Consumer groups urge Congress to insist on consumer protections in airline taxpayer bailout

March 19, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–A coalition of national consumer and passenger rights groups today called on Congress to include provisions in any contemplated airline industry bailout legislation that address both the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on passengers as well as long-standing consumer protection concerns.

After years of record profits, the airline industry is now facing steep and painful financial headwinds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the industry has asked the Trump Administration and leaders in Congress for a bailout package of grants, loans, and tax relief reportedly totaling more than $50 billion. This includes $29 billion in grants, up to $25 billion in loans, three months of tax rebates and a repeal of aviation excise taxes through at least the end of 2021.

To address the immediate danger of the coronavirus and related passenger protection concerns during the national emergency, the groups urged Congress to require airlines to take steps to mitigate the spread of coronavirus on airplanes, require cash refunds for consumers who cancel flights or whose flights are canceled by the airline, require reasonable rebooking fares and increase call center staffing levels.

As advocates for consumers, the groups further urged Congress to heed the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis by including a slate of needed consumer protections such as making ancillary fees reasonable, restoring a private right of action, empowering state attorneys general to protect passengers, prohibiting further reductions in seat sizes, and ensuring equal access to fare, fee and schedule data.

“A commercially viable air transportation system is vital to the U.S. economy, but in the past decade the airlines have raked in $96 billion in profits on the backs of consumers with the implicit assurance that taxpayers would bail them out in the event of a major market disruption,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “If the airlines are going to run to Congress for a bailout when they could have invested in pandemic insurance or increased their cash reserves, then policymakers should require binding commitments to address long-standing consumer protection concerns.”

“After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Consumer Reports supported taxpayer relief  for the airline industry, but urged Congress to require protections to address longstanding consumer complaints,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser for Consumer Reports.   “Unfortunately, no such protections were included, and since then, the airlines have consolidated, become less consumer-friendly, and laid off hundreds of thousands of workers as their profits soared.  Meanwhile, consumers have had to put up with tighter seats, indifferent customer service, and an increasing number of costly fees. Consumers should not be left out now.”

“Restoring a private right of action is the one necessary structural solution to provide sufficient industry discipline to prevent airlines from trampling on all the rights and interests of their customers,” stated Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell. “The right to sue when harmed is fundamental and is one that the U.S. Congress never intended to have stripped from airline consumers when it deregulated the industry in 1978. Moreover, it is a right that consumers exercise in every other consumer-facing industry to discourage market participants from abusing their rights.”

“As air travel is the main way the coronavirus has quickly spread to become a global pandemic, airlines have a special obligation to strictly obey government guidelines to mitigate the pandemic even though this means less revenue and increased expenses in the short term,” said Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org, Public Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee and Evacuation Advisory Rulemaking Committee. “DOT Secretary Chao must also strictly enforce the guidelines and abandon the agency’s weak enforcement of passenger rights. Congress at a minimum should repeal the exemption of airlines from consumer protection laws applying to all other businesses.”

“The last investment taxpayers made in the airline industry during a time of crisis was followed by record profits on the backs of consumers through less competition, transparency, passenger comfort and a proliferation of fees for services previously included in the price of a ticket,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now. “This time, massive public assistance to the airline industry must be coupled with a meaningful commitment from the airline industry to passenger safety and consumer protection.”

“For years, the airlines have failed to place either passenger health and safety or passenger rights first, so Congress needs to require that they do,” said Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG Senior Director for Federal Consumer Programs.

“It’s time to put the public interest front and center as we take steps to address the immediate problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the airline industry in the long-term,” said Susan Grant, Consumer Federation of America’s Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy.

The letter was signed by the National Consumers League, Business Travel Coalition, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, EdOnTravel.com, FlyersRights.org, Travelers United, Travel Fairness Now  and U.S. PIRG.

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ABOUT

The National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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 www.nclnet.org.

Business Travel Coalition

Founded in 1994, the mission of Business Travel Coalition is to interpret industry and government policies and practices and provide a platform so that the managed travel community can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations. For more information, visit www.businesstravelcoalition.com

Consumer Action

Through education and advocacy, Consumer Action fights for strong consumer rights and policies that promote fairness and financial prosperity for underrepresented consumers nationwide.

