NCL statement on FCC decision to not enforce affordable prison phone rate price caps – National Consumers League

February 13, 2017

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today expressed disappointment in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to not defend its rule capping intrastate prison phone rates.

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League:

The National Consumers League is disappointed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision to not defend the FCC’s rules implementing price caps for intrastate prison phone calls. Capping rates at reasonable levels is common sense as numerous studies have shown that providing prisoners access to family members and loved ones dramatically reduces recidivism. Unfortunately, at the exorbitant rates charged by most prison phone providers, keeping in touch with incarcerated loved ones is not an option for many working families. The predatory prison payphone marketplace has made a living off of charging the prison population and their families rates that far exceed those found in the general marketplace. This forces many low-income families to choose between talking to an incarcerated family member, or buying the medicine or food their family needs to survive. We call upon Chairman Pai to reconsider his decision not to defend permanent intrastate rate caps and empower families to stay connected.”


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

Is your Valentine true? Consumer org issuing warning about costly sweetheart swindles – National Consumers League

February 10, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Have you been chatting online with what seems to be the perfect sweetheart? Experts at, the National Consumers League’s flagship fraud prevention and education program, are warning consumers to be wary of the inauthentic online relationships that end up costing victims hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Falling in love with a con artist has consistently been ranked as one of the most expensive scams for victims who have reported their experiences to In 2016, sweetheart swindles were the 9th-most reported form of fraud, and the most expensive for victims, with a median loss of $2,000.

“In a typical romance scam, victims are approached online, through a dating website, a social media platform such as Facebook, or another type of online forum. Scammers go to great lengths to cultivate romantic interest with their victims,” said John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “They nurture the relationship, build trust, and then convince victims to send money, sometimes days or even months into the new ‘relationship.’”

Once a sense of trust is developed, the con artist asks for money to be sent to help them out of a dangerous or difficult situation. Scammers often run the same game on multiple victims at once, claiming that they need money to come visit their new friend-victim, or for medical bills, legal help, or some other unexpected emergency. If the victim agrees to pay, there are inevitably additional requests for money to cover other fictitious expenses until the victim comes to realize it is a scam and stops paying, or worse, runs out of money to give.

In a complaint received at last month, “Jennifer,” a 32-year-old woman from Wisconsin, reported losing $35,000 to a sweetheart scammer. Her story is similar to the typical romance swindle: Jennifer met a man named “Nick” on the dating website OKCupid. Nick claimed to be from Australia but living in Nebraska. Shortly into their online relationship, Nick had to go to Africa for a business trip. While he was there, Nick was robbed and needed $3,000-$4,000 to buy a plane ticket to return to the United States. Having developed romantic feelings for Nick, she obliged and sent the cash to help him. Following this, Nick told Jennifer he had a string of more unfortunate, and fake, events—getting arrested, needing a diplomatic passport, his mother was sick and dying, contemplating suicide, having a heart attack, and getting arrested again. Throughout all of this, Jennifer agreed to his requests for cash through credit card advances, iTunes gift cards, and even sending iPhones. In all, Jennifer is now in credit card debt for $31,000, not including all the cash she wired to her sweetheart.

“Stories like these are both heartbreaking and unfortunately typical of what we hear from victims,” said Breyault. “Millions of consumers meet friends and find romance online, but there are a determined group of criminals out there eager to relieve victims of their cash in the name of love. The best defense consumers have is to learn about the signs of a scam in order to spot them before it’s too late.”

Red flags that your relationship might be a costly set-up to a scam:

  • The “relationship” becomes romantic extremely quickly, with quick pronouncements of love or close friendship.
  • The person you’re communicating with makes excuses about not being able to speak by phone or meet in person.
  • Your suitor requests that you wire money or cash a check or money order on their behalf and send them the funds.

For more information on sweetheart swindles and other scams of the heart, visit


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 applauds Virginia Senate’s passage of the Ticket Resale Rights Act; Urges Gov. McAuliffe’s signature – National Consumers League

February 8, 2017

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy group, applauds the Virginia Senate’s passage of S.B. 1425, the Ticket Resale Rights Act. The legislation, introduced by Senator Bill Stanley, prohibits excessive ticket licensing terms designed to reduce consumer choice and competition in the secondary ticket market. S.B. 1425 protects consumers’ fundamental rights to sell, give away, or donate a purchased ticket as they see fit. These are the same protections that consumers in Colorado and New York already enjoy. NCL urges Virginia Gov. McAuliffe to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible.  

