Paycheck fairness: Fighting for moms and all women

In this week leading up to Mother’s Day, advocates working across the country in workplace fairness and women’s health are focusing on issues that affect women – in particular mothers – and their economic security. We can strengthen the American family by better protecting women in our workforce and eliminating the pay gap that, on average, results in a woman making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Advocates are ramping up this week to draw attention to workplace issues affecting women, ranging from pregnancy discrimination to sick leave and health care. Congressional events and daily “tweetstorms” at 3pm EST will explore the following themes:

  • Monday – Maternal Health & Child Care
  • Tuesday – Pregnancy Discrimination
  • Wednesday – Paid Leave & Paid Sick Days
  • Thursday – Equal Pay & Minimum Wage
  • Friday – Health

You can follow and join the National Consumers League and our partners in the chats using the hashtag #WhatMothersNeed.

One of the biggest issues facing women and their economic security is the lack of equality in pay. More than 50 years after John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, women continue to make far less than men. On average, a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. A new effort in Congress is aiming to help reduce the barriers to equality faced by women in the United States, and NCL is getting involved.

The American gender pay gap is even more severe for women of color; African American women making just 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes, and Latina women make even less — 55 cents.  Over the course of a year, women will make significantly less than their white male counterpart: $10,784 for a white woman, $19,575 for an African American woman and $23,873 for a Latina woman.

Under current law, women often struggle to successfully sue their employers if they suspect they are victims of discriminatory workplace practices because the burden of proof needed to prove an employer has violated the law is too great.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would help reduce these barriers to equality. If the Paycheck Fairness Act were passed into law, women would be empowered to negotiate for equal pay in the workplace. New protections barring employers from punishing employees for discussing salaries with colleagues and requiring employers to prove pay disparities between men and women exists for legitimate reasons, would give women a renewed ability to pursue justice in our courts.

In April, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act. On Equal Pay Day (April 8th) the Senate held a floor vote on the Act. However, they failed to make cloture on the bill. Equal Pay Day marks the day on the calendar that women’s earnings catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. It takes a woman approximately 465 days to earn what a man, on average, earns in 365 days. Esther Peterson, one of the League’s past leaders, ran the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau in the Kennedy Administration and she called for equal pay for women. Today, the League continues that fight. NCL is working with members of the Senate HELP Committee on the Paycheck Fairness Act and meeting with Congressional staffers to educate and advocate for it along with other economic security bills including the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, the FAMILY Act and the Minimum Wage Fairness Act.

A recent populist strain in the national political conversation has shined a bright spotlight on social and economic inequalities. The time is now for meaningful social and economic change and the passing of the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a great step in the right direction. The pulse of the nation is longing to eliminate inequalities between the rich and poor, old and young, women and men. From the fast food strikes held around the country in the second half of 2013, to President Obama boldly stating in his 2014 State of the Union address that, “Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” to GAP declaring that they will raise the minimum wage for their employees to $10 an hour by 2015, the direction of the country is clear.

The fact that women get less money for equal work is not only a women’s issue but also a family issue. A woman is the primary breadwinner in four in 10 households with children under 18, according to a Pew Research Center Analysis. At a time when women contribute an increasingly growing percentage of a family’s income, 71 percent of mothers are part of the labor force, a pay gap unfairly targets children in households with single mothers or where both parents work. The Paycheck Fairness Act deserves a vote in Senate as women continue the long and steady march towards equality.

FTC report shines light on continuing problem of ID theft – National Consumers League

In the world of fraud fighting, the release of the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Data Book is something of a wonky holiday. Yesterday was no exception, with the agency publishing the annual report, which examines trends in the 2 million-plus complaints the FTC receives annually. The headline of the report was depressingly familiar: identity theft continued to be the biggest driver of complaints to the FTC for the 14th straight year.

This trend is one of the reasons NCL produced our State of Identity Theft in 2013 report last year, which examined the continuing threat of ID theft and why we are making the issue of data insecurity a top priority in 2014.

