NCL statement in support of the Food Recovery Act – National Consumers League

July 31, 2017

Washington, DC– The National Consumers League (NCL) is pleased to support the reintroduction of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s (D-ME) bill, the Food Recovery Act, which aims to make food waste prevention and reduction more cost effective and efficient.

Since September 2015, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a national commitment to cut U.S. food waste in half by year 2030, we have seen groups across the food supply chain mobilize and create innovative solutions for sustained waste reduction. Yet, further progress could be achieved by streamlining our current food production and recovery system.

The reintroduction of the Food Recovery Act is a reminder to Congress that the impacts of food waste remain relevant. A study from as recent as 2015 shows that we throw out approximately 62.5 million tons of food each year. This waste is creating a financial and environmental burden that can be alleviated with help from Congress. The Food Recovery Act covers four major stakeholder groups: farms, retail and restaurants, schools and institutions, and consumers and local infrastructure. Policy initiatives that address food waste from farm to table allow for synchronized reform that can better guide organizations and individuals in their current reduction efforts.

Solutions such as standardizing date labeling language and creating protections for direct food donation can keep nutritious food out of landfills and drastically diminish the number of over 42 million Americans who are food insecure.  The bill also calls for more consumer education around food waste reduction and recovery. Consumer action has the potential to hold the most economic value, estimating a $4,531/ton financial benefit. 

The National Consumers League is proud to be working alongside other non-profit and government groups committed to reaching the 2030 goal.  Food waste reduction is a nonpartisan issue. At a pivotal time in our country, we urge Congress to pass the Food Recovery Act and move toward a more productive and sustainable food system that benefits all 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


NCL’s Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights – National Consumers League

breastfeeding-crop.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

Breastfeeding is a safe, healthy and natural act through which mothers provide nourishment to their children. Breast milk is the best nutrition a child can receive and ultimately promotes better health outcomes, in the short and long term, for not only the child, but also the mother. A mother’s right to breastfeed has long been recognized by the Court in Dike v. School Board of Orange County 650 F.2d 783 (5th Cir. 1981). The National Consumers League supports a mother’s right to breastfeed and believes mothers should be encouraged, supported and protected through law and policy. This support and protection should be extended regardless of race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or source of payment for healthcare.

The National Consumers League issues the following Bill of Rights for breastfeeding mothers, including three key prongs we believe should be universal:

1.   Rights to breastfeeding information

  • A mother has the right to request breastfeeding information from her healthcare provider.  

  • Healthcare providers should inform mothers of the option of breastfeeding and her rights, proactively and upon request.

2.   Breastfeeding in a maternal healthcare facility

  • A mother has the right to have the baby stay with her and breastfeed after birth.

  • A mother has the right to request and receive assistance with breastfeeding.

  • A mother has the right to decide how her baby is fed and her decision should be respected by workers of the facility and other people. She has the right to refuse other methods of feeding unless the health of the baby is at risk.

  • A mother has the right to know about and refuse drugs or treatment that might affect her safety and ability to breastfeed.

  • Any health care facility that provides birthing services and maternity care should implement an infant feeding policy that promotes breastfeeding and equips itself with breastfeeding tools and educational resources.  

3.   Breastfeeding in public

  • A mother has the right to breastfeed her child in any public or private establishment or place where the mother and child are legally present, without harassment, discrimination or prosecution of any kind. A mother breastfeeding in public should not be asked to relocate.

  • These rights deserve full enforceable recognition and protection of local, state and federal laws. Explicit and encoded laws should give nursing mothers clear protection against discrimination. They also help shape public opinions on breastfeeding in public and thus help create an environment where women feel safe and encouraged to breastfeed.

  • No public or private establishment or place should enact an ordinance or rule that prevents breastfeeding a child.

  • Breastfeeding in a public or private location should not be considered lewd, immoral or indecent in any way; rather it is a natural and basic act to nurture a young child which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. Breastfeeding mothers should not be told to only do so in a discreet manner.