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL vice president, public policy, telecommunications, and fraud:

“For too long, Virginians trying to buy tickets to in-demand live events have been competing in a rigged game against unscrupulous ticket brokers and primary ticketers who routinely hold back almost half of the tickets to popular events for connected insiders. Thanks to this pro-consumer legislation, consumers in Virginia will continue to have the option of buying, selling, or donating tickets in an open, competitive secondary market. When combined with the recently-enacted federal BOTS Act, the Virginia Ticket Resale Rights Act will ensure that ticket-buyers in the Commonwealth have access to a fairer, more consumer-friendly ticket market.”

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

National Consumers League statement on Trump Administration assault of consumer financial protections – National Consumers League

February 3, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) today issued the following statement in response to a directive from the Trump Administration to eliminate essential consumer protections and roll back Wall Street reforms. The following statement can be attributed to NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“Efforts by the Trump Administration to roll back regulations established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ignores the hard lessons learned in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Without these important rules, millions of hard-working consumers and Main Street businesses will again be put at risk of paying the price of out-of-control Wall Street recklessness and greed. If the Trump Administration moves forward with these deregulatory policies, taxpayers will again be on the hook for billions of dollars in bailouts when the next financial crisis occurs.”

“The Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule is a common-sense consumer protection that requires the professionals who are in charge of consumers’ savings to act in the ‘best interests of their clients,’” said Greenberg. “Without this rule, retirement advisors will be free to ignore conflicts of interest and make decisions that benefit their firms’ bottom lines, not the financial security of millions of Americans.” 


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

President Trump’s Executive Order threatens rules that have saved millions of lives – National Consumers League

The Trump Administration is waging war on regulations. The President signed an Executive Order this week demanding that with every new regulation, two must be rescinded. This is one of the most arbitrary and dangerous edicts ever sprung on Americans. We call on Mr. Trump to rethink this reckless Executive Order.

The premise of this edict is that regulations are red tape inflicted on well-intentioned corporations by bureaucrats who have nothing better to do than entangle business in useless red tape. That premise is false. Regulations ensure the safety and health of the public, including consumers of all ages. They provide critical protections for babies, toddlers, adult consumers, and workers; they protect our marshlands, wetlands, and wilderness; keep our air and water clean and healthy; ensure that we respect animals and wildlife, and so much more. To propose a blanket policy of eliminating two for every new one without knowing why is foolhardy.

A case in point: this week, three people testified at a hearing organized by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Bill Nelson, (D-FL), and moderated by Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Relatives from two families who had lost a child and another with a near miss caused by dangerously designed products. Regulations are intended to address these gaps.

Think slats in cribs that were so wide that kids heads got caught and they strangled. Not anymore due to regulations.  Think regulations requiring child proof caps on bottles of bleach or medicine . Thousands of kids are alive today because of these regulations. The truth of the matter is–regulations save lives.

One of the witnesses at the hearing rescued his daughter from what could have been a fatal accident. Turns out, the company had already had 80+ incidents, but denied there was a problem when the Dad called to report it.  A mother told of her infant son’s death due to a supplemental mattress in a portable crib that suffocated him. The Grandfather of a girl strangled by a cord in a window blind – a hazard consumer advocates have been in trying to address for years – is one that has killed too many children. He talked about being pro-life, just like VP Mike Pence, but wondered protecting the kids already here isn’t getting the same attention.

Regulations don’t come out of left field. I’ve read and commented on scores of them. They are vitally important, developed in a thoughtful and deliberative manner under the Administrative Procedures Act; they require open comment periods and are frequently revised based on feedback from industry and consumers. Most require a cost-benefit analysis

The National Consumers League has a long record of advocating for consumer protections on products and in the workplace. Safe design of children’s toys and nursery items, such as cribs and high chairs, keep children and teens from working in the fields, where they are exposed to pesticides, heat, and tobacco poisoning. NCL supported regs to reduce worker exposure to coal or silica, which causes illness and sometimes death. We support the CPSC’s proposal for newly designed table saws that will prevent the 35,000 amputations each year from these devices. New technology can prevent nearly 100% of these excruciating injuries that cause lifelong pain and disability. Why wouldn’t we jump at this chance to have this groundbreaking injury prevention?

Let’s imagine a scenario in which we had no regulations to ensure our air quality. Would American cities become like those in India and China where citizens can’t go outside many days? Or imagine that we had no regulations on water quality. Our children might ingest high levels of lead or chemical runoff, leading to high incidences of cancer, which is exactly what happened to the residents of Woburn, MA because of industrial run off in their water. Rather than repealing these vital regulations, Americans should be grateful that we have a democratic process for keeping our families safe.

