NCL welcomes DOJ enforcement of Live Nation consent decree

December 16, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (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.” 


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

Consumer group urges District of Columbia to pass critical data security legislation

November 12, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today, the National Consumers League, the Nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, testified before the Council of the District of Columbia in support of the Security Breach Protection Amendment Act of 2019.

The following is attributable to NCL’s Public Policy Manager Brian Young:

“This consumer protection bill will help stop breaches before they happen by requiring holders of personal data, to take reasonable steps to secure and safeguard the data they have been entrusted with. When breaches happen, it is often because the business did not utilize current best practices to secure data, and yet, it is the consumer that bears the price for the business’ misstep. Consumers cannot and should not be expected to carry the load when it comes to protecting the data they share with businesses and other organizations. NCL believes that each councilmember has a unique opportunity to safeguard District residents’ data through this bill. NCL urges the Council of the District of Columbia to quickly pass and implement this critical consumer protection bill.”

Brian Young’s full testimony can be found here (PDF).

Video footage of Brian Young’s testimony is available here.


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

Computer chip defects force consumers to choose between speed and security

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Since the first observation of this month 15 years ago, the world has gone from about 800 million Internet users to approximately 4.5 billion. Over that same period of time, there has been an extensive amount of time and energy dedicated to improving cybersecurity and cyber hygiene.

Sadly, despite those good faith efforts, it does not appear that consumers have become safer. In fact, it is clear by now that most individuals have, in one way or another, been affected by some sort of hack or data breach—either on a personal computer or through a company that they have entrusted with their sensitive information.

To make matters worse, beyond the heightened cyber threat environment that exists today, a new hardware-based vulnerability found in almost every processor in the world has recently emerged, and it is making it increasingly difficult for consumers to keep their data protected.

A new report released by the National Consumers League’s #DataInsecurity Project, “Data Insecurity: How One of the Worst Computer Defects Ever Sacrificed Security for Speed,” discusses the threat these processor flaws pose to consumers—both in terms of the security of their data and the performance of their computer after security patches are applied—and how they can protect themselves in the future.

The report details seven publicly disclosed exploits, known as “Spectre,” “Meltdown,” “Foreshadow,” “Zombieload,” “RIDL,” “Fallout,” and “SWAPGS,” that take advantage of the flaws found in CPUs manufactured by AMD, ARM, and Intel. While Spectre affects all three major chip manufacturers, all six subsequent exploits largely affect only Intel processors.

The exploits, in short, can allow a hacker to obtain unauthorized access to privileged information. And while patches have been released alongside each exploit, they have led to a decrease in computer speed and performance—as much as 40 percent according to some reports. In addition, the patch is only good until the next exploit is discovered.

The flaws create a real challenge for consumers: apply each temporary “fix” as new exploits are discovered and risk slowing down your device, or don’t and put your sensitive information at risk. And consumers who apply patches remain at the mercy of companies that hold their sensitive data and are faced with a similar dilemma, particularly as they must consider the expenses of implementing these fixes—including costs to add computing power lost by each patch.

The report concludes that the best protection for consumers is to buy a new computer that has a CPU with hardware-level security fixes or is immune from some of the exploits. Unfortunately, this is not practical for many consumers. Therefore, consumers are advised to perform frequent software updates. NCL is also strongly supporting data security bills, such as the Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2017, which would require companies to take preventative steps to defend against cyberattacks and data breaches and to provide consumers with notice and appropriate protection when a data breach occurs.

As we mark this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we should certainly celebrate the progress that we have made. We cannot lose sight, however, of the need to better secure our information and systems moving forward. Awareness and smart data hygiene by consumers is one part. Companies must do their part to secure our information as well.

If you are interested in learning more, you can find NCL’s latest report here.

If you care about cramped airline seats, you should care about the FAA’s evacuation tests

Last month, I had the pleasure of testifying before the House Aviation Subcommittee on the implementation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2018 reauthorization bill. My testimony touched on many of the pressing consumer protection priorities for airline passengers teed up by the 2016 and 2018 FAA reauthorization bills. 