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Section 4207 amends The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to specify that a mother has the right to take reasonable break time to express breast milk for one year after childbirth at work. Employers must also provide a private space, other than a toilet stall, for that employee to express breast milk. Surveys have shown mothers are increasingly stopping their breastfeeding before recommended periods of time because of work-related reasons. Studies also show mothers who continue to breastfeed miss less time off from work because of baby-related illness. So, to promote the health and social benefits for mothers, their children, employers, and society, employers may not discriminate against mothers who choose to express breast milk at work. Employers should further adopt a written policy supporting breastfeeding practices in the workplace, including the space and equipment to clean and store expressed breastmilk.

  • The ACA requires new insurance plans to provide coverage for the cost of breastfeeding support, supplies and lactation counseling.

Consumer groups support CPSC vote on table saw safety – National Consumers League

July 31, 2017

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

Washington, DC–Five national consumer groups are supporting a safety standard for all table saws. In joint comments sent to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) last week, the National Consumers League (NCL), the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and US PIRG are supporting the CPSC’s vote in favor of adopting a safety standard. The standard, known as Active Injury Mitigation (AIM), would all but eliminate the 33,400 emergency room visits and 4,000+ amputations that table saws cause annually in the United States each year. The AIM technology is a performance standard, allowing industry to use any technology that prevents serious injuries. 

“This is precisely why the Consumer Product Safety Commission was established in 1972: to mitigate injuries in the market place when there is a pattern of injury and an affordable, viable technology to address those injuries,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “Table saw blades are associated with over 30,000 emergency department-treated injuries annually and an average of 11 amputations a day, resulting in excruciating pain, expensive medical costs, and lifelong disabilities to victims. The CPSC began formally investigating table saw safety since 2006. In the interim, numerous detailed studies conducted by CPSC staff and others have confirmed that the adoption of a performance requirement makes sense both for consumer safety and for the economic benefits it would bring to society at large.”

NCL also filed its own comments available here.

See factsheet about table saw vote.


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 calls for passage of bill requiring helmet protections for youth – National Consumers League

July 28, 2017

Following report on long-term effects of football head injuries, consumer org calls on Congress to act

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

Washington, DC–This week’s release of groundbreaking research examining the link between the repeated blows to the head endured by professional football players and the risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.) highlights the urgent need for Congress to take action to address this important consumer safety issue.

The National Consumers League (NCL) has long supported public policies that would improve the safety of sports equipment, particularly as it related to concussion prevention. For example, in March 2011 it was one of the first consumer groups to support the Child Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act, landmark legislation that would have required makers of football helmets to develop a voluntary safety standard for helmets that address concussion risk and the needs of youth players. Today, NCL supports legislation such as the Youth Sports Concussion Act, introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), that would crack down on deceptive advertising in the athletic sporting equipment market.

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director:

“ As the JAMA research again underscores, repeated blows to the head can have devastating long-term health consequences. Reducing the risk to athletes, particularly youth, from sports-related concussions is a fixable problem that can and should be addressed through common-sense product safety standards. NCL has long supported legislation that would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other consumer protection agencies to develop regulations that lead to safer helmets.”


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 statement on Senate rejection of straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act – National Consumers League

July 26, 2017

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League applauds the Senate’s rejection of both the Better Care Reconciliation Act as well as a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Both bills would have caused irreparable harm by stripping health coverage away from millions of Americans.

However, NCL notes that the debate is not over yet, and urges the Senate to reject the latest proposal that would repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax. This would destabilize the individual market and lead to increased healthcare costs for consumers.

NCL calls on Senate Republicans to work together with the Democrats to improve – not dismantle — the Affordable Care Act, in order to ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for all.


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

Happy 6th Birthday, CFPB! – National Consumers League

byoung-92.jpgWith all the doom and gloom coming out of Washington these days, it is easy to miss the victories consumers have earned. Most notably, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned 6 last Friday! In that time, defenders of the CFPB have helped it ward off countless attacks from Wall Street and allowed the agency to focus on its mission of protecting consumers from predatory lenders and unethical financial industry practices. Last week was no exception. After years of study, deliberation, and research, the CFPB followed through with its Congressional mandate under the Dodd-Frank Act by passing rules to rein in the abusive practice of forced arbitration in financial contracts. Thanks to this rule, consumers will be protected from “rip off clauses” hidden in financial contracts designed to deny Americans their day in court. 