Looking deeper into the Sentinel data, some additional interesting trends and questions come to light, including:

  • Does youth correlate with risk of identity theft? The FTC noted that 20% of ID theft complaints came from consumers aged 20-29, who comprise only 13.8% of the population. There is also a steady reduction in ID theft complaint rates as consumers get older. For example, 8% of ID theft complaints come from consumers aged 70-plus, which is consistent with their overall 9% distribution in the population. An open question is whether identity theft risk decreases as consumers age or whether the correlation is due to an increased likelihood that younger consumers will report identity theft.
  • The telephone is scammers’ contact method of choice. While recent news has been dominated stories about high-tech data breaches, it appears that scammers are returning to a somewhat old-fashioned tool: the telephone. Last month’s Top Ten Scams report noted that telemarketing fraud was making a major comeback, with 36% of complaints mentioning the telephone as the method of contact. The FTC’s new data confirmed this, finding that 40% of complaints cited the telephone as the method of contact. The telephone is now the preferred method of contact by scammers, overtaking email for the first time since 2011. Congress is taking notice as well. In December, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Anti-Spoofing Act, which would crack down on scammers disguising their calls by altering Caller ID information.
  • Scammers shifting technique in “grandparent’s scams.” Con artists have long used the story of a loved one in distress to defraud consumers, particularly older adults. Also known as the imposter scam, this fraud starts with the fraudster calling a victim with an urgent appeal for funds to help a friend or family member in need. For example, the scammer might claim that a beloved grandson was in a car accident overseas and needs money to pay a hospital bill or to get bailed out of jail. More than 121,000 consumers reported an imposter scam to the FTC in 2013, an increase of more than 36,000 complaints since 2012. The scam is evolving as well. Whereas fraudsters used to impersonate a friend or family member, they are increasingly claiming to represent a business or government official.
  • Encouraging signs in the fight against lottery scams. For the second year in in a row, complaints about this type of fraud have decreased (down by almost more than 10,000 complaints since 2011). Thanks in part to consumer education campaigns like growing awareness of these scams seems to be having an impact.

More than 2.1 million complaints were filed with the FTC in 2013, with reported losses of more than $1.6 billion. Given that fraud is a chronically underreported crime, we should assume that many millions more consumers were harmed. As we prepare to mark National Consumer Protection Week, this new data should serve as a reminder of the immense toll that fraud takes on U.S. consumers.

This data should push all of us — anti-fraud advocates, law enforcement, policymakers and everyday consumers — to redouble our vigilance in the fight against scammers.

As Saudi Arabia Ratifies Child Labor Convention 138, the Child Labor Coalition Urges the U.S. to Ratify Now – National Consumers League

February 28, 2014

Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820,

Washington, DC–The 31-member Child Labor Coalition (CLC) welcomes news that Saudi Arabia has become the 167th country to ratify Convention 138, setting a minimum age for work at 15, and it urges the US to ratify the convention as well. Drafted by the members of the International Labour Organization in 1973, Convention 138 asks nations to work to eliminate exploitive child labor and establish minimum ages at which children are allowed to work. Most countries have set those minimums at 15 or 16, with about one-third of nations adopting 14 as the age limit on a temporary basis. Convention 138 allows light work that is not harmful for children who are 13-15. In the US, however, children are allowed to perform strenuous labor for wages in agriculture beginning at the age of 12.

“The United States is dedicated to eliminating exploitive child labor around the world,” noted Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition and executive director of the National Consumers League, which played a crucial role in eliminating many forms of child labor in the US in the 19th and early 20th century. “With 167 countries pledging minimum age restrictions for work at 14, 15, or 16, we need to join the international community and do the same. If Saudi Arabia can ratify protections for child workers, certainly the US should also do so. We must also adopt Convention 138’s prohibitions of harmful and dangerous work by those under 18.” 

“Before the US can ratify Convention 138, it must close the loopholes in US child labor law that allow children to work for wages in agriculture at age 12,” noted Norma Flores Lopez, director of the Children in the Fields Campaign for the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs and the chair of the CLC’s Domestic Issues Committee. “Farm work is particularly dangerous—with mortality rates four times that of other industries—yet we allow children who are 12 to perform back-breaking labor in the fields for unlimited hours when school is not in session.”

“As a former child migrant farmworker, I know the dangers children in the fields are exposed to—powerful machinery, razor-sharp tools, and pesticide poisoning—to name just a few,” added Flores Lopez. “Child labor has a huge impact on the farmworker community, creating rampant generational poverty as the rigors of the work, migration, and endless school disruptions cause children to tire and drop out of school. With millions of unemployed adults in America, why must we rely on young children to harvest our fruits and vegetables?”

