National Consumers League statement in support of HR 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act

For immediate release: February 18, 2021

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) is proud to join hundreds of like-minded groups in supporting HR 40, which would create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. The House Judiciary Committee hearing on HR 40 on February 17, 2021 gave witnesses the opportunity to talk about the reason for and impact of reparations. The hearing also included several witnesses who oppose the concept of reparations.

Introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), HR 40 would create a commission to identify: (1) the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.

This statement is attributable to NCL Board Chair Dominique Warren:

America has never reckoned with its 400 years of enslavement of 12 million Africans, brought to our shores shackled in fetid ships where huge numbers died of disease. As Michelle Singletary, Washington Post columnist has observed, reparations are not handouts, they are redress.

Beginning in 1619, enslaved people were brought to America and sold by those who profited from the slave trade, bought by plantation owners, farmers, businesses, and households, separated from siblings, parents, spouses and children and forced to work for free. After the Civil War, many freed slaves purchased land, only to see it stolen. Prosperous Black towns were looted and burned. Blacks have been beaten and murdered, many lynched on false allegations of criminal conduct  because of their race. Throughout America’s history, Blacks have been denied the right to vote and redlined from living in certain neighborhoods. Black Americans were and still are discriminated against in the workplace and prevented from earning fair and equal pay.

A new book on reparations, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” recommends a number of possible compensation programs, including the establishment of a trust that could make grants to eligible Blacks to help start a business or buy a home.

NCL agrees with these recommendations, made by authors William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, that “the U.S. government, as the federal authority, bears responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining, and enabling slavery, legal segregation, and continued racial inequality.”

America has benefited from the institution of slavery. Segregation and voter suppression has given advantages to White Americans in the form of cheap Black labor, reduced employment competition, and the power to elect politicians who enacted laws that worked in the best interest of Whites and against equal opportunities for Black people.

Redress is part of the American justice system, indeed part of the international justice system. The federal government issued an apology and cash reparations to Japanese Americans who were interned in camps during World War II.  Germany paid reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Studying reparations for African Americans as one approach to redress by setting up a Commission to thoroughly study the cost of slavery, Jim Crow policies that followed it, and the ongoing discrimination against black Americans would truly begin the national discussion and the reconciliation and healing that needs to take place. The National Consumers League strongly supports HR 40 and urges its swift passage by members of Congress.

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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.

National Consumers League supports the FAIR Act to end forced arbitration

For immediate release: February 17, 2021

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

Washington, DC—NCL is pleased to support the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act), a bill to re-establish Americans’ 7th Amendment right to seek justice and accountability through the court system. NCL applauds Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) for introducing this critically important consumer and worker protection legislation as well as the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law of the House Judiciary Committee for holding its February 11 hearing on the bill.

The bill previously passed the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress on Sept. 20, 2019 by a strong bipartisan vote of 225 to 186. The FAIR Act (H.R. 963) would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases and would allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs. The House bill has 155 cosponsors.

This statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

Forced arbitration is a glaring marketplace injustice that undermines key worker and consumer protections. Thanks to a series of unfortunate Supreme Court decisions, forced arbitration clauses are ubiquitous throughout the marketplace. Thus, it falls to Congress to correct this injustice. Arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of consumer and employment contracts for everything from cell phones, credit cards, cable service, nursing homes, employment, bank loans, student loans, apartment leases, and video subscriptions. Their practical effect is to block consumers’ and workers’ right to go to court. The actual arbitration process is fraught with problems; everything can be done in secret and without public rulings. Discovery is limited, and there is no meaningful judicial review, so consumers and employees are often unable to appeal a decision even if the arbitrator gets it wrong. Corporations can also choose where the arbitration will take place, what the rules will be, and how the costs will be borne.

Simply put, arbitration lacks the safeguards of a fair, impartial, and accessible court proceeding to protect people and hold accountable corporations that have committed widespread abuses, or marketed unsafe products or services.

