The National Consumers League mourns death of Bob Krughoff, founder of Consumer Checkbook

February 27, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Consumers League is deeply saddened by the death of consumer icon and pioneer, Robert M. Krughoff.  Bob devoted 45 years of service to consumer protection as the founding president of Consumer Checkbook. Bob started Consumer Checkbook, an invaluable tool published in the six metropolitan areas – DC, Boston, Chicago, Delaware Valley, Puget Sound and the Twin Cities – after his car repairs failed for a third time. He wondered why there wasn’t a Consumer Reports for local service providers. He then launched Consumer Checkbook and the publication has been in continuous print since then. The nonprofit takes no advertising, referral fees or other money from businesses it evaluates.

National Consumer League Chief Executive Officer Sally Greenberg provided the following statement. “Bob turned Consumer Checkbook into the highly respected publication it is, providing consumers with unbiased expertise on pricing and services provided by healthcare plans, doctors, dentists, hospitals, and dialysis centers, along with best bargain and quality ratings for buying diamonds, solar energy systems, tree care, electricians, remodeling, right to repair, planning a funeral, estate planning, tire buying and much more. NCL was privileged to honor Bob last year with our Lifetime Achievement Award after he announced his plans to retire from Consumer Checkbook. Consumer Federation of America’s longtime leader, Jack Gillis, longtime friend of Bob Krughoff, was also honored. Bob’s legacy will live on, but this is a sad day indeed for consumers across America who have lost a friend and legendary champion for their rights.”

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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 nclnet.org.

As Ticketmaster tries to change the subject, NCL defends fans’ rights in Maryland and Colorado

February 24, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, announced record quarterly results, underscoring their dominance of the live event industry. Not content with revenues of $16.7 billion (up 44% from the pre-pandemic era), Live Nation launched a glitzy nationwide public relations campaign to roll out the so-called “FAIR Ticketing Act,” a not-so-subtle attempt to create laws that would cement its monopoly power.

State and federal legislators should not be fooled by Live Nation’s new push to change the subject after months of well-earned bad publicity. Despite its fan-friendly name, the FAIR Ticketing Act is anything by fair for consumers. We agree with Live Nation that there should be curbs on speculative ticketing, better enforcement of anti-ticket bot laws, and industry-wide all-in pricing requirements. Unfortunately, the true aim of the bill appears to be to give Live Nation, not fans, the ability to set prices and terms of sale on the secondary market; the one part of the industry the company does not monopolize.

The National Consumers League (NCL) has been active in trying to push back against such efforts. On Wednesday, John Breyault, NCL’s Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud testified before the Maryland House of Delegates in support of House Bill 795, common-sense consumer protection legislation that would mandate all-in pricing of tickets, promote transparency of ticket holdbacks, and guarantee that consumers can benefit from a competitive secondary market.

“Fans in Maryland and throughout the country benefit from an open, competitive market for live event tickets,” said Breyault. “HB 795 would put Maryland at the forefront nationally of states that have made putting fans rights ahead of the interests of a monopolistic ticketing industry that is too often rigged against consumers.”

Breyault also testified before the Colorado Senate in opposition to SB 60, a bill supported by the ticketing industry that would allow multi-billion-dollar companies like Ticketmaster to dominate the secondary ticket market. The bill would allow Ticketmaster and sports teams like the Colorado Rockies or Denver Broncos to limit resale to ticket exchanges where they set the prices and terms of sale.

“Ticketmaster is already the 800-pound gorilla of the live event industry,” said Breyault. “If SB 23-060 was to become law, Ticketmaster would have free reign to cut off competitive choices for fans in Colorado”

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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 nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement on United family seating policy change

February 21, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Consumers League (NCL) today welcomed United Airlines’ announcement that it will phase out family seating fees in its Basic Economy fare class. The move positions United as a leader in an industry that has long claimed that proposals to prohibit family seating fees are unnecessary. United’s change comes after years of advocacy by NCL and other advocates as well as more recent pressure from the Department of Transportation, Congress, and the Biden White House.  