Consumer Federation of America

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of non-profit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, more than 250 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization’s Board of Directors. CFA is a research, advocacy, education and service organization.

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports (CR) is a nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests, including their interest in safe and affordable air travel. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

EdOnTravel.com

A longtime travel expert, Ed helps consumers get the most from their travel dollar. His feature and Q&A columns give readers up-to-the-minute advice on everything from planning an itinerary for a European rail trip to booking flights, renting cars and buying travel insurance. Perkins also peppers his columns with valuable tips to avoid travel hassles.

FlyersRights.org

FlyersRights.org, established in 2007, is the largest airline passenger organization. It publishes a bi-weekly newsletter, operates a free hotline for airline passengers 877-FLYERS6, advocates for passenger rights and interests, represents passengers on the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee dealing with air safety, and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.flyersrights.org

Travel Fairness Now

Travel Fairness Now is a non-profit coalition of 70,000 travelers advocating for greater transparency, competition and fairness in travel. For more information, please visit www.travelfairnessnow.org.

Travelers United

Travelers United is the only nonprofit, consumer travel organization dealing with air, rail, bus, rental car, cruise, and lodging.  With a presence in Washington, DC we regularly bring together the Department of Transportation, the Federal Trade Commission, congressional representatives, and major stakeholders to impact important issues on behalf of travelers. For more information, visit www.travelersunited.org

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

Consumer groups applaud House hearing on anti-consumer practices in the ticketing industry

February 26, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League, Consumer Reports, Sports Fans Coalition, Fan Freedom, and Public Knowledge commend Chairwoman DeGette and members of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for convening the hearing, “In the Dark: Lack of Transparency in the Live Event Ticketing Industry.” Rife with fraud, deceptive marketing prices, and opaque restrictions on transferability, the live event ticket marketplace is one of the least consumer-friendly marketplaces available.

“The live event market is rigged against fans. It is rigged by a billion-dollar ticketing monopoly, rigged by unscrupulous scalpers who continue to use illegal ticket bots, and rigged by artists and promoters who would rather point fingers than bring transparency to the marketplace,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud for the National Consumers League. “They say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. It is our hope that today’s hearing will be a step toward cleaning up a broken industry and holding the executives who run it to account for their anti-fan business practices.”

“We’ve heard from thousands of people across the country frustrated with being ambushed by sneaky fees that jack up the price of event tickets,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy for Consumer Reports. “Companies should be required to advertise ticket prices with all mandatory fees included so there are no surprises and consumers know exactly how much they’ll pay.”

“The same things that harm concert fans harm sports fans,” said Brian Hess, Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. “Fans deserve the right to transfer their ticket. Whether that is because they want to give a ticket to a family member, or try to sell it to recoup some costs if they can no longer attend the game. Restrictions on this right, ruin the fan experience and make it harder for fans, especially older fans, to enjoy the teams they’ve invested in.”

“Fan Freedom applauds the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for examining live event ticketing,” said Chris VanDeHoef, Fan Freedom President. “The industry is tilted in favor of the Live Nation Entertainment monopoly at the expense of music, sports and theater fans everywhere. We believe the BOSS Act begins the process of shifting power back into the hands of consumers.”

“Ticketmaster’s ability to leverage the ticketing portion of its business alongside the concert promotion portion of its business, Live Nation, is a classic example of anticompetitive behavior,” said Bertram Lee, Policy Counsel with Public Knowledge, “ Live Nation has refused to bring artists to venues that don’t use Ticketmaster, and this kind of anticompetitive behavior impacts both consumers and artists. Neither artists nor consumers who use Ticketmaster or Live Nation are able to take advantage of better prices or terms in the larger ticketing and venue marketplace.”

Many of the ills that plague this marketplace could be resolved by the passage of the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act (HR 3248) as introduced by Congressman Pascrell (D NJ-9). The bill would require ticket sellers to adopt all-in pricing instead of hitting consumers with several fees at the end of check out, prohibit non-transferable tickets, require disclosures of how many tickets are being sold to the general public, and many more vital consumer protections. Following today’s hearing, the National Consumers League, Consumer Reports, Sports Fans Coalition, Fan Freedom, and Public Knowledge urges each member of the committee to cosponsor the BOSS Act to adequately address the myriad of harms that will be brought to light during this hearing.