As the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about the Supreme Court’s rulings on forced arbitration, they ‘have predictably resulted in the deprivation of consumers’ rights to seek redress for losses, and turning the coin, they have insulated powerful economic interests from liability for violations of consumer protection laws.’

Congress never intended this. The Federal Arbitration Act was enacted in 1925 to give businesses — with relatively equal bargaining power — options for resolving their business disputes.

The FAIR Act would even the playing field. Contrary to industry arguments, it would not ‘ban’ arbitration; instead, it would stop forced arbitration from being imposed as a precondition for obtaining a product, or for obtaining or continuing service or employment, and closing off access to the courts for consumer law claims, employment law claims, civil rights claims, and antitrust claims by small businesses. Once a dispute actually arises and the stakes are clear, consumers, workers, or small businesses could freely choose arbitration, if they determine it to be a better option for them than the courts.

NCL encourages all members of Congress to support the FAIR Act; it is pro-worker, pro-consumer, and pro-small business legislation and helps to bring fairness to the marketplace and restore the basic American right to our day in court.

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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.

Women’s sexual health shouldn’t be tabo‪o‬

It’s 2021, can we speak frankly about women’s sexual health yet?

Annual Fraud.org report shows link between COVID-19, recession, and scammers preying on Americans

Watchdog group’s annual report tracking trends out today 

For immediate release: February 1, 2021

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

Washington, DC—An analysis of the scams most frequently reported by consumers in 2020 tells the story of economic downturn, social isolation, pandemic fears, and opportunistic criminals, according to a new report released today by the National Consumers League’s (NCL) Fraud.org campaign. Through the Fraud.org website, NCL collects complaints from consumers about suspected and confirmed fraud incidents, tracks trends, and shares the data with law enforcement. 

The report’s findings note the pandemic’s impact on fraud trends, including increases in “get rich quick” schemes and predatory scams of the heart. The number of complaints received at Fraud.org regarding bogus prizes, sweepstakes, and free gifts nearly doubled year-over-year. Another pandemic scam trend: a notable increase (30 percent) in romance scams, which experts at Fraud.org are linking to the social isolation brought on by the COVID pandemic and Americans turning to online communication for companionship. 

“The COVID recession has fueled a rise in get-rich-quick schemes and romance scams,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud and the new report’s author. “The pandemic created a perfect storm for criminals: millions out of work and struggling with new financial hardship; people forced to isolate and seek companionship online; and incredible uncertainty about the future. Last year was a good year to be a con artist.” 

With many of the conditions from 2020 still in place, the consumer watchdog is cautioning consumers against the most common scams that plagued Americans last year.  

“While the exact pitch differs from scam to scam, there are red flags that consumers should consider,” said Breyault. “A request to send money to someone you’ve never met in person is almost always a scam. Another tried-and-true tactice scammers use is to create a false sense of urgency to get victims to send money before they stop and think. The best advice we can give to consumers is to stop, think, and talk to a friend or loved one before you send money.” 

In 2020, consumers submitted more than 5,700 complaints to Fraud.org. Forty-three percent of complaints reported a monetary loss, with the median loss of $1,628.  

Top Ten Scams of 2020 

  1. Internet: Gen Merchandise 
  2. Phishing/Spoofing 
  3. Fake Check Scams 
  4. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles 
  5. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts 
  6. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers 
  7. Computers: Equipment/Software 
  8. Internet: Auctions 
  9. Investments: Other (note in comments) 
  10. Internet: Extortion 

Other topline findings from the report include:  

New fraud entered top ten: extortion scams. 

 “As the pandemic and the recession continue to grind on in 2021, we are paying special attention to so-called ‘Internet extortion’ scams, which entered the top ten scams for the first time last year,” said Breyault. Such scams fall in to two broad sub-categories. The first category are “sextortion” scams, where consumers receive a message where the scammer threatens to release embarrassing photos, videos, or other personal information to the victims’ friends and family. The second sub-category involves “psychic” services, where the scammer claims to had discovered that a “curse” or other tragic event is about to befall the victim. Only by paying a significant fee can the victim have the “curse” lifted.  

