Airline passenger advocates hail landmark junk fee rules

April 25, 2024

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

Washington, DC – Airline passenger rights advocacy organizations today hailed new rules announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that will make it easier to obtain refunds for cancelled flights and ancillary services that aren’t provided. The groups also applauded the finalization of regulations that will make it easier for flyers to do apples-to-apples comparisons of flight costs. The groups, which supported passage of these new protections for more than four years, urged Congress to follow suit and include these protections in the forthcoming FAA reauthorization bill. 

“Too often, airlines promise one thing and fail to deliver it,” said National Consumers League CEO Sally Greenberg. “The law says that when this occurs, consumers should get a refund. Far too often, the airlines make the process of getting your money back unnecessarily difficult. Today’s rules promise to bring sanity to the refund process. In addition, the new rules on fee transparency will make it easier for consumers to get an accurate price for their flights upfront. This is a far better solution making consumers wait until the end of the ticket buying process to learn what their true cost will be.” 

“It has become painfully clear that the status quo is no longer working in air travel, and we are glad to see Secretary Buttigieg acknowledge that consumers deserve better,” said Erin Witte, director of consumer protection at Consumer Federation of America. “These rules will bring transparency to opaque ticket pricing, and they will put the responsibility for refunds where it belongs: on airlines, not consumers.” 

“It’s a shame that it takes actual rules to get airlines to do the right thing and take better care of their passengers,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog Director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “It’s important to remember that most Americans fly only once every 12 to 18 months. These rules will especially help those travelers who aren’t as familiar with their rights.” 

“We applaud the DOT’s move to require refunds for consumers —by default—when flights are cancelled or ‘significantly’ delayed,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s Director of Consumer Protection. “This clear directive is sorely needed and a significant improvement for airline passengers.” 

“For years, domestic and foreign airlines both large and small have made it as hard as possible to give passengers well deserved refunds for disruptions they’ve caused or services they’ve failed to provide,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation and Travel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “The DOT’s new rule is a watershed moment for passenger protection in the airline industry, making it easy and accessible for consumers to get relief when Too-Big-To-Care airlines run roughshod over them. This news follows a positive sea change in the DOT’s enforcement activity under the Biden administration, including supporting the DOJ’s successful JetBlue-Spirit merger challenge, a historic enforcement action against Southwest, and new efforts to empower state attorneys general to address consumer complaints. There’s more work to be done, but the DOT is showing that it’s getting serious about taking on corporate power across the airline industry—and we’re thrilled to see that.” 

The new rules come as Congress closes in on approval of legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The passenger rights groups are calling on leaders in the House and Senate to ensure that additional protections are put in place to ensure that a future DOT does not roll back these hard-won consumer protections. 

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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 regulators to investigate auto makers’ data collection practices

March 27, 2024

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

Washington, DC – Today, the National Consumers League sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging oversight of vehicle manufacturers’ collection of consumer data. Modern cars can collect a range of information on drivers, including the locations they visit, their exact weight, and their texts and call records. Consumers are often unaware of this data collection and are even more surprised when insurance companies utilize this surveillance to increase drivers’ premiums. As digitally connected vehicles become more commonplace, the risks they pose to consumer privacy will only become greater—absent mandatory safeguards.

The full letter 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 nclnet.org.

NCL applauds FTC action to stop imminent grocery monopoly 

February 26, 2024

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

Washington, DC – Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and bipartisan state attorneys general sued to block the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons. The $24.6 billion deal—the largest supermarket merger in U.S. history—would create a near monopoly by consolidating 5,000 stores and 4,000 pharmacies under one corporation. Without FTC action, consumers would see inflated prices and workers would be stuck with anticompetitive compensation.

“Decades of ignoring federal law have allowed industry consolidation to grow unchecked, leaving everyone worse off except for a handful of executives at the top,” said NCL CEO Sally Greenberg. “The FTC is rightfully asserting its authority and putting the interest of consumers and workers first. Monopolists should know that they can no longer take advantage of the American public without facing legal challenges.”

