We are rapidly running out of 2015 left to spend, and so the two houses of Congress have been racing to pass an omnibus spending bill that will keep the government funded and the lights on. Because that bill is a must-pass piece of legislation, all kinds of crap has been added, taken away, and snuck back in as we come down to the wire. Among the other bills that have been tacked on is a controversial piece of cybersecurity legislation that has privacy and consumer advocates worried all around.
There never has been a tax on email or bandwidth use, for most of us, because Congress made it illegal to charge one more than 15 years ago. That law, though, was temporary and for the better part of two decades, has constantly needed to be extended or renewed. This year, Congress appears finally to be sick of doing that and has real plans to make it permanent, once and for all.
Executives involved in the billion-dollar beer merger between Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller tried to paint a rosy picture of its impending marriage — despite a wealth of contradictory testimony — assuring lawmakers that there’s really no downside to the deal: everyone will benefit, even consumers. [More]
There are billions of reasons (or rather dollars) for the executives for Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Co. to prove that a mega-beer merger is a brilliant plan, and now it looks like they’ll have their chance to opine on its greatness by testifying in front of Congress tomorrow. [More]
After 57 years of assisting nearly 20 million low-income students to finance their dreams of obtaining a higher education, the Federal Perkins Loan program could soon be grinding to a halt. [More]
When a car has a major flaw, like a potentially lethal airbag, it gets recalled. Same for a coffeemaker, or a surfboard, or a prescription drug. But when that major flaw is in a product’s software — like a huge exploit that puts literally a billion consumers’ privacy and personal data at risk — there’s no universal process out there for remedying the situation. Do we need one? And if so, how can we get one? [More]
A committee in Congress yesterday held a hearing on promoting broadband infrastructure investment. That is, getting more wires put in the ground so more people can get online faster and more reliably. That’s a laudable goal that we here at Consumerist tend to cheer on. But one theme became clear from the testimonies of the assembled analysts, industry members, and local public companies who spoke: real improvement is going to be a long, ugly series of fights… and consumers are going to keep paying a lot more while it happens.
A day before representatives from Japanese auto parts maker Takata are set to appear in front of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to discuss the more than 34 million defective airbags linked to six deaths and more than a hundred injuries, the company announced it would stop using an often volatile chemical in its safety devices moving forward and call back some airbags replaced during earlier recalls. [More]
Most of the time, consumer interactions with businesses go just fine. We give a company our money, they provide us with goods or services, and everyone is happy. But sometimes, things go awry. The customer isn’t happy, the business doesn’t make it right, and we complain: not just to the business, but to Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp. And that, too often, is when the story starts to get even uglier.
The Department of Defense is trying to do something good for servicemembers by closing loopholes in the Military Lending Act that can leave military personnel vulnerable to predatory lenders. But these safeguards are now the target of a Congressman who has received substantial campaign contributions from payday lenders. [More]
We’re barely into May, and it’s already been an incredibly busy year for the FCC. Even major issues like a spectrum auction and a ruling on municipal broadband were overshadowed by the two huge proceedings around net neutrality and the Comcast/TWC merger. And so when FCC chairman Tom Wheeler sat down for a “fireside chat” at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York this week, he had a lot to say.
Yesterday we reported that Congress would make a decision whether or not it would intervene to slow the Department of Defense’s work to create new rules aimed at closing loopholes in the Military Lending Act that often leave military personnel vulnerable to predatory financial operations. Thankfully, legislators saw the need for more protections regarding military lending and determined the rules could go into effect as planned. [More]
It’s been two years since we found out that the NSA has been quietly scooping up basically everyone’s phone records, willy-nilly, without warrants. The revelations of widespread surveillance freaked plenty of people out, but under existing law, the agency has acted legally. To get change, then, you’d need to change the law… and Congress has 33 days remaining in which to do exactly that.
When the new gainful employment rules take effect later this year, for-profit educators would need to demonstrate that their programs are actually training graduates to earn a living. But a pending piece of legislation seeks to give these schools a free pass to billions of dollars in federal student aid.
Congress One Step Closer To Granting Fast-Track Authority For Passing Mysterious Trans-Pacific Trade Treaty
Global trade deals are kind of arcane stuff. Diplomats spend years or decades negotiating them, in an endless series of meetings around the world. Not only do all the i’s need to be dotted and t’s crossed, but every a, an, and, if, then, and but needs to be reviewed, revised, discussed, and agreed upon ten times over. It’s a laborious process.