Younger consumers and seniors are being targeted more frequently.  

The percentage of complaints received from consumers aged 26-65 decreased by an average of 8.76% in 2020.  By comparison, complaints from consumers aged 25 and below and those 65 and older increased by an average of 30.60% and 15.82%, respectively versus 2019. For consumers aged 25 and under, the top three most reported fraud categories were Internet merchandise scams, fake check scams, and romance scams. For those 65 and older, the top complaint categories were prize/sweepstakes scams, phishing/spoofing, and Internet merchandise scams.  

The Web and the telephone remain scammers’ preferred contact methods. 

With email spam filters growing increasingly successful at blocking out scam emails, fraudsters continued to turn to the Web and the telephone to find victims. Those two contact methods were mentioned in more than 81% of the complaints. “This highlights the need for consumers to be wary when responding to messages from unknown senders, particularly those encountered on social media,” said Breyault. “Consumers should also continue to be on guard for unknown callers seeking to offer them prizes or other inducements to send money.”  

Read the full 2020 Top Scams report from NCL.

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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.

National Consumers League welcomes appointment of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission

For immediate release: January 29, 2021

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, welcomes the appointment of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Rosenworcel is the second woman to lead the agency in its 86-year history.

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

We welcome Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s appointment as Acting Chairwoman of the FCC. Her years of service at the Commission and on Capitol Hill make her an ideal choice for this position. She brings an in-depth understanding of the Commission, its committed and talented staff, and the agency’s relationship with Congress.

Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel is a strong proponent of consumer protections, net neutrality, and universal access to high speed broadband. Her appointment couldn’t  come at a better time; the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the chasm of access to high quality broadband in so many communities across America. Most critically, millions of students without affordable broadband access have suffered as schools have moved online during the past year. NCL is committed to working with Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and her team to address this critical problem.

We are honored that Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel accepted NCL’s Trumpeter Award for consumer leadership in 2020. We welcome this strong consumer advocate who has always kept an open door for consumers from all backgrounds to discuss their concerns with the commission. We look forward to continuing to work with her and the talented FCC staff.

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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.

The National Consumers League welcomes the appointment of consumer advocate and FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

For immediate release: January 29, 2021

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 welcomes President Biden’s nomination of Rohit Chopra, a current commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to chair the  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

This following statement is attributable to Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

We are very pleased by President Biden’s nomination of Rohit Chopra to serve as director of the CFPB. At the FTC, Commissioner Chopra has proven to be a fair, thoughtful, and even-handed regulator with a strong record of defending the interests of consumers and pressing the agency to uphold its mandate by doing more to fight fraud and combat unfair and deceptive practices.

Chopra was on the ground floor as the CFPB was built. He was one of the first hires by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) when she took on the role as director of the—then—brand new agency. He brings a wealth of experience in the work of federal agencies, having also acted as special advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.

Despite his busy schedule, Commissioner Chopra always had an open door to hear from advocates and everyday consumers. When it comes to fighting abusive debt collection practices, crushing student loan debt, predatory payday loan companies, and auto lenders that discriminate against black, brown, and immigrant communities, consumers will have no greater champion than Rohit Chopra.

We urge the Senate to promptly confirm Commissioner Chopra so that he and his team can get started on the critically important mission of protecting the interests of the nation’s consumers.”

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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.

Welcoming FDA’s call for better science, more research on CBD

In 2019, in response to the growing retail market of untested, unapproved cannabidiol (CBD) products, NCL identified the need for greater consumer education and increased regulation at the federal level. NCL and its partners — Consumer Federation of America and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America — created Consumers for Safe CBD to help raise awareness of the unregulated CBD marketplace, champion the rights of consumers, and call on government and industry to do more to protect consumers. This year, we will continue to work with key stakeholders to encourage safe CBD food and beverage products and promote a pathway for new therapeutic products through clinically-tested scientific research.