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

“While we are still awaiting all the details, United’s announcement is encouraging news. Budget-conscious families have for too long been asked to choose between saving money on their flights and the safety of their young children. While welcome, we still need common-sense consumer protection regulation that protects all passengers regardless of which airline they fly. Secretary Buttigieg, President Biden, and consumer champions in Congress should not take their eyes off the ball when it comes to putting family seating protections into laws and regulations.” 

Last week, NCL endorsed the Families Fly Together Act, sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY). The bill would prohibit airlines from imposing any monetary charges on families that want to sit together during a flight. NCL has also called for such a prohibition to be included in the Federal Aviation Administration’s upcoming reauthorization legislation. 

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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 nclnet.org.

NCL urges Senate committee to hold airlines accountable for operational meltdowns

February 9, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing focused on Southwest Airlines’ operational meltdown in December 2022. The committee should use this opportunity to not only hold Southwest accountable but to also address the underlying causes of and remedies for chronic cancellations and delays that affect millions of passengers annually. 

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

“Instead of ensuring that thousands of travelers and employees weren’t stranded for the holidays, Southwest spent $5.6 billion on stock buybacks. But Southwest is not an outlier. Putting short-term profits ahead of long-term investments that prioritize the needs of passengers has been a hallmark of the industry for decades. This is one symptom of a broken marketplace where four carriers control over 80 percent of domestic flights. America’s airline passengers, whose tax dollars bailed out the airline industry to the tune of more than $50 billion, deserve better. The Senate Commerce Committee must thoroughly investigate what happened at Southwest and reform our air travel industry to ensure such crises never happen again.” 

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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 nclnet.org.

NCL urges House Transportation Committee to demand answers from FAA on aviation safety

February 7, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing focused on the need to enhance America’s aviation safety system. The committee calls the U.S. system a “gold standard” for the world. Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) previously sterling record in this area has been badly tarnished by the Boeing 737 Max scandal, operational meltdowns, and scary near-misses. 

In particular, Congressional leaders must hold the FAA accountable for its failure to implement statutorily-required minimum dimensions for passenger seats. For decades, air carriers have reduced seat sizes across all fare classes. The result is that millions of travelers must fly under conditions that the FAA’s own advisory has deemed unsafe.  

Fortunately, thanks to advocacy by NCL and other passenger rights organizations, momentum is growing for reform. In November, NCL along with a coalition of six public interest groups, filed comments with the FAA calling for a moratorium on airlines reducing seat sizes until the FAA can update its emergency evacuation standards. In December, Senators Baldwin and Duckworth introduced legislation requiring the FAA to update evacuation standards to reflect the modern cabin environment. 

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

“Shrinking seats on airplanes have serious consequences, from impeding emergency evacuations to raising the risk of serious negative health effects. The FAA is more than three years overdue in complying with the law and addressing this problem. As the only agency in the nation responsible for aviation safety, the House Transportation Committee must ensure that the FAA does not continue to slow-walk critical aviation safety issues like setting minimum seat size standards.  

We are disappointed that the first hearing on this issue in the new Congress will not feature any witnesses representing those who are most directly impacted by such safety oversight – namely, passengers. Nonetheless, NCL urges Congress to use this opportunity to ensure the executive branch’s compliance with air safety mandates.” 

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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 https://nclnet.org.

Top Ten Scams Report: Consumers reported massive uptick in crypto-linked fraud losses in 2022

February 6, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reports of scams tied to cryptocurrencies drove a significant increase in median losses in 2022, according to the National Consumers League’s annual Top Ten Scams report. The report, published annually, analyzed more than 3,500 consumer fraud complaints filed with NCL’s Fraud.org campaign last year. 

The report found that the median loss for investment frauds reported to Fraud.org was $18,700, compared to $1,750 in 2021. The complaints in this category frequently described schemes where victims were encouraged to put money into cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-linked investments that later turned out to be fraudulent. Such scams drove an increase in the median loss for all frauds reported to Fraud.org to $950, an eleven-year high. 

“Both median losses and the share of incidents reporting losses are up,” said John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications, and fraud and the director of the Fraud.org campaign. “New technologies seem to be driving these trends, from crypto-related schemes to scammers using new technology to move victims’ money around.” 