“By continuing to keep children working in the fields, the US causes adult wages in agriculture to remain artificially low, making it nearly impossible for these families to invest in their children and break the cycle of poverty,” noted Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum and chair of the CLC’s International Issues Committee. “The US should take immediate steps to ratify international treaties like Convention 138 and the Convention on the Rights of the Children—both embraced nearly unanimously by United Nations members—that work to increase protections for children.”

“The elimination of child labor has been a goal of educators for many years,” added Dr. Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers and a co-chair of the CLC.  “Tackling the issue of child labor has gone hand-in-hand with our efforts to ensure that quality education is provided as a right to all children. Here and abroad, the elimination of child labor goes beyond education, and should also include policy changes that address societal poverty and inequality, as well the legal framework that ILO Convention 138 helps provide.”


About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. [The CLC’s site and membership list can be found at]

Consumer group: Moderation key during National Nutrition Month – National Consumers League

February 27, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–March marks the beginning of National Nutrition Month, and the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, is reminding consumers of the importance of developing healthy dietary and physical activity practices this month and year-round.

Obesity continues to plague Americans: more than a third are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An additional third of American adults are overweight. There was some good news this week from the CDC, however. Among kids ages 2 to 5 the obesity rate dropped from 14% in 2003-2004 to just over 8% in 2011-2012,. That represents a drop of 43%, CDC said.

The overweight and obese are at risk for heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses. National Nutrition Month is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During March advocates and educators will focus on the importance of making informed choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. In observance of the month, NCL offers consumers five tips for developing a healthier diet:

  1. Increase intake of whole grains, making half of all grains consumed whole grains.
  2. Reduce consumption of soda and juice drinks containing high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.
  3. Monitor and minimize calorie intake from alcoholic beverages.  
  4. Be aware of large portion sizes, especially when dining out.
  5. Prepare more meals at home, where you have more control over the ingredients, including salt, sugar, and fat. 

Cutting down on some of the most calorie-dense foods that are easy to consume in large quantities, such as sodas, chips, cakes, and cookies, is a big step in the right direction.  NCL has prepared a consumer-friendly factsheet of the major sources of calories in the American diet to help identify which foods consumers tend to overindulge in.  Surprisingly, some foods, like candy (slightly more than 2% of calories), are not on the list.  Others, like soda, pizza, cakes, and cookies figure high on the list.

Most important to maintaining a healthy diet is eating mostly low-calorie, low fat, and nutrient dense foods.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends, through its “My Plate” campaign, that fruits and vegetables comprise half of each meal. Health advocates also recommend that Americans get into the habit of checking nutrition labels, which will be updated under new federal regulations for the first time in 20 years.  Almost every packaged food item includes the Nutrition Facts Labels; most importantly, these labels provide calories per serving and help consumers monitor and control intake for a 2,000 calorie a day diet. The new Nutrition Facts Label will reflect more accurate caloric information – a bag of corn chips, which most people eat in one sitting, will have a caloric listing that reflects calories in the whole bag, not 2 ½ servings, for example, as we see so often today. The new label will include larger font and a listing for added sugars, which is useful information.  

Many restaurants today post calories on their menus, which is also helpful in keeping caloric intake under 2,000 a day.

We need to be realistic in helping Americans reach and maintain healthy weights. “Very restrictive diets may be impossible to maintain in the long-term,” said Sally Greenberg NCL Executive Director. “Indulging in a sweet treat in moderation, particularly dark chocolate, which has in recent years been revealed to offer health benefits, may make following a healthy diet and the long-term benefits of weight loss more achievable.” The American Dietetic Association echoes this idea. For those with a sweet tooth, Kerry Neville, MS, RD a registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, recommends small indulgences, like a small candy bar, as an aid in maintaining a healthy diet and curbing cravings.

Physical activity is also critical for maintaining a healthy weight. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking at a brisk clip or riding a bike, each week.

“Not everyone can or will commit that kind of time to getting physical exercise, so it’s important to know that even a little exercise is better than none,” said Greenberg. “Once or twice a week at the gym or a brisk walk during the week can yield very beneficial rewards.”