We’ve come a long way since our launch, and FDA is making progress. Newly former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy recently called for better science, more data, and increased testing to determine the risks and benefits associated with CBD. We are encouraged by the commitments outlined in the FDA statement and look forward to continued collaboration with the Biden Administration and the new leadership at the agency to make the CBD marketplace fair, safe, and healthy for consumers.

Read more about the FDA’s comments on the Consumers for Safe CBD here and sign up for CBD updates from our Consumers for Safe CBD campaign here.

MLK legacy needed in 2021 more than ever

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

As our nation celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Day this week, let’s not forget the beautiful legacy of Dr. King at this difficult time in America.

Dr. King was a role model for all of us in how to bring about change peacefully. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance is a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love,” Dr. King wrote. What America needs now—perhaps more than ever before—is Dr. King’s message and his devotion to nonviolent racial equality.

Here in Washington, DC, the 704+ thousand of us who call this city home (and still have no voting rights in Congress) are surrounded by tall fences, members of the National Guard carrying AK 47s, and barbed wire. This is sadly necessary to protect the President and Vice President at their January 20 Inauguration from violence by the likes of the white supremacist mobs who were wearing Trump hats, carrying Confederate flags, and who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Many chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” Mr. Trump’s own Vice President, and searched for Speaker Nancy Pelosi in hopes of assassinating her.

How ironic that as we celebrate the life of the remarkable American icon and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, the Memorial in his honor on the National Mall must be closed due to threats of violence.

King taught us that violence is not inevitable nor necessary to effect social change. Over the past year, 93 percent of Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful. Dr. King would have been proud of that.

So here’s to Dr. Martin Luther King, who was and remains a role model to so many Americans and an inspiration to millions more.

NCL congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

For immediate release: January 7, 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–On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of the National Consumers League, America’s pioneering consumer organization founded in 1899, we wish to extend warm congratulations to our next President of the United States, Joe Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. As consumer and worker advocates, we look forward to building a strong relationship with the Biden-Harris Administration to advance the issues of democracy, which go hand-in-hand with consumer and worker protections. Among the top priorities on NCL’s agenda: enacting a $15 federal minimum wage and comprehensive privacy and data security laws; strengthening consumer protections regulations throughout the federal agencies; fighting fraud by enhancing consumer protections in financial transactions; restoring consumer protections to the flying public and American travelers; combatting predatory financial practices; and reducing the barriers facing all consumers seeking to gain access to the civil justice system.

Congratulations once again to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their election to the two highest offices in the land.

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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.

National Consumers League applauds Congress for surprise billing protections for consumers

For immediate release: December 22, 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 – The National Consumers League welcomes the inclusion of long-needed surprise billing protections in the COVID Relief Omnibus Spending Bill.

Surprise billing happens when a patient’s insurance doesn’t cover a procedure provided by an out-of-network physician, something patients don’t know or realize when they get a procedure. An estimated one in five emergency visits and one in six inpatient admissions will trigger a surprise bill, which can run into the thousands of dollars.

Medical debt disproportionately drives people into bankruptcy. Bill collectors and hospitals often layer on fees, interest, and penalties, driving the original costs way up. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that 530,000 bankruptcies filed annually are because of debt accrued as a result of treatment for medical illness.

This statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We greatly appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in getting the surprise billing language over the finish line. We also thank House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) for their early leadership on this issue. This is a shining example of working across the aisle for the betterment of consumers.

Consumers can breathe a huge sigh of relief because under the bill—including the cost of an air ambulance—consumers will be ‘held harmless’ when exposed to out-of-network costs. Once this bill is law, consumers can expect that fees charged will be far more affordable and predictable at in-network rates. We are grateful to Congress for recognizing surprise billing as a predatory practice from which consumers need protection. The committee leadership not only helped to pass a bill but launched an investigation.

After two years of debate and discussion on how health care providers and health plans will negotiate these extra costs, it was agreed that patients should be taken out of the middle of dispute resolution processes. Now, we finally have a workable system for protecting consumers.”

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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.