful as cocktails.

      Actually, it was hotel casinos in suburban Las Vegas that were the first to open at 12:01 a.m. They were followed later in the morning by a restart of the iconic Bellagio fountain and reopenings of several resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

      “We are excited to get our employees back to work and to welcome guests to the entertainment capital of the world,”  Derek Stevens, owner of two downtown Las Vegas casinos, told ABC News.

      A slow return to the sky

      In another sign that consumers are shedding concerns about air travel, American Airlines says it expects to operate about 55 percent of its flights next month. It’s also resuming lounge service June 22 at 11 Admirals Club lounges in 10 key U.S. cities.

      American expects the biggest increase in passenger traffic to come from its hubs, including Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). Based on customer searches and bookings, it expects increased flights to Asheville, N.C., (AVL), Savannah, Ga., (SAV), and Charleston, S.C., (CHS) for business and leisure travelers.

      “We’re seeing a slow but steady rise in domestic demand. After a careful review of data, we’ve built a July schedule to match,” said Vasu Raja, American’s senior Vvce president of Network Strategy. “Our July schedule includes the smallest year-over-year capacity reduction since March. We’ll continue to look for prudent opportunities to restore service so our customers can travel whenever and wherever they are ready.

      Some health insurers are lowering premiums

      Anthem is the latest major health benefits provider to announce a premium reduction. The company said it is returning $2.5 billion to its policyholders and health care providers with premium credits of up to 15 percent next month.

      Other major providers have already instituted customer rebates, including UnitedHealth Group, which announced last month that it was cutting premiums by 20 percent in the month of June, citing fewer health care expenses. The company estimated that the move will put $1.5 billion back in customers’ pockets.

      Many Auto insurers also lowered premiums in April when stay-at-home orders drastically reduced traffic on highways and led to fewer accidents. Most major carriers, including Allstate and Geico, temporarily reduced policyholder premiums by up to 15 percent.

      Planning that first post-virus vacation

      Americans cooped up at home for the last three months may be longing to hit the road for a vacation this summer, but a survey from ValuePenguin suggests they won’t head for some exotic playground.

      Nearly half said the first trip they'll take when travel restrictions are lifted will be to visit family. Visiting friends came in second at 14 percent.

      Florida, California, and New York will be the first states that respondents visit as travel restrictions are lifted. Other popular destinations include Texas and New Jersey.

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: Health officials have cleared restaurants to reopen with outdoor seating on June 15. The rules are similar for restaurants and bars in other states. Tables must be six feet from each other; establishments must  have a limit of eight customers to a table; and they must post signs that say patrons with a fever or symptoms of the coronavirus shouldn’t enter.

      • Michigan: The Detroit Zoo will reopen June 8 for members only. Attendees must also make reservations and observe social distancing rules. The zoo will start accepting reservations on Friday.

      • Missouri: While first responders have rightly been a priority in getting protective gear, the state’s “last responders” appear to be at the back of the line. Don Otto, with the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association, tells Missourinet that protective gear purchased through vendors is long gone, and funeral homes are not part of the emergency supply chain.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,856,118 (1,835,68...

      Senate gives green light to the Paycheck Protection Program reform bill

      Little by little, small business owners are starting to get more relief from the pandemic

      The U.S. Senate was burning the midnight oil on Wednesday. It approved a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reform bill to support small businesses, clearing the way for President Trump's signature.

      The bill -- titled the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act -- had already passed the House of Representatives.

      In a nutshell, the upside of the legislation for business owners is that they would have more flexibility when it comes to how much of the relief funds they receive are required to be applied to payroll. Previously, PPP recipients were required to spend 75 percent of the money on employee pay if they wanted to have the loans forgiven. With the new bill, that number drops to 60 percent, guaranteeing that a maximum of 40 percent will be used for other costs.