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About the National Consumers League: The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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 www.nclnet.org.

About Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. It conducts its advocacy work in the areas of privacy, telecommunications, financial services, food and product safety, health care, among other areas. Using its dozens of labs, auto test center, and survey research department, the nonprofit organization rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 6 million members and publishes its magazine, website, and other publications.

About Sports Fans Coalition: Sports Fans Coalition was founded on the idea that sports fans deserve an advocate, someone who will stand up to the big sports leagues when they flex their political muscle, bully government officials or businesses, and attempt to harm the fan. Over the years, we have successfully supported fans across the country by overturning the Sports Blackout Rule; advocating for player safety; opposing publicly funded sports stadium construction unless fans receive a commensurate benefit, such as reduced ticket prices or free tickets for military personnel and retirees; protecting fans against ticket resale fraud; and drafting the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights, a set of consumer protections to promote safer sports betting.

About Fan Freedom: Fan Freedom is an organization comprised of entertainment and sports fans from around the country that support legislative proposals protecting the rights of fans and consumers.

About Public Knowledge: Public Knowledge is a consumer advocacy group that works at the intersection of copyright, telecommunications, and internet law to promote policies that serve the public interest. Public Knowledge advocates for freedom of expression, net neutrality, online privacy, affordable broadband access, digital platform competition, and other policies that benefit the public. In all our work, we endeavor to promote a creative and connected future for all Americans.

Consumer group urges additional action by DOJ and Congress to promote competition in the live event industry

December 20, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC –The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering worker and consumer advocacy organization responded to the Department of Justice’s settlement with LiveNation/Ticketmaster for engaging in anti-competitive practices in violation of their 2010 consent decree.  

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

Yesterday’s action by the Department of Justice to extend the 2010 Live Nation/TicketMaster consent decree by five and a half years was welcome news as it will prevent the ticketing giant from engaging in even more blatantly anti-competitive conduct. However, the DOJ’s action lacks the major fines, and additional structural and behavioral adjustments needed to bring transparency and competition to the opaque live event ticketing industry. Absent of these changes, Congressional action is sorely needed to fix the broken live event ticketing marketplace.  

Fortunately, the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act of 2019 (“BOSS ACT”), (H.R. 3248/S. 1850) which is currently pending in the House and Senate, will provide a comprehensive fix to the ticketing mess. The Boss Act will end deceptive holdbacks and egregious undisclosed ticket fees. It will also require transparency on whether ticket sellers are affiliated with a venue and ensure that ticket holders can sell or give their ticket away as they see fit without extra fees. The time for Congressional action is long overdue. The system is rigged against consumers and that must change.  

While we remain hopeful that yesterday’s actions by the DOJ are just a first step, we will continue to urge members of Congress to fix once and for all the broken live event ticketing system.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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 www.nclnet.org.

NCL welcomes DOJ enforcement of Live Nation consent decree

December 16, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization welcomed the news that the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly preparing legal action against Live Nation Entertainment Inc. to crack down on anticompetitive conduct in the live event marketplace. In 2009, NCL led a coalition of consumer groups, independent promoters, and venue owners in opposition to the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. Since the merger was approved in 2010, NCL has continued to advocate for fairness and transparency in the live event ticketing marketplace. 

The following statement is attributable to NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault:

“The DOJ’s interest in reining in Live Nation’s abuses is a welcome development, and long overdue. While robust enforcement of the consent decree may help, it won’t solve the entrenched ticketing industry practices that cause untold frustration for consumers. This is just the latest sign that the DOJ’s approval of the original Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger was the wrong decision.  Anyone who has tried to buy tickets knows that the live event marketplace, dominated by Live Nation, is rigged against fans. Congressional action to rein in abuses by Live Nation and others in the live event marketplace is necessary to restore sanity and fairness to the ticket-buying experience.” 

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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 www.nclnet.org.