For more Nutrition Month tips, visit or the factsheet.


About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

With Communities of Color Consumer Protection Symposium, NCL helps celebrate Black History Month – National Consumers League

February is Black History Month and reminds us of NCL’s deep historical connections to the Black community. W.E.B. DuBois, the renowned civil rights leader and first editor of the NAACP’s newspaper, The Crisis, was a brilliant scholar and close friend of Florence Kelley, NCL’s General Secretary. Kelley came from a Philadelphia Quaker family, raised with fiercely abolitionist beliefs with no tolerance for racial prejudice or discrimination.


She was furious when racial segregation practiced in hotels and restaurants made it difficult for her African American colleagues to attend meetings on minimum wage and child labor.

Earlier this month, NCL sponsored the Communities of Color Consumer Protection and Financial Services Symposium. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies – the only African America think tank in the US – co-hosted the program with the Center for Responsible Lending. The conference focused on telecom, fraud, student loans, auto loans and mortgage financing, with an emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable communities. These communities experience higher interest rates, rip off contract terms, and have had their family wealth wiped out by the subprime mortgage crisis in far larger proportions than their white counterparts.

We organized this conference to bring new voices into the consumer protection discussion. Representatives from La Raza, LULAC, NAACP and Urban League spoke at the event, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).

I learned a lot at about how financial institutions, car dealers and lenders, for profit colleges, and so many others target the black community for predatory practices and make billions in profits at the expense of these communities.

So as we celebrate Black History Month in 2014, it’s more important than ever that communities of color have the benefit of consumer protections and that regulators and legislators work on their behalf. NCL hopes to do a conference like this at least once a year. We will be following the wonderful example of great leaders like Florence Kelley and W.E.B. Dubois who 100 years ago worked together as partners and colleagues for the cause of social justice in America.

Getting in touch with your inner farmer – National Consumers League

kelseyIt’s unseasonably warm this week, and I’ve found myself longing to populate my deck with plants despite the cold that may lie ahead. Growing up, my parents spent summer weekends landscaping and planting, and I feel a deep satisfaction in caring for plants. We never had a successful garden exactly, maybe some tomatoes or herbs in pots — but there was something beautiful and amazing about creating something sustaining and useful from tiny seeds.

I worry that Americans are becoming less and less connected with their food. What we buy in the grocery store can be so vastly different than its origins.  Lately there has been some buzz about micro-gardening.  It’s perfect for people who have very little land to grow on, such as those of us who live in cities or apartments.  Micro-gardening focuses on fitting as many plants, and thus produce, into as few square feet as possible.

Companies like Earth Starter are creating aids to achieve maximum space use.  Their creations, the Nourishmat and Herbmat may soon be available for purchase but are currently only available through donation to the Kickstarter Campaign.  The mats come with “seed bombs” that are planted in designated spots. Window gardening is an even better, yet somewhat involved, solution for apartment dwellers.  If you’re able to set up one of these hydroponic window systems, kudos to you.

Encouraging the average American to cultivate his or her green thumb could, through education and assistance, help the urban poor get more fresh food to their tables.  Maybe if we all grew fruits and veggies, we’d feel a little more connected to them, more motivated to eat them.  Its reason enough for me to give it a try.  And for those of you who have absolutely no interest in gardening but still long for extremely fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, there’s always Community Supported Agriculture which allows consumers to buy directly from farmers and in some cases affords you the opportunity to visit the farm.

Health IT: The next patient frontier – National Consumers League

By Sarah Hijaz, Health Policy Intern

Modern technology has dramatically improved the way we communicate, connect, and learn. It is also beginning to improve the way we practice medicine and treat patients. On the 5th anniversary of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which created a platform for health information technology to revolutionize our health care system, we are taking a look at what technology has and will do for our health care.

Health information technology (HIT) is the new driving force in the health care system. It allows health care providers to quickly search for patient records, have automatic filing systems, and in the future can create an inter-operable electronic database connecting patient records in real-time. Electronic health records (EHRs) present an amazing opportunity to advance care and improve health care provider workflow. For instance, EHRs make it easier to find out what tests have been ordered and medications prescribed by other providers. This cuts down on the chance of unnecessary, duplicate testing and inappropriate prescribing for medicines that should not be taken together.