      The finer points

      Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the Senate floor to highlight the new bill's critical aspects. Here's what he outlined:

      1. "First, it expands the loan period from eight weeks to 24 weeks. Currently, workers may be brought back for the eight weeks, but what good is it if they're then laid off at the end of that short period? It's unrealistic. And small businesses need assistance that can cover the full length of this crisis.

      2. Second, the legislation removes the 25 percent restriction imposed by the Trump administration on the use of loans for a fixed cost, rents, mortgages, utilities, and replaces it with a new 60-40 payroll to non-payroll expenses. This change will continue PPP support of bringing workers back on the payroll but will give small businesses more flexibility to survive this crisis, which is essential to the long-term employment prospect of the workers.

      3. Third, the proposal extends the program to the end of the year and makes December 31st the deadline to rehire workers in order to get full forgiveness on the loan."

      "We can't wait any longer. Businesses are really suffering for lack of these changes," Schumer said. "We must get this done. Businesses are going under every day."

      Will there be more?

      The pandemic's light at the end of the tunnel moves day by day. In the PPP's situation, it's had its own hot mess to clean up leading up to the new legislation. 

      While there's no guarantee for more relief or a further relaxing of requirements, anything is possible. PYMNTS reports that two banking groups -- the Consumer Bankers Association and the Bank Policy Institute -- have called for all loans less than $150,000 to be forgiven. Their reasoning? They believe a move like that could relieve small business owners of the stresses and time-consuming paperwork of applying for forgiveness.

      The U.S. Senate was burning the midnight oil on Wednesday. It approved a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reform bill to support small businesses, clearin...

      Major health insurance companies are cutting rates due to COVID-19

      The industry is following a pattern set by auto insurance companies

      If your health insurance provider hasn’t reduced your premiums during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, maybe you should be shopping for a new provider.

      As counterintuitive as it may sound, when a virus has hospitalized millions of Americans, major health insurance companies have begun reducing premiums for policyholders because of the money they are saving. Despite the threat of the coronavirus, overall health care spending has plunged since early March.

      Over the last three months, the health care system has focused entirely on the virus. Elective surgery was postponed. Many patients, fearful of contracting the virus, put off going to the doctor for routine matters.

      As a result, health insurance companies have been paying out a lot less money. Auto insurers found themselves in the same situation in April when stay-at-home orders drastically reduced traffic on highways and led to fewer accidents. Most major carriers, including Allstate and Geico, temporarily reduced policyholder premiums by up to 15 percent.

      Anthem cuts premiums

      Anthem has become the latest major health benefits provider to announce a premium reduction. The company said it is returning $2.5 billion to its policyholders and health care providers with premium credits of up to 15 percent next month.

      Other major providers have already instituted customer rebates, including UnitedHealth Group, which announced last month it was cutting premiums by 20 percent in the month of June, citing fewer health care expenses. The company estimated that the move will put $1.5 billion back in customers’ pockets.

      Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and some of his colleagues in other states had been lobbying health benefits providers to do just that, and in May he was quick to praise UnitedHealth Group’s action.

      “The coronavirus pandemic has placed a financial strain on thousands of people,” Chaney said in a statement. “The virus has disrupted how people are receiving care and negatively impacted our economy. I commend UnitedHealthcare for their response to relieve some of the burden consumers are facing.”

      It’s possible more health insurance providers will follow suit. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are a number of reasons providers may decide its good business to cut policyholders a break.

      “They don’t want to report windfall profits amid so much economic distress,” Matthew Borsch, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, told The Journal. “It just won’t look good.”

      If your health insurance provider hasn’t reduced your premiums during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, maybe you should be shopping for a new provider....

      Apple phones that were looted display messages that they are being tracked

      Stolen iPhones won’t work outside of Apple stores

      Apple Stores were impacted by looting and protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and have subsequently been closed. 

      Now, those who looted or purchased stolen iPhones are finding that they don’t work; in fact, they may even be tracked by Apple or U.S. authorities. The problem could affect consumers who purchase second-hand iPhones in the coming months. 

