Statement on NCL v. McCormick & Company, Inc. and Giant of Maryland LLC – National Consumers League

August 27, 2015

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–On July 21, 2015, the National Consumers League filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging that McCormick and Giant, through misrepresentations and false impressions, violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Specifically, NCL alleges that these companies sold ground black pepper and peppercorns in a manner which disguised the true amounts and prices of the pepper sold to consumers in the District of Columbia. McCormick and Giant, allegedly as a means of disguising a recent pepper price increase, decreased the amount of pepper sold in their peppermills and in their metal tins (to which consumers have been accustomed over decades). Such “slack-filling,” forbidden under certain circumstances by the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, combined with confusing shelf labels and inaccurate check-out pricing, were intended to (and did) camouflage the price increases from consumers.


About the National Consumers League

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

Statement on NCL v. Gerber Products Co. – National Consumers League

August 27, 2015

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–On December 24, 2015, the National Consumers League filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging that Gerber, through misrepresentations, omissions, and false innuendo, violated seven subsections of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“DCCPPA”). Specifically, NCL alleges that Gerber sold its Good Start Gentle® formula, an infant formula that is made with partially hydrolyzed whey proteins, will prevent or reduce the infants’ risk of developing allergies.  However, NCL alleges that such representations are not only false and in violation of District of Columbia law, but misbranded under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. The NCL is pleased to report that on August 8, 2015, the Superior Court denied Gerber’s motion to dismiss and the case can now proceed on to the merits.


About the National Consumers League

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

NCL lauds FDA approval of first treatment for low libido in women – National Consumers League

August 18, 2015

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today the National Consumers League (NCL) commends the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its approval of the first-ever treatment for women’s low libido.  The drug comes nearly four decades after the condition of HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder)—which it has been approved to treat—was recognized in scientific journals. NCL has been calling for FDA to consider the treatment option because it would be the first of its kind for women; there are 26 drugs on the marketplace available to treat male sexual dysfunction.

In October 2014 and June 2015, NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg testified in support of treatments for patients suffering from HSDD. The following statement may be attributed to Greenberg: 

This is the biggest breakthrough in women’s sexual health since the advent of ‘the Pill.’ Men have 26 different drugs available to treat sexual dysfunction. Now, with this drug’s approval, women finally have one. That’s a start. We hope to see competitor treatments that will offer women suffering from HSDD the same kinds of options available to men.

We have been hoping for approval of the first-ever drug to treat HSDD for several critical reasons. Once there’s an FDA treatment available, women are less likely to purchase untested and possibly dangerous products online. The FDA’s rigorous testing ensures that drugs tested in clinical trials that include thousands of women won’t carry harmful and unknown side effects. Secondly, once a treatment is approved by the FDA there will be other companies coming forward with competitor drugs, and that gives women choices, which we strongly support. 

Approval of this therapy is monumental for so many reasons: because it validates/legitimizes female sexuality as an important component of health; it underscores the FDA’s recognition of female sexual dysfunction as among the top 20 unmet medical needs; and it acknowledges that as a condition, HSDD is not simply a psychological problem or a reflection of cultural pressure on women, but a biological condition that can be treated with an effective medication. It’s been a long time coming, but this approval is a welcomed and landmark breakthrough in women’s sexual health.


About the National Consumers League

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

NCL #DataInsecurity Project – National Consumers League

databreach.jpgNCL recently debuted the first issue of The #DataInsecurity Digest, a twice monthly publication curated by NCL’s own, John Breyault, to deliver important consumer-focused data security news, policy and news analysis, and information about upcoming events directly to your inbox. Click here to subscribe.

In 2013, there were 614 data breaches that led to more than 550 million identities compromised. New data breaches means more identity theft and other fraud, and more consumers facing financial loss, great inconvenience, and a loss of trust in the marketplace. That is why NCL is working on the #DataInsecurity Project — to raise awareness about the need for reforms aimed at better protecting consumer data.