This is a huge achievement, and one that we have been fighting to win for many years. This rule will protect consumers who utilize financial products like credit cards, auto leases, check cashing services and retail banking by:

1. Preventing banks from barring consumers from joining class actions; and

2. Adding transparency to the arbitration process, by publishing arbitration claims and outcomes.

While the CFPB’s rule does not outlaw forced arbitration completely, allowing consumers to form class actions is nonetheless a huge victory. Unfortunately, many companies know that most consumers are unlikely to go through the hassle of individual arbitration for small offenses. This is perhaps best evidenced by a finding in the CFPB’s 3 year arbitration study, which showed that in the course of the study, only 25 consumers pursued a claim of $1,000 or less through arbitration. The net result of this phenomenon is that bad actors have been able to pocket billions in ill gotten gains wrongfully obtained from consumers, knowing that they are safe from legal action as long as consumers are prohibited from joining together to seek justice.

While allowing consumers to come together to form class actions will help them get their day in court, adding transparency to the opaque process of arbitration will prevent them from becoming victims in the first place. After the CFPB issued its $185 million enforcement action against Wells Fargo for committing approximately 3.5 million counts of identity theft, news came out that harmed consumers have been trying to sue Wells Fargo for this very practice since 2013. However, due to these “rip off clauses” that Wells Fargo buried deep in the fine print of their contracts, consumers were not only prevented from suing, but also from telling anyone about Wells Fargo’s shady actions. This lack of transparency allowed Wells Fargo to continue this practice for an additional three years. If this new rule were to be enforced, bad acts like this wouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

The Wells Fargo example shows the critical importance of transparency in our legal system. It also rebuts a key industry argument in favor of forced arbitration. Wall Street executives often argue that arbitration saves consumers money and that class actions only benefit plaintiffs’ lawyers. In the Wells Fargo example, of the millions of account frauds, only 215 consumers pursued forced arbitration claims since 2009. Of those 215 claims, only 7 consumers received a settlement from Wells Fargo in spite of the clear evidence of wrongdoing by the bank. This example illustrates how arbitrators, who depend on the bank for repeat business, too often side against the consumer.

This is one reason why Wall Street and their allies in Congress are falling over themselves to try to roll back this important consumer protection. Wall Street knows that forced arbitration allows them to operate above the law. Rip off clauses snuck into the fine print of contracts allow banks to charge consumers illegal fees knowing full well that without the right to form a class action, consumers have no cost-effective way to fight back.

While Wall Street and their allies in Congress know that this rule will greatly diminish their ability to get away with fraud, consumers of all political stripes support this protection. The Pew Charitable Trusts found that 90 percent of consumers want their right to a class action restored and a recent poll found that a majority of both Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support the implementation of CFPB’s arbitration rule. 

In 2008, Congress specifically instructed the CFPB to look into the practice of forced arbitration and take action to curtail the practice if necessary. This week, the CFPB did just that. However, in spite of all the research and evidence that documents the abuse of this practice, many members of Congress wish to undo the work of the CFPB and remove the protections that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. We do not take these threats lightly. At NCL, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that these protections are not taken away from consumers by members of Congress more loyal to Wall Street than the citizens who elected them.

Gorsuch’s first opinion: Blame definitions, not practice – National Consumers League

Written by NCL Intern Sierra Hatfield

Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first Supreme Court opinion in Henson v. Santander illustrates the inability of the current Court to protect the changing needs and liberties of the American people. Gorsuch’s opinion not only fails to interpret what Congress was trying to stop, but in doing so, it has provided countless companies the legal opportunity to harass debtors.

The complaint in Henson v. Santander alleges that Santander, a Spanish bank, bought defaulted loans from CitiFinancial Auto and then attempted to collect on those loans in a manner that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) of 1977. Santander was accused of harassing and intimidating the debtors, leading to a lawsuit. But Santander argued that it is excluded from the FDCPA because it bought the debts and was collecting for itself – not a third party.