Bank account debit, which includes peer-to-peer platforms like Zelle and Venmo, was the second most frequently mentioned way that victims reported sending money to fraudsters in 2022 (27.17% of complaints that included a loss). Compare this to 2021 when bank account debit was mentioned in 11.2% of complaints that included a loss. 

The top ten scam categories reported to Fraud.org in 2022 were: 

  1. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts 
  2. Internet: General Merchandise 
  3. Phishing/Spoofing 
  4. Fake Check Scams 
  5. Investments: Other (incl. cryptocurrency) 
  6. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers 
  7. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles 
  8. Family/ Friend Imposter 
  9. Computers: Equipment/Software 
  10. Scholarships/Grants 

“While we’re collecting data to better inform our efforts to combat fraud, we’re also aiding victims and connecting them with resources,” said NCL Consumer Services Coordinator James Perry. “It’s important to remember the person behind each report.” 

Notably, the share of reports involving romance scams declined by 31%. This trend may be attributable to last year’s significant media coverage of this type of fraud following the success of fraud-focused shows like “The Tinder Swindler” and “Inventing Anna.”  

“In real time, we are seeing the benefits of a national discussion around these types of fraud” said NCL Public Policy Manager Eden Iscil. “Having an open conversation about something as sensitive as romance scams helps to destigmatize the issue, provide space for victims to seek help, and put pressure on digital platforms to prevent misconduct.” 

To view the full 2023 Top Ten Scams report, click here. 

Methodology 

The National Consumers League Top Ten Scams report analyzed 3,503 complaints submitted by consumers to NCL’s Fraud.org campaign in 2022. This data is self-reported by victims and should not be considered a nationally representative sample. NCL shares complaint data with a network of law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who combine it with other data sets to identify trends in fraud and build cases. 

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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 https://nclnet.org.

White House “taking the gloves off” in latest competition push

February 1, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded the White House Competition Council’s announcement of a new slate of executive actions to protect consumers and rein in corporate power. NCL has long championed many of the solutions that the White House today supported, including prohibiting family seating fees on airlines, mandating all-in pricing and greater transparency in the live event marketplace, and getting rid of deceptive hotel resort fees.

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League:

“More than 60 years ago, President Kennedy launched the modern consumer movement with a call to hold corporations accountable when they put profits over the public interest. We are thrilled today to see the Biden White House following in those footsteps. This Administration is taking the gloves off and putting corporate wrongdoers on notice that anti-consumer behavior will not go unchallenged. From airlines to banks to ticketing companies, businesses are leveraging their market dominance to squeeze every penny they can from hard-working families. We are thankful to have allies in the White House who are channeling consumers’ frustration into action.”

NCL has been pushing for reforms in the live-event ticketing industry for over a decade, including changes to the ticket purchasing process (some of which were adopted by the Competition Council) and the breakup of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. In 2019, the League testified to Congress about the need for federal action to ensure that children are seated with their parents and caregivers without cost, something the Department of Transportation announced it would begin working towards today. Lastly, the Competition’s push to ban hotel resort fees and mandate all-in pricing echoes NCL’s previous calls on the matter.

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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 https://nclnet.org.

Advocates call on DOT to mandate easier airfare cost comparison

January 25, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON DC. – Yesterday, the National Consumers League (NCL) and a coalition of six consumer and passenger rights organizations filed comments with the Department of Transportation (DOT) in support of proposed regulations requiring the earlier disclosure of common airline ticket add-on fees. DOT’s proposed rules would require airlines and ticket agents to display fees associated with checked baggage, ticket changes and cancellations, and family seating on the first page of airfare search results. 

“It is extremely difficult and time-consuming for consumers to do accurate apple-to-apples comparisons when shopping for airline tickets,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud. “DOT’s proposed rules would promote competition by making it harder for airlines and ticket agents to hide some of the most egregious add-on fees in the fine print at the end of the ticket-buying process.” 