Data breaches impact consumers, credit unions, banks, and retailers. Last December, the retail giant Target suffered a massive data breach that made national headlines. In the breach, as many as 110 million identities were compromised.

Take a look at the impact of just this single incident:

  • $200 million: the cost to credit unions and community banks for reissuing 21.8 million credit and debit cards
  • 1-3 million: the estimated number of cards stolen in the Target breach that were sold on the black market and successfully used to commit fraud
  • $18-35.70: the price per card stolen from Target and resold on the black market in the months after the breach

Shocking as these numbers are, they represent the fallout from just a single data breach. Data breaches are happening with frightening regularity.

Malicious hackers are going to continue to exploit existing weaknesses, and many businesses lack the incentive or ability to adequately protect their customer data against evolving threats. That is why NCL believes that consumers need to be proactive about protecting their own data and calling on policymakers for improvements.

The current landscape of protection for consumer data is woefully inadequate.

NCL’s #DataInsecurity Project is calling for reforms such as:

  • Creating a national data breach notification standard, modeled on strong state protections such as California’s;
  • Requiring businesses that maintain consumers’ personal data to protect that information via specific data security requirements;
  • Giving the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General civil penalty authority to enforce violations of data security requirements;
  • Increasing civil and criminal penalties for malicious hacking;
  • Increasing efforts to enhance cooperation with international partners to bring overseas hackers to justice; and
  • Requiring retailers and banks to implement the highest level of security available to protect consumers’ payment data.

To promote these goals, NCL is taking its #DataInsecurity Project on the road to four states across the country, to meet with policymakers, industry experts, consumer advocates, law enforcement officials, and members of the academic and business community. The tour is designed to raise awareness about the frequency of data breaches and to encourage the adoption of comprehensive reforms so that consumers can be better protected.

As a part of the #DataInsecurity Project, NCL has also unveiled important new research by Javelin Strategy & Research investigating the impact of data breaches on consumer trust, on who consumers feel should be responsible for their data, and on current responses to data breaches. Check out NCL’s survey report.

You can get involved!

Help us send the message that the time for reform is now! Sign our petition to the White House calling on policymakers to step up and protect consumers’ data.


In memoriam: The lasting impact of miner advocate Donald L. Rasmussen’s work – National Consumers League

Donald L. Rasmussen, a physician and dedicated advocate for coal miners’ health reform, died on July 23 due to the complications of a fall in May. His impact on the lives of coal miners was unforgettable and we hope to pay tribute to his life by sharing his accomplishments.

Shortly before Rasmussen was employed at the Miners Memorial Hospital in Beckley, West Virginia in 1962, black lung disease was only known to be detected by x-rays. Rasmussen quickly learned that through exercise, he could determine if his patient was suffering from a respiratory issue. He discovered that even when the disease couldn’t be viewed by x-rays, it could be detected by blood and treadmill endurance tests.

Rasmussen said that once he convinced the hospital to invest in a blood gas analyzer, the first patient he tested showed signs of severe lung disease. He found that in the 50,000 miners he had examined during his career, signs of black lung disease could be found in 40 percent. By bringing attention to this new method of diagnosis, he opened the door to healthcare benefits for a far wider group of miners.

At the time, doctors sided with mining companies and the companies attributed the disease to smoking or the reckless work of their employees. Cecil E. Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America said of Rasmussen: “When other doctors were taking the company line and denying that black lung disease existed, Dr. Rasmussen was testifying before state legislatures and Congress, fighting to win recognition that breathing coal dust was killing miners.” Rasmussen implored the government to recognize the greed and negligence of mining companies and save countless lives.