Enough is enough! It’s time for the FTC to protect consumers from deceptive automatic renewal clauses

Brian Young

If you’re like most Americans ,you have probably had a bad experience with an automatic renewal oras they are sometimes referred toa negative option clause. Regardless of the name they go by, these clauses cause contracts and subscriptions (ranging from equipment leases to gym memberships) to renew if a consumer fails to cancel the contract. Unfortunately for consumers, these clauses are increasingly being slipped into the fine print of contracts or misleadingly disclosed to customers during the checkout process.  

Some companies take this practice a step further by offering a free or low-fee trials to a customer only to later lock them into an expensive and lengthy contract without obtaining their informed consent. One survey found that this has happened to 59 percent of consumers, and that number appears to be growing. A Better Business Bureau study of FTC complaint data found that complaints about free trials doubled between 2015 and 2017. With the average loss rates for deceptive free trials reaching $186 per incident, it is clear that action is sorely needed.

While states like California and the District of Columbia have taken steps to protect their residents from these disreputable “gotcha” clauses, a majority of Americans still lack adequate protections. Some businesses will not only utilize deceptive negative option clauses, but also place unnecessary barriers in the cancelation process to prevent consumers from managing or canceling their subscriptions and contracts. Indeed, nearly 42 percent of Americans have complained about the difficulty companies have created  in the cancellation process.

Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is finally considering improving consumer protections in this space. While the FTC already offers a few modest protections through laws and regulations like the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act (ROSCA), a series of loopholes exist, allowing companies to mask rate hikes, roll consumers into lengthy trials without their informed consent, and hide these clauses in the fine print.

To help encourage the FTC to require meaningful protections, NCL recently filed a comment letter urging the Commission to:

  • Require clear and conspicuous disclosure of any automatic renewal clause, regardless of where or how the consumer enters into it;
  • Require companies to provide meaningful notifications prior to any contract or subscription renewal;
  • Ensure that businesses receive a consumer’s consent for their free or low-fee trial to be rolled over into a contract; and
  • End the practice of businesses making it difficult for consumers to amend, manage, or cancel their subscription.

NCL believes that the FTC has a real opportunity to extend long overdue automatic renewal protections to all Americans. As more companies incorporate the use of negative option clauses in their contracts, consumers need meaningful notifications and protections that ensure that they remain in control of their financial decisions. A strong FTC negative option rule will ensure that businesses compete over quality and price, not over who can create the most painful cancellation procedures or earn the most revenue by slamming consumers with unexpected and costly contracts. The time is now for the FTC to act.

Read NCL’s full comment filing here (PDF).

NCL applauds Congressional oversight of the live event ticketing industry

November 22, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today applauded the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s bipartisan oversight of the live event ticketing industry. The committee’s decision to launch an investigation into the live event industry’s opaque ticketing practices represents an important step forward in empowering fans by providing the transparency needed to encourage competition and fix the broken live event ticketing industry.  

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League:

“In the absence of competition in the primary ticket market, consumers are forced to deal with a litany of unfair trade practices that create a rigged game. This includes secret holdbacks that trick fans into paying more for tickets by creating a sense of false scarcity and outrageous service fees which are often not disclosed until near the end of the purchase process. Today’s bipartisan oversight of the ticketing industry is a positive step towards restoring sanity and fairness into the live event marketplace.

Oversight alone, however, will not be enough to fix a rigged live event ticket market. Legislative action is sorely needed. Fortunately, the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act of 2019 (“BOSS ACT”), which is currently pending in both chambers of Congress, will provide a comprehensive fix to the ticketing industry. This bill will end the use of deceptive holdbacks and ridiculous undisclosed fees. It will also require ticket sellers to be upfront on whether they are affiliated with a venue and ensure that ticket holders can sell or give their ticket away as they see fit.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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 www.nclnet.org.

NCL: Cars need to come with data deletion buttons to enhance consumer privacy protections

October 3, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League, America’s pioneering worker and consumer advocacy organization, today called on Congress to take steps to rein in car manufacturers’ data collection practices and ensure that consumers have a mechanism to easily delete personal information collected about them by their vehicles.