Below are examples of but a few regulations that save and protect consumers’ and workers’ lives:

Consumer regulations

  • The Refrigerator Safety Act (1956): This rule required all refrigerator doors to open from the inside to prevent children from being trapped and suffocating inside of them. The number of children suffocating in refrigerators has dwindled to almost none since refrigerators were redesigned under this rule.
  • Automatic garage door sensor (1990): A regulation that required garage door sensors preventing children from being entrapped. Since 1982, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had reports of 54 children between the ages of two and 14 who died after becoming entrapped under doors with automatic openers. There have been zero reports of children becoming entrapped under garage doors since this rule went into effect.
  • Trunk Release (2001): During July-August 1998, at least 11 American children died in three separate incidents of car trunk entrapment. Many individuals have died entrapped in trunks over the decades. Consumer advocates succeeded in getting florescent yellow trunk releases required in every vehicle model in the years after 1998. Since trunk releases have been installed, advocates haven’t found a single case of death in cars where those releases were put in. The cost of these trunk releases is de minimus.

Worker regulations

  • Hard hats: An OSHA regulation requires hard hats to be worn in workplaces where there is a potential for injury from falling objects, such as in construction zones or other hazardous locations. There have been many cases in sectors such as industrial, construction, and mining, where hard hats have prevented workers from suffering serious head injuries and sometimes-fatal accidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 almost 393 fatal injuries were caused by exposure to falling or flying objects and equipment at workplaces. Hard hats generally cost less than $10 each.
  • Rule to reduce miners’ exposure to respirable coal dust (2014): According to data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (also known as black lung) was a cause or contributing factor in the death of more than 76,000 miners since 1968. Caused by breathing unhealthy coal mine dust, this disease has cost more than $45 billion dollars in federal compensation benefits. After the 2014 rule’s enactment, we’ve seen the lowest fatal and injury rates in mining history.
  • OSHA rule requiring safety belts and harness working on stored materials in silos, grain bins, or other similar storage areas: Three workers (from Iowa, Michigan, and North Dakota) were killed in 2011 when they were engulfed (buried or trapped) by grain while on the job. In Texas, a fourth worker was also buried in grain, but was rescued and survived. Suffocation from engulfment is a leading cause of death in grain bins and the number of these deaths continues to rise. In fact, the number of deaths more than doubled between 2006 and 2010. These fatalities are preventable if employers follow work practices and provide training and equipment as required by OSHA’s Grain Handling Facilities standard, 29 CFR 1910.272.

Regulations save lives. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If there are unnecessary regulations, let the President and his cabinet secretaries tell us why and make their case. No one wants unnecessary red tape, but if this Executive Order is an excuse to repeal safety and health protections, that’s not okay, and all Americans – including the most vulnerable consumers – our children – will pay the price.

Fraud trends: Bogus Internet sales remain most-reported fraud for fourth year in a row; Median reported loss to fraud doubled in 2016 – National Consumers League

February 1, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, has released its annual compilation of the top ten scams reported to, NCL’s flagship project for fraud prevention and education. Based on an analysis of more than 7,000 fraud complaints submitted by consumers to in 2016, NCL is warning consumers to beware Internet merchandise sales scams.

For the fourth year in a row, Internet merchandise scams topped the list of complaints reported to The way many consumers first come into contact with these scams is via a “too good to be true” ad on a website, social media platform or Internet forum. Popular ways scammers catch consumers’ eyes is with deep discounts on goods like iPhones, sneakers, luxury apparel, video game systems and even pets.

While the top scam didn’t change in 2016, a key measurement of how scams affect consumers did: the cost of falling victim to fraud increased significantly in 2016. In complaints where a loss was reported, the median loss was $600, double what was reported in 2015. The most expensive type of scam for victims continued to be friendship and sweetheart swindles (also known as “romance scams”), with a median loss of $2,000.

“The key to avoiding these merchandise scams is to shop around. If the price you’re being quoted is far below what reputable merchants are asking, that’s a red flag of fraud,” said John Breyault, vice president, public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League. “Once you hand over your credit card number or send a wire transfer to the seller of these goods, chances are that all you’ll get in return is a headache, not a sweet deal.”

Another trend observed in 2016: scammers have been turning away from wire transfer and embracing gift cards as payment method. In 2016, wire transfers and credit and debit cards remained the payment method of choice for scammers, but gift cards increased significantly as a new form of payment. In 2016, saw a 30 percent increase in complaints where the payment method included gift cards, including numerous complaints where scammers asked for payment via iTunes gift cards. In such instances, the victim is instructed to load funds onto a gift card and then give the code and PIN number off the back of the card to the scammer, who then quickly deducts funds from the card, leaving the consumer with worthless plastic and little recourse to obtain a refund. 

“The fight against fraud is constantly evolving, as criminals refine their tactics for separating consumers from their hard-earned cash,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We hope our annual list of top scams helps consumers know what to watch out for and avoid falling victim, especially since falling victim for one of these scams is apparently getting more costly.”

Read the full 2016 top ten scams report.


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