Rasmussen fought with the help of a team of physicians, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and West Virginia democrat representative Ken Hechler to pass legislation that would ensure the compensation of miners affected and the protection of miners for generations to come. The passage of the laws to reduce the dust miners were legally allowed to be exposed to fueled the fire that led to the ousting of UMWA president W.A. Boyle from office. In 1968, Rasmussen testified before state legislatures and Congress to win recognition of the fact that breathing coal dust was killing workers and also presented his findings to groups of miners in union halls.

November 1968 marked a turning point for his cause when 78 miners were killed in a coal dust and methane explosion. This prompted miners to strike and ultimately led to the passage of the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. Passed to provide compensation to disabled workers and limit the amount of dust allowed in coal mines, this law had a monumental impact on the conditions for workers in the mining industry.

Dr. Rasmussen was recognized for his work in 1968 when he received the American Public Health Association’s presidential award. He did not regard himself as a hero, but rather he said “I never felt like I was leading a charge, I don’t see myself as an advocate. I saw the miners who needed help… I was just a physician performing my duty.” Rasmussen’s fight to improve the safety of workers in the mining industry is inspiring. Today we stand with the UMWA in their continuing struggle to secure safer working conditions, pensions, and healthcare, and Dr. Rasmussen’s legacy will live on through the improved quality of life for all mine workers.

NCL intern Taylor Zeitlin contributed to this article.

Photo credit: By Corn, Jack, 1929-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464440) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Blog: Fixing the Life Insurance Marketplace – National Consumers League

b.fetchel.jpgA version of this guest post was originally published in the National Underwriter. The views reflected here are not necessarily those of the NCL.

“The life insurance market is characterized not only by an absence of reliable price information, but also by the presence of deceptive price information…the deceptive sales practices found in the life insurance industry constitute a national scandal.” So testified Professor Joseph Belth, an expert on the life insurance industry, before Congress in 1973. Can this statement, from more than 40 years ago, still be as true today?  And is it possible for such deplorable industry practices to be occurring without being in the spotlight of public attention?

The short answers are yes. To this day the life insurance industry too often relies on inadequate product disclosure, misinformation, and fraudulent practices, thereby costing consumers billions of dollars annually. Industry executives have for years acknowledged that no one would buy many of their companies’ products if they were appropriately informed.

The free market economic system is built upon informed buyers making educated decisions. Yet so many life insurance industry chieftains who regularly sing the praise of our economic system fail to acknowledge that their businesses haven’t satisfied the system’s prerequisites or played by its rules.

Empirical proof of the life insurance market’s dysfunction is readily apparent by examining the very products life insurers and their agents sell. While a select few cash-value life insurance policies can provide excellent competitive value, perhaps 95% of such policies sold provide value no informed consumer would accept. This marketplace’s dearth of information also afflicts tens of millions of policyholders at annual renewal; if properly informed, millions of them currently could readily obtain much better value. Consumers of the industry’s other main products, annuities and long term care insurance, also face enormous disclosure-related problems.

The root of the age-old problem is the inadequate disclosure of information surrounding cash-value policies, such as whole life policies, where the annual cost is not the annual premium. Professor Belth and I have both long recommended disclosure about a policy’s annual costs and rate of return on its cash-values.  

The attached table of an actual insurance policy’s historical performance (see below) shows how this information on a policy’s annual costs and rates of return on its cash-values can be presented on a year-by-year basis and summarized over the duration with average or aggregate measures. Similar cost and rate information can be calculated on any and all prospective new and in-force policies via online consumer-friendly analytical tools. Understanding policies from this framework, and with solid knowledge of the differences between illustrated future values and actual future performance, enables consumers to assess the competitiveness of a policy’s costs and rates. For example, a healthy 40 year-old male can  compare his policy’s costs with benchmarks that are available in the marketplace and its rates of return with suitable alternative investments. 