Thanks to a proliferation of sensors, cellular connectivity and powerful in-car infotainment systems, modern cars can reportedly generate 25 gigabytes every hour and 4,000 gigabytes of data per day. In its new white paper, the consumer group examined the vast scope of personal information being collected about drivers by automobile companies to power a vast data engine that could be worth $750 billion by 2030.

“Every time a consumer gets in a car — whether it’s a vehicle she owns, rents, or rides in – huge amounts of personal data get shared with car companies with practically no oversight or consumer protections,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We want to shine a light on car companies’ data practices and encourage Congress to create common-sense rules of road for this growing marketplace.”

The NCL white paper examines several existing laws and proposed bills to offer a framework to legislators for steps they can take to better protect the privacy and data security of the driving public. In particular, NCL is urging Congress to mandate that car manufacturers include an easy-to-use data deletion functionality in all new cars to help consumers take control over their in-car data.

“Consumers just want to get from point A to point B safely,” said Greenberg. “While the data generated by our cars can help fuel innovation in the auto industry, that shouldn’t come at the expense of our privacy. Consumers are looking to Congress to take the lead and ensure that car company’s data collection practices have some sensible guardrails.”

Read NCL’s new white paper here. (pdf)

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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 www.nclnet.org.

DOT inaction leaves kids at risk, NCL tells Congress

September 26, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today called on the House Aviation Subcommittee to compel the Department of Transportation (DOT) to follow through on its Congressionally-mandated passenger protection rulemakings.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently warned that in-flight sexual assaults have increased by 66 percent and that children as young as 8 have been victims of such crimes in the air. New data uncovered by Consumer Reports found that children as young as two years old and kids who have autism or who suffer from seizures have been separated from their parents on airplanes. Airlines have pressured parents to pay expensive seat reservation fees or buy priority board passes so that they can be sure to sit with their small children. Incredibly, the DOT earlier this year decided that creating a consumer education website would be sufficient to fulfill Congress’ intent that it act to ensure that families can sit with their young children.

“How many children will have to be assaulted on aircraft before the DOT acts?” asked John Breyault, NCL’s vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing today. “The DOT’s inaction on this issue has put children at greater risk. Congress should demand answers from the DOT on the process it used to determine that it should do nothing substantive on this important children’s safety issue and mandate that the agency follow through on Congress’ clear intent.”

Read Breyault’s full testimony here.

The consumer group also highlighted the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) inaction on setting minimum seat size standards despite a looming deadline to do so. The FAA has actively. The FAA is required to issue regulations no later than October 2019, yet consumer groups have seen no indication that the agency is prepared to initiate such a rulemaking. Instead, the FAA has actively resisted judicial efforts by consumer advocates pressing it to take action on the important safety issue.

“Congress must not allow the FAA to simply adopt whatever inhumane seat size standard the airline industry favors,” said Breyault.

Breyault also testified about the impact of a lack of action by the DOT on Congressional mandates related to fee refunds, denied boarding (“bumping”), and the availability of fare, fee, and schedule data.

“The DOT’s actions and inactions on important rulemakings paint a picture of an agency that places consumer protection and consumer safety at the bottom of its list of priorities,” said Breyault. “It is imperative that Congress act to ensure that its mandates are not unduly delayed, or worse, ignored completely.”

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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 www.nclnet.org.

Consumer groups applaud congressional action to improve live event ticketing marketplace

September 20, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today, the National Consumers League (NCL), along with seven other leading consumer and public interest groups, sent a letter to Congressmen Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to applaud the lawmakers’ leadership in fixing the opaque live event industry by reintroducing the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act of 2019 (BOSS ACT). 

The following statement is attributable to Brian Young, public policy manager at the National Consumers League: 

Unchecked consolidation in the live event industry has led to an opaque ticket marketplace that is rigged against consumers. In addition to undisclosed holdbacks designed to create a false sense of ticket scarcityconsumers are forced to grapple with a litany of fake websites which pose as legitimate box offices, and ridiculous fees that increase the cost of a ticket by an average of 27-31 percent. These outrageous fees typically prevent comparison shopping as they are often not disclosed until near the end of the purchase process. Likewise, despite the passage of legislation in 2016 which banned the use of ticketbuying BOTS, consumers have witnessed an increase of illegal ticket-buying bot usage of nearly 17 percent.  Fortunately, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Congressman Frank Pallone, and Senator Richard Blumenthal are working to bring transparency and competition back into the live event ticket marketplace. Today’s letter from 8 leading consumer advocacy groups applauds their efforts.” 