The big news coming out of that hearing, however, was FAA Deputy Administrator Daniel Elwell announcing that the FAA will this November conduct its first evacuation tests with live participants in two decades. While this may sound like the kind of announcement only politicos should care about, it’s actually a very big deal for anyone who flies 

Why is that, you may ask?  

FAA regulations require that the “maximum capacity” of an aircraft must be able to be evacuated in less than 90 seconds in an emergency. The analogy is to the “maximum capacity” signs you may have seen in conference rooms, hotels, or other public spaces. Since the 1990’s, airlines have gotten fuller, seats have gotten smaller, and more bags and support animals have been brought into the cabin. Despite these changes, FAA has not updated its evacuation standards and has been content to allow airlines to self-certify that they can meet the 90-second threshold, largely based on computer simulations. 

This all changed last July when Congress passed the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act which requires FAA to set minimum seat size standards. That’s why Dan Elwell announced that the FAA will be conducting the tests in November. The airlines, which have been pulling down record profits in recent years as they’ve steadily crammed more butts into more and smaller seats, will almost certainly want the FAA to give its blessing that their sardine cans are safe.  

Unfortunately, the FAA seems intent on granting them their wish. The advisory committee it appointed to provide feedback on the evacuation standards is packed with industry insiders and hamstrung by its own charter from considering seat sizes and seat pitch (the room between seats) as part of its recommendations. The DOT’s Office of Inspector General has an ongoing audit of the evacuation standards, but there’s no indication that the FAA will wait on the results of that audit before it conducts its tests. 

We can’t let the FAA rubber stamp the airlines’ current inhumane and potentially unsafe seating configurations. That’s why NCL, along with a coalition of consumer and flyers rights groups this week sent a letter to the FAA and the DOT urging them to update their evacuation standards before the November tests. We’re calling on the agency to update its evacuation testing standards to account for things like the presence of passengers with disabilities, parents who are separated from their children (thanks in no small part to rising seat reservation fees), full overhead bins, and passengers who insist on taking their bags with them when they evacuate (or, even worse, filming themselves evacuating). These are all factors that are likely to slow down evacuations, but FAA’s evacuation testing standards don’t account for them. 

Updating evacuation testing standards may sound like wonky, inside-the-Beltway bureaucratese, but the consequences of not doing so could be deadly.

FAA evacuation tests could give green light to unsafe and inhumane airline seating

October 21, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) upcoming passenger evacuation tests are designed with outdated standards that do not reflect the realities of today’s airline travel marketplace, said a coalition of ten consumer and flyers rights organizations in a letter sent today to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao.

The groups’ letter explains how the FAA’s current evacuation testing standards, which have not been updated in more than 20 years, do not account for multiple factors that could prevent safe evacuation in the legally-required 90-second threshold. For example, the current standards do not account for the presence of emotional support animals in the cabin, parents who may be separated from their children due to airlines’ family seating policies, or passengers with disabilities. In addition, the current evacuation standards do not account for the experience in recent emergencies of significant numbers of passengers attempting to bring personal items like roller bags with them as they evacuate. Nor do the standards effectively simulate the disruption from the widespread panic that can be expected in the event of an actual emergency.

“The FAA’s standards are woefully out of date and out of step with the current state of airline travel,” said John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, which organized the letter. “Unless the standards are improved, the airlines will almost certainly see the results of these tests as a green light continue their never-ending quest to shrink seat sizes and cram more passengers into planes.”

In September, FAA Deputy Administrator Daniel Elwell announced that that the agency will conduct tests of airplane evacuations involving 720 “demographically representative” people over 12 days in November 2019 in Oklahoma City. These tests, the first conducted by the FAA in nearly two decades, come in response to a Congressional mandate that the agency set minimum seat size standards in order to increase passenger safety. Unfortunately, the FAA appears to be pressing forward with the testing without input from the DOT’s Office of Inspector General, which is currently conducting an audit of evacuation testing standards, or the agency’s own emergency evacuation standards advisory committee. Furthermore, it appears the testing will not be conducted with full-scale airplane cabin mock-ups, but instead using smaller sections that don’t properly simulate packed airplanes.

“It is imperative that Secretary Chao and Administrator Dickson act aggressively to address our organizations’ concerns so that the public, whose faith in the FAA has been significantly diminished recently, will have confidence that the highest of standards were employed during the test evacuations,” said Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell. “Congress also needs to ensure that the testing processes and the underlying critical assumptions are realistic,” added Mitchell.