The proposed deal would eliminate competition between Kroger (including Fred Meyer, Fry’s, and Harris Teer) and Albertsons (among its subsidiaries are Haggen, Safeway, and Vons). Last year, a coalition including NCL and 250 national, state, and local organizations urged the FTC to prevent this merger from taking place. Joining the FTC’s lawsuit are bipartisan attorneys general representing Arizona, California, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wyoming.

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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 praises FTC’s multilingual fraud reporting announcement

November 8, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization today praised the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) announcement that consumers can now file fraud and identity complaints in their preferred languages. NCL is the home of the Fraud.org campaign, which is a long-time contributor of complaint data to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network as well as being an ally in the Commission’s efforts to educate consumers about frauds.

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

“All consumers are at risk of fraud, regardless of the language they speak. Making it easier for fraud victims to report these crimes in their own language to the FTC is a critically important step in the fight against scams. We are thrilled with today’s announcement and look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and our allies in the anti-fraud community to protect consumers from criminal scammers.”

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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 urges swift confirmation of FTC nominees

July 7, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) today urged leaders in the Senate to restore the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to its full complement of Commissioners by swiftly confirming Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak and Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson, who were nominated by President Biden on July 3 and FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, who was renominated to a second term on February 13.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Chief Executive Officer Sally Greenberg:

“The FTC operates best when it is at full strength. NCL therefore welcomes the nomination of these three outstanding public servants whose key skills, experience, commitment, and expertise will serve them well in fulfilling the agency’s critical consumer protection and competition promotion mission. We look forward to working with Commissioner-designate Holyoak, Commissioner-designate Ferguson, Commissioner Slaughter, and all the leaders of the FTC to fulfill the important mandate of this independent consumer protection agency.”

NCL CEO urges Congress to end companies’ addiction to junk fees

June 8, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

WASHINGTON, DC – National Consumers League (NCL) CEO Sally Greenberg today urged Congress to do more to rein in predatory junk fees that plague millions of consumers and honest businesses. In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection Subcommittee on the need for federal action to rein in predatory junk fees, Greenberg urged Senators to support multiple pieces of consumer protection legislation, including President Biden’s Junk Fee Prevention Act.  

“American companies are addicted to junk fees,” said NCL CEO Greenberg. “These fees cause significant economic harm, especially to historically marginalized and economically vulnerable communities. Junk fees harm honest businesses, too, as consumers’ patronage is unfairly directed away from companies with the best price, quality, convenience, and honest practices to those with pricing that is higher, less transparent, and more deceptive. 

Greenberg urged Congress to support bills like the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would rein in some of the worst offenders when it comes to junk fees; the Consumer Protection Remedies Act, which would fully restore the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to obtain monetary and other relief for consumers; and Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act), which would prohibit a pre-dispute arbitration agreement from being valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of an employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights dispute.

“The Biden Administration and agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Transportation, and Federal Trade Commission have taken steps to address the scourge of junk fees,” said Greenberg. “Congress can and should do more to support these initiatives.”

The National Consumers League sent a letter urging Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to ensure that consumers get a fair deal at the pharmacy

February 21, 2023

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

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) sent a letter urging Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to ensure that consumers get a fair deal at the pharmacy. When it comes to the high out-of-pocket costs consumers face at the pharmacy counter — often for lifesaving medications — consumers today have an unfair disadvantage.

“With three PBMs controlling nearly 80 percent of all prescription drug claims, it is timely that lawmakers are looking at PBMs’ role in driving up the cost of drugs to consumers and patients,“ said Sally Greenberg NCL Chief Executive Officer. “We are encouraged to see the committee looking into the workings of PBMs and we are supportive of your efforts to hold these entities accountable.”