      Those with devices that were allegedly looted from Apple stores found that they had been automatically disbaled and displayed messages like, “Please return to Apple Walnut Street. This device has been disabled and is being tracked. Local authorities will be alerted.” 

      Apple’s mission

      Apple has used special OS images on demo devices in the past, as well as a software “kill switch” that disables them when they go out of range of the store’s Wi-Fi. 

      Company CEO Tim Cook said in a memo to employees that “there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.”

      Cook added that “at Apple, our mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We’ve always drawn strength from our diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone.”

      For now, Apple hasn’t said when it plans to reopen its stores. 

      Apple Stores were impacted by looting and protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and have subsequently been closed. Now, tho...

      Zoom won’t offer encryption for free users to comply with law enforcement

      Free calls won’t be encrypted so that law enforcement can access information in the event of ‘misuse’ of the platform

      Video conferencing platform Zoom has confirmed that its free users won’t get end-to-end encryption -- which is strongly recommended by privacy advocates -- because law enforcement may need to access these calls in the event that the platform is “misused.” 

      “We think this feature should be a part of our offering” for professional customers, said Zoom CEO Eric Yuan in a meeting with investors Tuesday. “Free users — for sure we don’t want to give [them] that, because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.”

      The policy has drawn criticism from security experts, who have taken issue with Zoom’s requirement of a payment in exchange for end-to-end encryption. 

      “This is a bizarre policy to say the least. Zoom. Perhaps it should have said ‘Y’all free users are just potential criminals. Y’all don’t deserve e2e protection,’” tweeted user PrivacyMatters.

      Privacy problems

      Zoom has dealt with a number of security issues in recent months, some of which transpired due to the unexpected surge in the number of Zoom users. One such issue was a phenomenon known as “Zoombombing," where hackers infiltrate and disrupt private chats. 

      Zoom has also been accused of sending data from users of its iOS app to Facebook and making false claims that video calls were encrypted. Additionally, half a million Zoom accounts have surfaced on the darknet.

      In an effort to address security shortcomings, Zoom acquired Keybase, an end-to-end encryption start-up. But based on the latest information, a majority of Zoom calls will remain unencrypted. 

      A company spokesperson said that Zoom “does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse.” Additionally, Zoom says it doesn’t, and will never, have “backdoors where participants can enter meetings without being visible to others.” 

      “Zoom’s end-to-end encryption plan balances the privacy of its users with the safety of vulnerable groups, including children and potential victims of hate crimes. We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to these vulnerable groups. Free users sign up with an email address, which does not provide enough information to verify identity.”

      Video conferencing platform Zoom has confirmed that its free users won’t get end-to-end encryption -- which is strongly recommended by privacy advocates --...

      FCC extends deadline for ISPs to stop charging customers who use their own equipment

      When December 20 comes, it’ll be a big boost for truth-in-billing

      Ever taken the time to pore over everything that’s in your monthly internet bill? A sore point for many consumers is that some U.S. internet service providers (ISPs) bill customers for a device rental fee -- even if they have their own model or router.

      There was a plan in place to stop that superfluous billing by June 20, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to push that deadline back until December 20.

      The FCC’s reasoning? The agency says it’s because of the pandemic. Simple as that. 

      The commission said in its ruling that broadband ISPs are an essential spoke in “[keeping] Americans informed and connected” during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it was allowing the six-month extension “so that these service providers may focus their resources on this critical effort.”

      Truth-in-billing

      Despite having to wait six more months, consumers’ rights will become measurably stronger once December 20 finally gets here.

      Under Rep. Mike Doyle’s (D-PA) Television Viewer Protection Act, consumers come out a winner because the legislation provides things like transparency requirements to consumers’ cable and satellite bills. In that truth-in-billing clause, ISPs must “refrain from charging a consumer for using equipment not provided by the service provider.”

      One such incident was a consumer in Texas who complained to the FCC that he never even received a router from his ISP but was being charged for one. 

      Ever taken the time to pore over everything that’s in your monthly internet bill? A sore point for many consumers is that some U.S. internet service provid...