What will come to be known as the “Santander defense” is found in the loophole Gorsuch has now written into precedent. That loophole was created out of the Court’s interpretation of the definition of “debt collector,” which, according to the FDCPA, is a term including anyone who “regularly collects or attempts to collect…debts owed or due…another.”  Santander’s defense states that because it is collecting money for itself and not for “another,” they are not “debt collectors” and therefore exempt. Apparently, the Court agrees, even though Santander is deploying the same forms of harassment that are prohibited by the FDCPA.

But when Congress wrote this definition forty years ago, there was not a multibillion-dollar industry created by debt buyers like Santander. These entities purchase defaulted debt for almost nothing and then harass the debtors for money. According to the Supreme Court, the question is not whether these entities are unlawfully badgering people for money, but who they serve while doing so. If they are collecting for themselves, it’s fine – but if it’s for someone else, “that’s just taking it too far.”

The Court focuses on three major principles in its ruling: definition of a debt collector, Congress’ role in law, and grammar. We will focus on the first two.

The statutory definition of a debt collector is much longer than the Court would have you believe, with several commas and clauses. But even with the simplified version the Court provided us, we should be asking ourselves – why do they spend so much time on the words “debts owed or due…another” while ignoring the words “regularly collects or attempts to collect”? Gorsuch writes in his opinion that it is the fault of the parties involved for not raising the issue more robustly. But by doing so, the Court has ignored the purpose of the FDCPA and consequently failed to protect consumers from debt buyers and more.

Gorsuch’s first words read, “Disruptive dinnertime calls, downright deceit, and more besides drew Congress’s eye to the debt collection industry.”  This opening is comical. Gorsuch admits that Congress’s purpose in writing the FDCPA was to protect debtors from harassment that is commonplace with debt collectors. But instead of arguing the intent of the law – which would militate strongly against Santander’s practices – the Court hides behind definitions.

There are several ways to interpret a law. Gorsuch is a so-called “textualist”, as illustrated by his adherence to statutory text. But I argue that a better way of looking at this law would have been through the lens of a “living document.” This is a common approach to the U.S. Constitution. When viewing the Constitution as a living document, it has the ability to change and adapt to modern practices.

Gorsuch’s response to this would be that it is not the Supreme Court’s job to amend laws by Congress. It is Congress’s job to create and amend, and it is the Court’s job to interpret and apply. But when such a strong focus is placed on one clause that favors his interpretation of the statute, and not another, which would favor consumers, one can’t help but feel as though some cherry picking occurred.

The fatal flaw in Gorsuch’ arguments – typical of conservative jurists – is to ask Congress to step in and correct the Court’s interpretation. Well, he knows that this Congress won’t take those steps. And thus his decision will stand and consumers will be the for worse for it, especially lower income consumers who bear the brunt of these rapacious debt collection agencies and their employees disrupting people day and night, even those who may have had their debts legally discharged.

But even so, all the blame cannot be placed on Gorsuch. He is the author of an opinion to which the other Justices unfortunately agreed was a correct interpretation of the law. NCL is disappointed that the Supreme Court is now allowing consumers to be subjected to debt collection practices that were once illegal, and we join our consumer advocacy colleagues, several of whom filed Amicus Curiae briefs, in disagreeing mightily with this very unfortunate outcome

Ad-Blocking: Is it a dirty word or good security practice? – National Consumers League

Ad blocking is a dirty word for many in the online publishing and advertising industries. The head of one of the largest industry associations famously called a AdBlock Plus, one of the biggest ad blocker software companies an “unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes.”Why the hate? Unsurprisingly, the answer comes down to money. As their name suggests, ad blocking technology allows Web users (i.e. you and me) to prevent advertisements from appearing in desktop and mobile browsers. When consumers don’t see ads online, websites don’t make as much money, which makes it harder to produce the content that draws users in the first place. In the publishing industry’s nightmares, this threatens to create a vicious cycle that leads to the end of free content on the Web.

The advertising industry’s heartburn about ad blockers is driven by the explosive growth of the technology. As of December 2016, nearly one in five (18 percent) Web users in the United States had an ad blocker installed on their browser. In other countries, the use of ad blockers is far higher. For example, 58 percent of Web users in Indonesia and 29 percent of German users use ad blockers. Globally, the number of devices using ad blocking software grew by 142 million from 2015-2016, a trend which shows no signs of slowing, particularly on mobile devices.