“Airline travel has changed significantly over the last 20 years, with shrinking seats and record passenger loads, a high influx of carry-on bags, scattered seating of families, ubiquitous electronic gadgets and cords and even on-board animals,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser for Consumer Reports. “It is critical that the FAA’s methodology changes as well, so that this vital testing accurately reflects real-world scenarios, where the stakes are often life-and-death.”

The letter was signed by the National Consumers League, Business Travel Coalition, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports,,, Travel Fairness Now, Travelers United and U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.


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

Reducing the mountain of waste on airplanes

On a flight to Idaho earlier this week, I brought my own coffee mug. My flight attendant was unexpectedly enthusiastic: “Anything that will help save the planet,” she said. I do not find this to be the case at Starbucks, where baristas insist on giving me a new plastic cup when I’m getting my iced tea, or at the Nespresso counter at Bloomingdales, which recently refused to serve me a coffee in my own cup. Reducing our personal footprint should be a big issue for all of us as we see the rapid pace of climate change and what it is doing to our beloved planet.  

At home, I can compost food scraps, choose to take public transportation, minimize food waste, and drive a hybrid car.  But it’s tough to do your part to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle and try to “save the planet,” as an airline passenger.  The New York Times reports that the average air passenger generates three pounds of waste in the form of plastic cups, the headphones, food left on plates, wrapping for snacks, and plastic cutlerymultiply that times 4 billion passengers a year, and it really adds up! 

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg opted to sail to New York from Europe to avoid being part of the problem: emissions from airplanes.  

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group representing the airlines, estimated that planes generated 6.7 million tons of cabin waste last year. Another group that studied the waste found that it broke down as 33 percent food waste, 28 percent cardboard and paper, and 12 percent plastic.   

So, what are the airlines doing, and how can consumers be part of the solution? Well, airlines are under pressure to conserve precisely because consumers are demanding they do so, as the New York Times article reported.  Air France said it would eliminate 210 million singleuse plastic items like cups and coffee stirrers. Qantas has removed individually packaged servings of milk and Vegemite, and now serves meals in containers made from sugar cane, and utensils made from crop starch. Some United Airlines flights use “fully compostable or recyclable service ware.”  

Consumers can inquire about recycling products and demand changes in rigid rules on tossing out untouched food and drink, in place supposedly to protect agriculture. The trade group IATA estimates that these untouched items make up 20 percent of total airline waste. As reported by the New York Times, companies employed to help reduce airline waste are making dishes from pressed wheat bran and “sporks” from coconut palm wood. 

Asking the airlines what they are doing to reduce waste is a good start. Let’s press the airlines for answers andwhile we are it: what about hybrid or electric engines on planes? That is a topic we can explore another day. 

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

October 3, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (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)


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

The National Consumers League applauds House passage of FAIR Act

September 30, 2019

Bill would ban forced arbitration clauses in consumer and worker contracts

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League is applauding the groundbreaking legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives to restore legal rights to millions of American workers and consumers.

By a vote of 225-186 September 27, the House adopted the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, banning companies from forcing workers and consumers to resolve legal disputes in private arbitration—a forum essentially controlled by the company with no judge, no jury, and no oversight. 

These clauses have become ubiquitous in employment and consumer contracts, “take or leave it” contracts of adhesion that make it impossible for workers to sue their bosses in court for sexual harassment, racial discrimination, wage theft, and nearly anything else or consumers to sue when a product proves dangerous, falsely advertised or marketed or violation of privacy or other rights. Arbitration is a rigged system where workers and consumers are less likely to win their cases in private arbitration, and when they do win, they tend to get much less money than they would in court.

Outlawing forced arbitration would restore access to the courts to more than 60 million U.S. workers who have signed away their right to sue.

“Arbitration is one of the central ways in which corporate America has rigged the system against middle class families, working people,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said Friday on the House floor.

The bill will likely face some resistance from Republicans in the Senate, but passing it in the House is a victory for workers and consumers. “It’s about time our House of Representatives stood up for democracy and the little guy,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “We thank Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Judiciary Committee for their leadership to move this bill and restore consumer and worker rights and hold corporate wrongdoers accountable.”