Beyond addressing the antitrust issues and increasing transparency of PBM revenue streams, we encouraged legislators to:

  • Remove medication barriers: PBMs should not be allowed to limit access to the medicines doctors prescribe.
  • Require PBMs to pass on savings directly to consumers: PBM rebates should be shared so that consumers can benefit from more affordable out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, patient cost-sharing should be based on the net cost of the drug, not the list price.
  • Ensure simple, single administrative PBM fees: PBMs too often tack on arbitrary fees to local pharmacies, with many independent and community pharmacies struggling to stay in business, this trickles down to the consumers, resulting in increased prices and pharmacy closures, leading to many communities facing pharmacy deserts.
  • Ensure PBM profits are not tied to the costs of medications: The system currently incentivizes PBMs to favor medicines with higher list prices so that they can negotiate larger rebates and/or steer patients to medicines with higher price tags to increase their own profits.

With the many evolving ways PBMs too often put profit over consumer interests, it is crucial that federal consumer protection agencies like the FTC have the tools needed to address the PBM problem.

To view the full letter, 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 nclnet.org.

The National Consumers League supports the bipartisan S 4918 (117th Congress) “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”

February 7, 2023

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

Washington, D.C. – NCL is the nation’s oldest consumer and worker advocacy organization, formed in 1899 to work for a fair marketplace for all. NCL has long supported robust competition and affordable, accessible drugs for patients and consumers. We therefore appreciate the opportunity to provide our support for the bill introduced in the 117th Congress entitled “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, co-sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN). This legislation would bar the use of various loopholes in the law to block the introduction and sale of competitor drugs. One such familiar technique brand drug makers have used is claiming that a REMS programs (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies) required by the FDA for the brand version of the drug, prevents a competitor drug from entering the market. This argument goes against the prevailing view within the FDA and the FTC that a REMS requirement on the brand name drug must not be used as a way to block competition.

The Federal Trade Commission voted 4-0 to file an amicus brief  with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on this topic.  The FTC brief takes no position on the scope or claim construction of the patent, but argues generally that there is significant harm to consumers when a brand lists a patent on a distribution system in the Food and Drug Administration’s “Orange Book” of approved drugs and thereby blocks the introduction of lower-cost generic medications or other follow-on competition. The FTC’s amicus brief explains how the Orange Book listing process can be abused, and emphasizes the harm to competition and consumers that can result from that abuse, including depriving consumers of potential competition from lower-cost alternatives and the ability to choose between products.

By way of background, we note these additional points:

  • REMS, or Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, are required by FDA for certain medications to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks.  The sole purpose of a REMS is to protect patient safety
  • Despite policies that the former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced in 2018 to reduce the use of REMS programs as a way to block competition and access, followed by the CREATES act, which was signed into law in 2019, loopholes remain today
  • We look forward to the reintroduction of the bi-partisan bill proposed last fall by Senator Hassan (D-NH)and Senator Braun (R-IN), “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, which would no longer allow FDA approvals of medications to be delayed due to patents listed in the FDA “Orange Book” on REMS
  • We hope the legislation will address the problem of companies taking advantage of FDA-mandated safety programs at the expense of patients receiving innovative competitor medications, or generic medications. We believe that “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, bill will help to address that problem.

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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.

NCL supports FTC efforts to ban non-compete clauses

January 6, 2023

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

WASHINGTON DC. – The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, applauds the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) initiative to ban non-compete clauses. Such provisions prevent employees from taking new jobs in the same industry, violating free-market values and dampening fair competition. 

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

“Non-compete clauses harm workers by blocking them from seeking better wages and working conditions. They also reduce market competition by barring other businesses from attracting talent and stopping employees from setting up their own shops. The FTC’s proposed ban on non-compete clauses is a significant step towards a more fair and free economy for all.

Allowing the unrestricted movement of labor will benefit consumers in addition to workers and competitive businesses. NCL has long believed that consumers stand to gain when purchasing goods and services provided by a healthy and robust workforce. We look forward to supporting the FTC’s efforts to prohibit non-compete clauses across the country.”

The FTC estimates that once its ban on non-compete clauses goes into effect, workers earnings would increase by nearly $300 billion per year, creating new opportunities for approximately 30 million individuals. Furthermore, these unjust clauses harm all incomes groups, with a 2019 report finding that 29% of workplaces offering an average hourly pay under $13.00 were subjecting their employees to a non-compete agreement. 

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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.