That said, there are efforts to address the need for consumers to have ad blockers installed in the first place. For example, on June 1 Google confirmed reports that it plans to have its Chrome browser automatically block ads that do not conform to advertising standards published by the Coalition for Better Ads. That standard prohibits egregious ads that do things like autoplay videos, take up too much screen real estate, or make users wait to see content while an ad displays.

Given Google’s 53 percent market share, this announcement has the potential to significantly improve consumers’ data security. That’s because insecure ads can pose a significant malware threat to users. A May 2015 study by Google, the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Santa Barbara found that tens of millions of visitors to Google’s services had unwanted adware installed on their computer. Within that group, half had at least two, and nearly one-third of users had at least four such programs infecting their machines. A similar study by security firm Namogoo found that 15-30 percent of e-commerce website visitors were infected with malware that causes them to view injected ads, malicious links, and fraudulent spyware on otherwise legitimate sites.

Given these threats, moving ad-blocking into the mainstream could have a significantly positive impact on consumers’ vulnerability to malware. By dramatically increasing the number of users with ad-blocking technology on their browsers, the pressure on the worst offenders in the advertising ecosystem to clean up their acts in increased. When users see fewer bad ads, it increases user trust in online advertising overall. In the long term and somewhat counterintuitively, this may actually reduce the need for users to rely on third-party ad blockers to help reduce their data security risk.

The New York Times has called the growth of ad blocking an “existential threat” to the $50 billion online advertising industry. It is therefore serendipitous that the ultimate solution to the war over ad blocking may be more, not less ad blocking.

NCL applauds Uber’s decision to allow tips for drivers – National Consumers League

July 20, 2017

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds Uber for moving forward this week on its pledge to provide riders with the option to tip their drivers.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“It seems Uber is going through a reboot with an upper-management overhaul and new leadership. This is a positive step in what we hope will be some new thinking on what this pioneer in ‘disruptive technology’ can bring to American consumers and workers. Polls show riders want the option to tip drivers and we believe this action will be well received by the public. It is also positive that Uber drivers will reap benefits in the form of higher wages. We look forward to learning about new Uber initiatives to improve rider and driver experience.”


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 opposes Cruz amendment to the Better Care Reconciliation Act – National Consumers League

July 18, 2017

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) joins with our colleagues in the health advocacy community in expressing our opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) amendment, which makes a bad bill even worse. The Cruz amendment would allow insurers to sell health plans on the individual marketplaces that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) consumer protections as long as they also sold compliant plans.

NCL is concerned that the Cruz amendment would bifurcate the market, with healthy people buying skimpier, non-ACA compliant policies and sicker people seeking to buy more expensive, comprehensive plans. By thrusting people with pre-existing conditions into a separate risk pool, the amendment could result in a death spiral and a return to the pre-ACA days in which those with pre-existing conditions were unable to get affordable coverage on the individual market.

Among other provisions, non-ACA compliant plans would not be required to cover the Essential Health Benefits, such as hospitalization; prescription drugs; pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services; preventive and wellness services; and other critical health services. Insurers would be allowed to charge those with pre-existing conditions exorbitant premiums for coverage, or deny coverage outright. They could also impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage. 

In a July 14 letter, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association expressed their strong opposition to the Cruz amendment, stating: “It is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.”

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg stated: “In addition to presenting insurmountable obstacles to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, the Cruz amendment is an invitation to fraud and the selling of junk plans where consumers pay for a policy that doesn’t cover any real healthcare services. We join with our colleagues in opposing the Cruz amendment and urge Congress to reject the BCRA and similar legislative proposals that would give a green light to fraudsters offering junk health insurance while taking access to solid healthcare services away from millions of Americans.”

NCL is encouraged by the latest news that the harmful BCRA has been pulled from Senate consideration. We will continue to work with our colleagues to protect the Affordable Care Act and oppose passage of similar legislation to the BCRA and the Cruz amendment.


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