Airbnb just wants to be your friend, mayors. All it wants is for you to let city residents rent all or part of their homes out sometimes, and in exchange for that, the peer-to-peer short-term rental service will collect taxes and turn them over to cities. That’s the service’s pitch at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this week in Washington, D.C. Are America’s mayors interested in the pitch? [More]
The Drywall Safety Act of 2012 passed Congress on New Year’s Day 2013 and is currently waiting for President Obama’s signature. The purpose of the bill is to keep stinky and hazardous drywall out of American homes. Simple enough. Thanks to the miracle of democracy, the bill has been watered down and gives less power to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and more to the building industry to draw up its own voluntary standards. [More]
Bankers are sure trotting out the appealing straight talk to defend the recent increase in rates on various consumer banking services. First it was Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan telling folks that adding a $5 monthly fee for debit cards was okay because they “have the right to make a profit.” Now an American Bankers Association has an interesting turn of phrase to defend the jackup in checking account costs, most recently done by Citibank.
Banks are none too happy about how the passage of Dodd-Frank has been crimping their style. So they hired a Wall Street lobbyist, former Congressman Steve Bartlett, to lead the well-funded rearguard action by the ” Financial Services Roundtable” to neuter the laws. And darned if those cocktail parties aren’t working.
Prize-Linked Savings plans are these things where a tiny bit of the interest on all the participants’ savings accounts get pooled together. Then on a regular basis someone gets randomly selected for a giant cash prize! The instruments have done well in other countries for years, encouraging people to save instead of wasting their money on a hopeless game. Naturally, America hates it.
We’ve said repeatedly that prepaid funeral plans are bunk–the industry is too unregulated to be trustworthy, and it’s far too easy to lose money when you could just as easily set up a savings plan for a funeral on your own. Now there’s news from California that the state’s second-largest prepaid funeral trust was spending money “improperly” on everything from political lobbying to conventions, blowing $12.6 million from the $70 million paid in advance by customers.
So, we used to have this thing called the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated investment banking from commercial banking. Then we didn’t anymore. Now the President has proposed new rules that would effectively restore some of the provisions of Glass-Steagall. Wall Street is like, so not cool with it, however.
When the CPSIA—the toy safety law that requires independent lab tests on toys—was passed, a lot of smaller toy manufacturers complained that it was really a dirty trick by the big toy companies to increase overhead for the small ones. Now comes word that the government has secretly exempted Mattel from the law’s testing requirements—even though Mattel was responsible for 6 lead-tainted toy recalls in 2007.
This week, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) postponed a vote on a bill creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) until September when lawmakers return from recess. The delay is partly due to other more pressing issues, but mainly due to unexpected (really?) pushback from the financial industry.
Ten years ago, Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports and owner of Consumerist) warned us all about the potential danger from bisphenol A (BPA) leeching from plastic containers into our food. It’s only in recent years that municipalities got around to banning the chemical—at least in containers designed for use by infants and small children.
Monsanto continues its attempts to hide the basic facts of food production from consumers, this time in Kansas. The Kansas Dairy Association, along with a suspicious “grassroots” dairy group that has the same public relations firm as Monsanto, has helped introduce a bill to the state Senate that would ban “growth hormone-free” milk labels. The bill’s supporters argue that growth hormone can’t be found in lab tests, and if a lab can’t verify it, consumers don’t need to be told about it.
Well we’re glad that’s taken care of. Wait… the Toy Industry Association is a trade group, not a federal agency! At any rate, on February 1st the Toy Industry Association, a 500-member strong group, will “release a draft of tough new safety rules, which include a plan to require manufacturers to test toys for hazardous chemicals and defective designs.” According to CNN, the group is drafting the 3-point plan with at least the awareness, if not the help, of the CPSC, and it hopes to have the plan formally certified as the CPSC’s “new standard for toy safety.”
Consumer Reports says that “without warning or public discussion” 19 dairies in Pennsylvania were notified that their labels were “false or misleading and need to be changed.” What did the labels say?
Congress has added its voice to the growing number of critics who have noted that the FCC is misreporting broadband penetration in the U.S. According to eWeek, last Wednesday a House subcommittee “approved legislation to change the Federal Communications Commission’s methodology for determining deployment.” The FCC currently counts a single home in a zip code as representative of the full zip code—so one home having broadband access is considered the same as every home in that area having broadband access. By doing this, they inflate the number of homes with broadband access and present a picture of increased “natural” competition in the market, which is then used by telecoms and lobbyists to argue against policy decisions that don’t favor existing corporations.
Georgia narrowly rejected a bid Tuesday to repeal their ban on payday loans.
This particular device was involved in a landmark United States regulatory decision related to telecommunications. The 1968 Federal Communications Commission allowed the Carterfone and other devices to be connected directly to the AT&T network, as long as they did not cause damage to the system. This ruling created the possibility of selling devices that could connect to the phone system and opened up the market to numerous products, including answering machines, fax machines, cordless phones, computer modems and the early, dialup Internet.
The Carterphone provision was never applied to cellphones, giving providers a closed system. If Skype successfully petitions the FCC, cellphones could be “unlocked” to third-party applications such as Skype. This could be good for you, the Skype-loving consumer. —MEGHANN MARCO