Health IT also empowers patients.  Prior to the rise of electronic records, many patients, especially those unfamiliar with the healthcare system, thought that their health records were only for the health care provider. When in fact, your health record is yours—and patients should feel free to access it and know what information is in their record.  Now with EHRs, patients can go online and access their health information and make queries of the provider in real time. Some EHRs even allow patients to input information about their health to share with their doctor. By being able to quickly access and easily retain and send out copies of their EHRs, patients have a greater level of control of their personal information. In fact, a recent survey by the National Partnership for Women & Families has shown that 80% of individuals who have online EHR access take advantage of that access.

Anti-union propaganda leads to defeat for UAW – National Consumers League

Last Friday the workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted against joining the UAW. In the weeks and months leading up to this vote, VW had agreed to stay neutral and over half the workers had indicated they were in favor of union membership. But that all changed due to a sustained propaganda campaign lead by Bob Corker the notorious anti-union Senator from Tennessee and the Koch brothers.

They, and their right wing allies, believe that if Tennessee  – a right-to-work (for less) state – opens the door to the union, the rest of the South will open up to labor.

Other threats were lobbed – Senator Corker claimed to have been told by an unnamed top company executive that a vote against the union would guarantee that Chattanooga would be chosen as the production site for a new line of SUVs — the union denied it. State officials apparently said if the plant were unionized, the legislature would refuse to appropriate an estimated $700 million in state subsidies necessary to build out an SUV plant.

I don’t understand why these Southern politicians are so threatened by the union. European companies, like VW, which stayed neutral in this discussion, are used to the notion of workers and employers having a place at the table; they support the concept of worker representatives sitting down with management and arriving at mutually beneficial policies, including work rules, wages, safety and health requirements, and vacation benefits. Everyone understands that there’s money to be made  – a lot of it – by both workers and industry. What is so infuriating about so many American businesses, and this campaign against UAW so demonstrates this problem, is that they don’t get that sharing the wealth is GOOD for companies and workers. So many American companies are all about grabbing profits for their higher ups and skimping on wages and benefits whenever possible.  Here was a chance to change that paradigm with the company’s support.

But because this is the US, that wasn’t to be.

The anti UAW propaganda was effective, comparing Tennessee to Detroit and scaring the current VW workforce, which currently makes a good salary, by blaming the UAW for Detroit’s current financial disaster.  Talk about blaming the victim! Workers making decent wages and benefits are to blame for Detroit’s decades of mismanagement and white flight?  It makes no sense but it’s a potent sound bite.

Suppliers threatened to boycott TN if VW unionized. Is giving workers a voice really so scary? Yes, to Southern politicians and business. But Steve Pearlstein in the Washington Post points out that:

[I]n the faster-growing and more prosperous regional economies of the North and West, companies are trying to boost performance by increasing employee engagement and empowerment, not suppressing it. Their business strategies are based not on assuring a steady supply of cheap labor but on increasing the number of highly paid and highly skilled workers. Rather than trying to nullify federal labor law and crush what remains of the much-diminished union movement, these companies, like VW, are looking at new models of workplace cooperation and collaboration.

That’s more likely the wave of the future. And the South, and Senator Corker, the Koch’s, and their ilk – will be left behind If they continue this all out attack against empowering workers and giving them a voice.

Love and food: Old friends – National Consumers League

kelseyFood is a cornerstone of love. Think of all the ways we use food to bond: cooking for loved ones, eating together as a means to share conversation, gifting food. I grew up in a family for whom food was a form of love, and while this might not be every person’s experience, I think we can all understand the association. This Valentine’s Day, couples will flock to restaurants, cookies will be baked for families, and young valentines will exchange candy at school.  

It has me thinking about what are our most loving/loveable/love inducing foods.

Some foods that we associate with love are comforting. Peanut butter and jelly, for example, might have been what your mom made you for lunch every day growing up. Other foods, commonly called aphrodisiacs, supposedly evoke passion. As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, aphrodisiacs are “something that excites” but scientific evidence doesn’t necessarily prove that aphrodisiacs work as we intend. Despite their somewhat ambiguous nature, many aphrodisiacs have other positive health effects.