As Greenberg noted, “Forced arbitration clauses are toxic for companies and employees; they embolden companies to break the law with impunity, knowing they will never be held accountable because they cannot be sued in most democratic institution in the American democracy -our courts. Passage of the FAIR Act is an essential step to this end run around protecting the rights o average Americans.”

Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, briefly explained (Source: Vox)

The FAIR Act, introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would ban businesses from forcing workers and consumers to give up rights through mandatory arbitration clauses. It would also invalidate current agreements that have already been signed, but only for disputes that come up after the law goes into effect. 

The same bill was before the House last year, but did not get support from Republicans, who controlled the chamber at that time.  This time around, the challenge will be to get it through the Senate. But Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have recently shown an interest in curbing forced arbitration.

NCL applauds the House of Representatives for this historic vote and for its support for consumer and worker rights. We urge the Senate to move with dispatch, pass the bill and send it to the President’s desk for signature and enactment.


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

Groups’ letter to Congress in support of Taxpayer Service Standards legislation

September 23, 2019

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Committee on Finance
United States Senate
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-6200

The Honorable Richard Neal
Ways & Means Committee
United States House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Ron Wyden
Ranking Member
Committee on Finance
United States Senate
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-6200

The Honorable Kevin Brady
Ranking Member
Ways & Means Committee
United States House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Wyden, Chairman Neal, and Ranking Member Brady:

We are writing to express our support for much-needed Taxpayer Service Standards legislation to protect Americans from tax return preparers who do not meet basic standards of competency, training or ethics. In 2014, the GAO found widespread and significant errors during a “secret shopper” test on paid preparers, with only about 10 percent of preparers calculating the correct refund amount. The Federal Trade Commission ranked tax preparer fraud in the top 30 most common types of fraud in 2017. And yet, the IRS has had little authority to prevent bad actors from becoming tax preparers or remove them once they’re in the system.

We urge Congress to take action to provide some basic protections that will ensure the well-being of American taxpayers and equip the IRS with the tools it needs to do so. 

For many Americans, a tax return is their most significant financial transaction all year. According to the IRS, nearly 60 percent of taxpayers seek help with their taxes from paid preparers. As important as a tax return is, there are actually no basic standards in place to protect taxpayers from incompetent, unethical or sloppy tax preparation services. Yet the consequences of a mistaken tax return can be devastating. For these reasons, we are supporting legislation before the Senate and the House to set taxpayer service standards, allow the IRS to spot and remove habitually bad tax preparers from the system, and protect taxpayers from fraudulent, dishonest and incompetent tax preparers. Specifically, we support –

  • H.R. 3466, introduced by Congressman Estes (R-KS) and Congresswoman Sewell (D-AL). This bill would give the IRS the authority to revoke PTINs from fraudulent, incompetent and unethical preparers.
  • S. 1192 and H.R. 3330, the Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act. These Senate and House companion bills, introduced by Senators Wyden and Cardin and Congressmen Panetta (D-CA) and Yoho (R-FL), respectively, would establish minimum standards for tax return preparers.

Currently, the only requirement to become a paid tax preparer is to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS. The agency identified nearly 20,000 registered preparers who were potentially non-compliant with their tax filing and payment obligations, with $375 million in taxes due from these preparers as of January 26, 2015.[1] As of May 2017, however, only about 1,700 of 1.3 million PTINs issued had been revoked – 0.001%. Even today, the IRS accepts returns from preparers with expired or invalid PTINs. What’s more, 58% of active PTIN holders have no professional credentials at all, unlike CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents. This is unacceptable and exposes taxpayers to fraud, incompetence and fees and penalties through no fault of their own.

We thank you for your attention to this important issue and urge you and your colleagues to support S. 1192/H.R. 3330 and H.R. 3466 to protect American taxpayers who unknowingly may be using unqualified or dishonest tax preparers.


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Consumer Action
MANA – A National Latina Organization
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
National Consumers League
Prosperity Now
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

[1] Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, August 27, 2015.

Consumer groups applaud congressional action to improve live event ticketing marketplace

September 20, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (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. 


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