“The airlines love to nickel-and-dime passengers with junk fees, and in far too many cases travelers are hit with sticker shock when they finally realize the true cost of flying,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation & Travel at American Economic Liberties Project. “We urge the DOT to address transparency of fees, and to eliminate certain fees altogether. This applies especially to fees for families with young kids to sit together, an issue Congress directed the DOT to address in 2016.” 

“If airlines are going to continue to devise and impose all sorts of unreasonable fees, they must be required to reveal each fee when travelers first search for price and availability,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s Director of Consumer Protection. 

“Airlines have come up with all sorts of extra fees over the years: baggage fees, change fees, seat selection fees and more. We believe airlines should be required to disclose these fees before someone begins the actual booking process, not at the end. And these fees should be disclosed up front in real time to ticket agents that provide fare information. This would encourage price competition and ultimately give consumers more transparency in pricing,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog for Public Interest Research Group. 

To view the coalition’s full comments to DOT, click here. 

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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 https://nclnet.org.

NCL applauds bipartisan interest in reining in ticketing monopoly 

January 24, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON DC. – The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding a landmark hearing examining how Ticketmaster-Live Nation’s monopoly harms fans and competition in the live event industry.  

“Just as we warned in 2009 when the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger was proposed, the company has become a behemoth that controls many aspects of the live event industry and wields its market power ruthlessly,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. Ticketmaster sells tickets for 80 out of the top 100 arenas. Their presence in nearly every aspect of the industry—from event promotion to venue operationsmakes it almost impossible for small, independent competitors to succeed. This is a monopoly. 

Consumers often have no choice but to deal with Ticketmaster when seeing their favorite artist or sports team. This makes some of the corporation’s business practices inescapable, such as adding 78% to the ticket price in hidden fees. 

Today’s hearing showed that there is a strong support for free markets—regardless of party,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud John Breyault. Senators from both sides of the aisle centered the experiences of fans, artists, independent promoters and venue owners, recognizing the harms caused by Live Nation’s market consolidation. Witnesses repeatedly described a pervasive fear of retaliation if they and other live event industry stakeholders speak up about Live Nation’s monopolistic practices. It is our hope that their testimony gives more actors in the live event industry confidence that Ticketmaster-Live Nation is not above the law. 

Since 2009, NCL has opposed the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. Most recently, NCL has been working as part of the Break Up Ticketmaster coalition to urge the Department of Justice to enforce existing federal antitrust laws and take action against Ticketmaster to increase competition in the marketplace. 

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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 https://nclnet.org.

NCL urges FTC to prohibit user review manipulation

January 10, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, 202-823-8442

WASHINGTON DC. – The National Consumers League (NCL) this week filed comments in support of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation to ensure the reliability of user reviews. In its comments, NCL urged the FTC to prohibit user reviews from individuals who did not purchase a product or service (or are misrepresenting their experiences with a product or service) and to prohibit sellers from manipulating consumer reviews. In addition, the League advocated for the Commission to require hosts of user reviews to implement measures to protect review integrity, such as requiring purchase verification.  

“Consumers frequently cite user reviews as a key factor when deciding what to buy,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “As a result, fake endorsements steer billions of dollars each year towards certain products and away from competitors. The impacts range from buyers receiving goods of poorer quality than expected to serious safety risks.” 

NCL also encouraged the FTC to prohibit the commercial exploitation of social media engagement metrics, such as buying and selling likes, comments, or shares. Such practices can be used to boost fraudulent product reviews and endorsements, allowing bad actors to manipulate social media platforms to broaden their reach. 

“Right now, it is extremely easy to spend a few dollars and receive hundreds of likes, followers, or other signals that a product or service is of high quality,” said Eden Iscil, NCL Public Policy Manager. “By jumpstarting a post with purchased engagement, the content has a greater chance of reaching a real audience—and being believed by them. Such practices not only affect consumers making purchasing decisions but can also be used to spread other types of misinformation.” 

The FTC initiated this regulatory process following NCL’s request for greater federal enforcement against organized user review fraud, which can be found here 

NCL’s full comments to the FTC can be found here. 

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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 https://nclnet.org.