  • Some of the most notorious aphrodisiacs are oysters. They are known to have high levels of zinc, a mineral proven to increase testosterone in men, and iron, which can increase energy in people with an iron deficiency (most commonly women).
  • Hot peppers, another common aphrodisiac, are packed with vitamins and an antioxidant called capsaicin which may fight cancer, suppress appetite, burn calories and relieve pain.
  • Honey is known for its antibacterial properties (one of the many reasons a hot toddy is so good for a cold) and it contains boron which aids in estrogen and testosterone regulation. The term honeymoon comes from an old tradition of giving mead, fermented honey, as a gift to newlyweds.
  • Strawberries, cherries and pomegranates are all juicy red fruits packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. Both strawberries and pomegranates have plentiful vitamin c which improves blood flow and cherries are high in melatonin, an antioxidant that’s helps to regulate the heart.
  • Chocolate is a Valentine’s Day favorite and has been proven to release phenylethylamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that produce a euphoric feeling like that of falling in love.  Keep in mind it doesn’t take very much chocolate to reap its antioxidant and mood enhancing benefits so try to keep consumption to a minimum.

So friends if you’re looking for food to get in the mood this Valentine’s Day, I can’t make any promises but these might help. Even if they don’t, each has positive health benefits — and you really can’t argue with that.

Hawaii ticketing bill an opportunity to create consumer-friendly ticket marketplace – National Consumers League

February 12, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization has submitted a letter to the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Hawaii House of Representatives regarding HB 2012, a bill that addresses the difficulty consumers have in accessing tickets to concerts and sporting events at a fair price.

“Consumers are right to be outraged when they try to buy tickets and find that they have sold out in seconds, only to quickly reappear on the secondary market at inflated prices. NCL applauds the committee for examining this complex issue,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy on Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault. “However long experience has taught that there are no silver bullets that will fix the problem of fair access to tickets in the long term. For instance, price caps on resold tickets may have the unintended consequence of driving consumers searching for tickets to back alley scalpers and online classified websites like Craigslist, which provide no protections whatsoever. Instead, a pro-consumer solution to this issue requires a multi-pronged approach. NCL supports a number of reforms that would help level the playing field when it comes to ticket-buying.”

First, according to the consumer group, the use of “bot” software by unscrupulous ticket brokers denies consumer fair access to tickets is a serious problem. By jumping to the front of the digital line, this software enables brokers to scoop up the most desirable tickets quickly, often before the average consumer has a chance to buy. HB 2012 rightfully outlaws the use of “bot” software, which is already illegal in more than a dozen states. NCL is also calling for greater cooperation between primary ticketers like Ticketmaster, ticket brokers, ticket exchanges like StubHub and state attorneys general to put an end to the use of ticket “bots.”

In its letter, NCL also argued that a well-functioning ticket market can only exist if consumers have the information they need to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, the game is often rigged by promoters, artists, broker and primary ticketers through the rampant and little-discussed use of “holdbacks.” In far too many shows, only a small fraction of tickets are ever put on sale to the general public. This leads consumers to believe that a quick sellout is due to high demand, skewing the fair market price on the resale market. This is why NCL supports transparency laws that would require sellers to disclose how many tickets will be made available for a given event. Armed with this information, consumers can make an informed decision whether to buy tickets the usual way, or obtain tickets through pre-sales, credit card rewards programs, or other means.

NCL supports consumer protections such as requiring brokers to register with the state, provide toll-free customer service lines and offer refunds if tickets purchased on the resale market are fraudulent. These are common-sense protections that would address many of the problems consumers encounter when they are forced to buy from street-level scalpers or deceptive online resale Web sites.

Finally, NCL opposes the use of restrictive technologies like “paperless” tickets. This solution to the scalping problem is worse than the disease, since it prevents consumers from buying, selling, donating or giving away tickets as they wish. In addition, the use of this technology may lock consumers into one seller’s resale service, which is likely to involve higher fees and more restrictions than consumers typically face today.

“We applaud the Hawaii State Legislature for tackling the issue of creating a fair, transparent and competitive ticket-buying marketplace,” said Breyault. “Consumers in the Aloha State are well-served by this debate.”


About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit