It’s a tricky business, trying to make the world safe for consumers. Long ago, during my short-lived mystery shopping career, I had the assignment to sign up for a membership at a warehouse club. I was treated so poorly by the staff member registering new members that day that had I been spending my own money and not on assignment, I would have walked out.
American Express and Discover will no longer bill customers who exceed their credit limits, according to company spokespeople. The creditors aren’t eliminating the fees because they care about their customers. No, they’re providing what American Banker calls “the first concrete examples of how a new law will restrict issuers’ abilities to turn a profit.” The new CARD Act that Congress passed in May requires consumers to opt-in before they can exceed their credit limits. Since overlimit fees, which can reach $39, aren’t very profitable for creditors, they decided to ditch the fees altogether.
Almost half of all employers use credit reports to judge job applicants, even though credit histories have no relation to job performance. Personal finance goofs are only relevant for jobs that deal directly with money—cashiers, account managers, and the like. For everyone else, negative credit reports keep otherwise capable people from securing a job to help avoid further financial problems. So why do so many companies still ask for credit reports?
Bottled water isn’t any safer than tap water, and could actually be more dangerous, according to a report from the Government Accounting Office. The big difference lies in the government regulator: tap water is covered by the Safe Water Drinking Act, administered by the aggressive and powerful Environmental Protection Agency, while bottled water falls under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act overseen by the powerless anything-goes industry-lovers over at the Food and Drug Administration.
Here are three things you didn’t want to know: 1) The IRS doesn’t always conduct background checks on the employees contracted to handle your sensitive tax documents; 2) Those contracted employees regularly toss your sensitive tax documents into dumpsters without first shedding them; 3) The IRS doesn’t really know who’s in charge of conducting background checks on contracted employees, or who’s responsible for keeping your sensitive tax documents shredded and out of dumpsters. At least that’s what the Treasury Inspector General‘s office uncovered when it audited everyone’s favorite auditors.
CVS stores across the nation regularly stock expired medicine, milk, and baby formula, according to a damning union report. This isn’t the first time CVS has been caught stocking dangerous goods. Last year, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo threatened a suit after his office caught the pharmacy selling goods over a year past their expiration dates. CVS claims that, despite investing over $160 million in a “perpetual inventory management” system, it’s nearly impossible to keep expired items off the shelf because they simply have too much stuff.
A study from Fair Isaac confirms that even the best borrowers are seeing their credit lines slashed as banks move to boost profitability during the recession. 16% of Americans have seen their credit lines reduced by an average of $2,200, and of them, 11% had no late payments or negative marks on their credit report.
Every other retailer in existence may have had an awful holiday season, but Amazon says it was its “best ever.” [MarketWatch]
those with the largest amount of BPA in their urine had nearly three times the risk of heart disease and more than twice the risk of diabetes as those who had the lowest levels.
Between November of last year and this past January, the FDA “cited 49 areas of concern, including a failure to follow good manufacturing practices” at Merck & Co. Inc’s vaccine plant in Pennsylvania. A Merck spokesman says that most of the incidents were found and reported by Merck’s own employees, and that they occurred in the manufacturing process, not the vaccines themselves: “He stressed that no contamination was found in finished vaccines and that Merck was addressing all the problems.”
You’d think a credit monitoring service—even one as skeevy as freecreditreport.com—would take great pains to keep up the appearance of security and confidentiality. You’d be wrong. When Brian called to cancel their service he was asked to call out his social security number and his mother’s maiden name, even though it turned out they could easily access his account and cancel his service with only his phone number and birthday. Oh, and the first CSR hung up on him, but (sadly) that’s not really very newsworthy anymore.
Do you wish you had a way to spend your money more easily, without all that opening-the-wallet or punching-the-pin-number manual labor? The trade publication Cards & Payments (registration required) says that it’s received a copy of a report filed with the FCC that indicates Citigroup is developing a Near Field Communication, or NFC, mobile phone that would allow its customers to make contactless payments at participating retailers.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report yesterday that says that while the FCC processes about 95% of the complaints that come in, it takes some sort of enforcement action in only about 9% of them. “The GAO said it was unable to determine why the [other] investigations were closed without action because ‘FCC does not systematically collect these data.'” The FCC uses five separate databases and “about 46,000 paper files” to track complaints, and the GAO said “made it difficult to get answers to basic questions like how long it takes the agency to close an investigation and the total dollar amount it assesses in fines.”
Terrible news for anyone afraid of flying: the FAA is reporting that the newest passenger planes are held together with “substandard” parts. The oversight at several supplier factories was so shoddy that workers were caught using rulers made of scotch-tape and paper.
The slightly alarmist HealthInspections.com has a story about dirty lemon wedges in restaurants—apparently they’re a “witch’s brew of bacteria,” to use the hilariously over-the-top language of the video narrator, who speaks in a parody of a newscaster voice. Our favorite trick of theirs: overlaying gigantic bacteria animations on everyday objects, as you can see in this screen capture. But anyway, the point is a microbiologist from New Jersey found various bacteria on three quarters of the lemons she tested from 21 different restaurants: “The very first sample that we took was loaded with fecal bacteria.”
Consumers Reported 69,204 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violations. FTC Responds With One (1) Lawsuit
Consumers have filed over 69,000 complaints against scummy debt collectors for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, prompting the FTC to rush to our collective defense by taking action against three debt collectors who showed a “culture of harassing the debtors from which they collect.” Two debt collectors settled and one went to court. Still, when you receive over 69,000 complaints—and these are from the people who know to complain to the FTC—it’s reasonable to assume that more than three collectors encourage a culture of harassment. More harrowing revelations from the FTC’s annual report to Congress, after the jump.
Less than a week ago, Tennessee voted to require a personal finance class of all graduating high school students, starting with this year’s seventh graders. Unfortunately, less than 20% of states have similar requirements. We’ve made a fancy-schmancy graphic to show which states are teaching tomorrow’s citizens how to manage money, and which states are likely to be great places to set up payday loan shops. Inside, see the chart nice and big.