A cash-value life insurance policy’s unique intrinsic economic advantages arise from its Congressionally-granted tax privileges, not its highly touted permanence; after all, a term policy can be converted or exchanged into a policy providing lifelong, permanent coverage. These tax privileges, which are given directly to policyholders, however, are not a basis for which insurers can charge consumers; no one pays thousands of dollars to set-up an individual retirement account (IRA). Consequently, when selling such cash-value policies as whole life agents routinely make assorted misrepresentations. Agents often misleadingly state: 1) that a whole life policyholder pays for a lifetime of costs upfront, and that doing such and owning his/her coverage is better than endlessly renting it; 2) that buying a whole life policy at a younger age locks in a lower level cost for life; and 3) that the annual costs of a whole life policy can actually decline as the insured ages because these policies can pay dividends. These three common agent statements, and myriad variations of such, are deceptive.

Regulations prohibit such misrepresentations, but they have never been enforced. These and other misrepresentations are all designed to distort a cash value policy’s fundamental difference. For agents, the essential difference between whole life and term insurance is the quantum difference in the sales commissions – up to 5-9 times larger on whole life policies than on term policies. No one familiar with the paramount role that compensation incentives tied to the origination of subprime mortgages and the repackaging of such default-inevitable, toxic securities played in creating the Great Recession can doubt the perniciousness of the life insurance industry’s age-old problematic sales practices.

A successful consumer-agent relationship can only be built on trust, so predicating it upon inadequate disclosure is inherently counter-productive to all. While inadequate disclosure appears to be in the insurers’ and agents’ interest, it actually has made consumers so leery of agents that the age-old distribution process is so terribly inefficient and ineffective. Americans’ under-insurance – having woefully less life insurance than needed or appropriate – reaches new records every year. Some insurers’ policy lapse rates raise fundamental questions regarding the products’ suitability that regulators have never examined. And, the facts that the typical life insurance agent sells less than one policy per week and that four out of five new sales recruits fail out of the business within a few years are further proof of this industry’s failed business approaches.

Given the nature of the problem, improved disclosure and publicity of such have always been known to be two indispensable parts of the inevitable solution. Contrary to general opinion, however, there is no need to wait to for this industry’s state regulators to act and mandate disclosure. The necessary disclosures, after all, are not proprietary or esoteric. As is shown in the table, life insurance policies, like an automobiles’ horsepower or MPG, can be disclosed, not only by the manufacturer, but by anyone with the necessary expertise and this information is now available online.

Without publicity though, this public good of disclosure remains undiscovered. Reform of the life insurance industry has always merely been a battle of wills. Reformers have had to confront industry, an uninterested or uninformed media, regulators not understanding their jobs or unwilling or unable to do them, and/or reformers’ own doubts about ever succeeding. Financial markets can be fixed when appropriate policy disclosure for consumers is heralded and becomes pervasive.

When will this information be publicly disseminated, so that everyone knows about it and can use it, thereby initiating the long-overdue repair of the life insurance marketplace? This disclosure-driven transformation will produce the myriad and well-documented benefits of genuine economic competition: consumers will obtain better value; insurers will improve the efficiency of their production processes; and agents will act and be seen as trustworthy professionals. Clearly, the sooner this time comes, the sooner Americans can start saving billions of dollars per year, the better for everyone.


Actual Historical Performance of a Whole Life Policy
$250,000 issued 20+ Years ago (in 1989) to a 45 Year Old Male, Best Health
*Annual Premium $5815 Paid All Years
** Notes below provide additional information

Age During Year

Insurance Death Benefit


Total Annual Costs

Annual Dividend Rate








































































































Avg. Rate:



**Insurance Death Benefit shows the amount the policyholder’s beneficiary would receive after his death
Cash-Value is the cash amount the insurer gives to the policyholder if he cancels his contract
Total Annual Costs show the amount expensed from policy premiums (and policy cash values if and when necessary) to pay for sales, claim, administrative, capital charges and any other miscellaneous costs, such as premium taxes.
Annual Dividend Rate is the rate earned by policyholder, net of investment management costs, on policy cash values, that is, values after costs.        

For More Information see this Table 2 of Policy Disclosure article.