To add transparency to the live event ticketing marketplace and empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions, the BOSS ACT would: 

  • Prevent primary and secondary ticket marketplaces from slamming consumers with hidden fees during checkout process; 
  • Prohibit scalpers from impersonating venues’ and teams’ websites to charge higher prices for less-desirable seats; 
  • Require primary ticket sellers to be honest about the number of tickets they plan on selling; and
  • Require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to identify ways to improve enforcement against illegal ticket-buying bots. 

To read the full letter, and learn more about the BOSS ACT, click here. 

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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 www.nclnet.org.

Calling an end to the health and humanitarian crisis at the border

Nissa ShaffiFlorence Kelley, first general secretary of the National Consumers League (NCL), was a pioneer in progressive social reform during a time in our nation’s history that was defined by mass immigration and egregious health violations. 120 years later, we bear witness once again to the unconscionable transgressions occurring in migrant detention centers across the border with regards to immigrant rights and access to health care. 

At this very moment, people who are exercising their legal right to seek asylum, according to international and U.S. law, are being systemically dehumanized. The atrocities occurring at our border completely tarnish the social protections that NCL has historically fought to solidify.

On July 10, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing to examine the humanitarian crisis at the border. The investigation followed the release of a July 2 report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) detailing the dangerous and unsanitary conditions migrant detainees are experiencing at Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities.

Images of children sprawled across cold concrete floors in overcrowded holding cells, wrapped in nothing but flimsy mylar blankets, prompted members of Congress, immigration lawyers, and physicians to visit various migrant detention centers throughout Texas to witness the matter firsthand.

Visitors noted a stench that could be detected immediately upon entry into the facilities, which was attributed to detainees being sardined into holding cells, in conditions that have been classified as inhumane and in violation of international law. A majority of detainees have been denied access to basic toiletries like soap and toothbrushes to help them maintain their hygiene. Additionally, individuals have not been able to shower in weeks, are sleep deprived, and are housed in frigid temperatures in rooms that have been given the apt moniker of the “ICE Box.” Many migrants have claimed that they were wearing the same soiled clothes that they wore during their long passage into the country.

These facilities were not designed to house migrants for prolonged detainment. Regulations prohibit the detention of detainees for longer than 72 hours, yet OIG reported that migrants had been held indefinitely, some even as long as several weeks. The unsanitary conditions prevalent in the detention centers have resulted in outbreaks of the flu, lice, shingles, scabies, and chickenpox. The processing centers in the facilities are housed beyond infrastructural capacity, leading border officials to take desperate measures to hold detainees in cages and under overpasses. These dangerous conditions will inevitably advance the spread of disease, endangering the lives of detainees as well as the general public who will come into contact with CBP and ICE agents.

These facilities are privatized, for-profit migrant detention centers that function outside the purview of federal oversight and accountability. Shareholder interests call for incentivized cuts to medical staffing, which as a result, has led to cruel and negligent practices that have encouraged the spread of disease, the proliferation of trauma, and the violation of human rights.

NCL calls on Congress to address the harrowing health and human rights violations taking place at our borders. NCL strongly advocates for a principled, comprehensive immigration reform that treats all immigrants with respect and dignity, no matter their legal status in the United States. NCL’s immigration policy advocates to:

  • keep families together;
  • ensure a humane pathway to citizenship and builds upon the success of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to incorporate young immigrants into mainstream society; and
  • ensure effective enforcement that protects our borders, fosters commerce, and promotes the safe and legitimate movement of people and goods at our ports of entry.

To learn about NCL’s immigration policy, click here.

The National Consumers League calls on lawmakers to work together to enact humane immigration policy reform that genuinely encompasses the promise of American values. Congress must act swiftly and in the best interest of migrants detained to collectively bring an end to this humanitarian crisis.