NCL Director of Health Policy testifies at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on how consolidation in the marketplace harms consumers

June 16, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the National Consumers League’s Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras provided oral testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on how consolidation in the marketplace harms consumers.

In her testimony, Ms. Contreras discussed the importance of consumers having choices for safe goods and services at a fair price, a core principle of NCL’s advocacy work. Touching on several issues impacting consumers in the U.S. – such as the infant formula shortage, consolidation of the airline industry, primary ticketing market for live events, and the unfair business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) – Ms. Contreras reiterated the need for competition in the marketplace and enacting stronger antitrust laws, all of which help protect U.S. consumers.

Her testimony appears below.

June 15, 2022

Good afternoon Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Lee, and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Jeanette Contreras. I am the Director of Health Policy at the National Consumers League. I appreciate the opportunity to testify remotely today- due to COVID.

Founded in 1899, NCL is America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization. A core principle of our advocacy is that the marketplace should encourage competition to guarantee that consumers have choices for safe goods and services at a fair price. Monopolies harm competition, leaving consumers with fewer options at higher prices. Monopolistic practices are especially harmful when they occur in the health care arena, where they can exacerbate health disparities.

We share the concerns of new parents regarding the recent shortage of infant formula. Our hearts go out to those parents who have lost babies or whose infants suffered devastating health consequences from contaminated formula. At NCL, we believe all goods and services sold to consumers should be safe and meet all legal requirements- including regulatory guidelines set forth by the FDA.

NCL applauds the FDA and the Administration for adopting a multifaceted approach to increase the supply of infant formula, including temporarily allowing foreign manufacturers to sell their products in the U.S. Additionally, we believe invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize getting needed inputs to infant formula manufacturers was sound policy. These measures are helping to solve the immediate logistical problem of getting formula onto store shelves across the country.

While addressing the immediate formula shortage is most urgent, we are also troubled that it took the FDA almost four months to act on a whistleblower complaint sent to the agency. This complaint should have received immediate attention given the gravity of the allegations against the Abbott facility. We support a full investigation and, if warranted, bringing criminal and civil charges against those who falsified data. NCL also recommends that the U.S. create a single food safety agency and dedicate an office to overseeing the safety and supply of infant formula.

It should concern every American that one manufacturer controls 40% of the U.S. infant formula market. Only three companies — Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestle — control 98% of the industry.

Consolidation in the infant formula industry is a major contributor to the current crisis, but it is only one of many cases where market concentration in recent decades has limited competition and harmed consumers.

For example, NCL continues to raise concerns about the consolidation of the airline industry. Due to weak enforcement of existing antitrust laws, from 2005 to 2015, the number of major U.S. airlines declined from nine to four. And today they control more than 80 percent of the domestic U.S. market.

Our antitrust laws have also failed to protect consumers who attend live events. After merging with Ticketmaster in 2010, Live Nation Entertainment controls roughly 80% of the primary ticketing market in the U.S. As anyone who has purchased tickets recently can attest, this has led to an increase in add-fees and the basic price of tickets.

Stronger antitrust enforcement would be especially beneficial for curtailing anti-competitive conduct in the health care industry, where we’ve seen consolidation lead to higher costs for consumers without an increase in quality or access to care. We are pleased that the Biden administration is looking into how hospital prices increase after acquisitions. We are also hopeful that the ongoing review of DOJ & FTC merger enforcement guidelines will result in more action by those agencies.

NCL also applauds the recent FTC decision to open an investigation into the unfair business practices of pharmacy benefit managers or PBMs. NCL works tirelessly to raise awareness of the outsized role that PBMs play in driving up prescription drug prices for consumers. According to a recent report, the three biggest PBMs controlled roughly 77% of all U.S. prescription drug claims in 2020. And a recent Senate Finance Committee report found some PBMs are getting a 70% rebate on insulin, while out-of-pocket costs for this life-saving medication continue to rise.

These cases are just a few examples of how monopolies and anti-competitive practices have become a problem for consumers. To ensure crises like today’s formula shortage do not happen again, market consolidation must be addressed so that the temporary shutdown of a single factory does not result in the collapse of an entire supply chain.

Whether it is baby formula, airline travel, live event tickets, or pharmaceutical sales, the lack of competition is having increasingly negative impacts on consumer welfare and requires urgent action.

Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Lee, thank you for holding today’s hearing and inviting NCL to speak about this important issue. I look forward to answering your questions.

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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.

 

New York ticketing legislation is a victory for fans

June 9, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League (NCL) applauded the New York State Assembly for approving S.B. S9461, landmark consumer protection legislation that makes New York the first state to require all-in pricing of live event tickets. The bill also requires ticket brokers to disclose how much was originally paid for a ticket when they resell a ticket, prohibits the resale of tickets that were originally offered for free, and prohibits “print-at-home” fees.

“Fans in New York are the real winners from this bill,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at the National Consumers League. “Hidden fees and outrageous markups are some of consumers’ biggest pain points when it comes to buying tickets. While this bill will not solve every problem within the ticketing industry, getting rid of hidden fees addresses one of fans’ biggest complaints.”

A 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that on average, consumers paid an extra 27% of the ticket’s original cost in fees. Media reporting has found instances where hidden fees were 78% of the fare’s starting price.

“Ticketing companies have long known that all-in pricing was a better solution for consumers, but they hesitated to provide it for fear of losing market share to competitors who hid their fees,” said Breyault. “That is the definition of market failure, which the New York bill fixes. We urge other states and the U.S. Congress to follow New York’s example and enact similar legislation.”

NCL applauded, in particular, the leadership of New York Senator James Skoufis whose investigative report on the ticketing industry was an important catalyst for this legislation.

“Senator Skoufis championed this important bill in the face of intense industry opposition and made sure it didn’t get watered down,” said Breyault. “Fans in New York will benefit immensely from his leadership.”

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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.

 

2022 Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge Winners

The eleventh annual Script Your Future contest saw participation by 24 schools in 11 states and directly counseled nearly 7,000 patients nationwide

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

May 13, 2022

Washington, DC —Today, the National Consumers League (NCL) and its partners announced the winners of the eleventh annual Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge, a competition designed to engage pharmacy students and faculty across the nation by encouraging teams to develop creative initiatives to raise public awareness about the importance of medication adherence, vaccine confidence, and safe drug disposal.

This year’s winners are Wilkes University, Temple University, Western University, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), University of Pittsburgh, and Touro University California.

The 2022 Script Your Future Team Challenge is an awareness campaign coordinated by NCL with support from its partners and the Challenge sponsors—Eli Lilly, Deterra, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

The Team Challenge was first established in 2011 to nurture adherence-minded values in future generations of professionals entering the workplace.

In 2022, our Team Challenge student health professionals spread messaging on the importance of medication adherence, vaccine confidence, and a new health topic: safe drug disposal. This year, over 1,000 future healthcare professionals and volunteers from across 11 states participated in the Team Challenge. This year’s winners, selected from dozens of applications and 24 participating educational institutions, are listed below.

 

National Award Winner: Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy – PA

Wilkes University is a fourth-time participant of the Script Your Future Team Challenge, and a first-time winner of the National Award! During the 2022 Team Challenge, students on the Wilkes team successfully collaborated with Highmark Health pharmacists to create a medication adherence questionnaire that was circulated to patients. They also creatively used social media, including TikTok and YouTube, to spread messages about the importance of medication adherence, vaccine confidence, and safe drug disposal. These messages got over 58,000 views. Students were also able to vaccinate patients for COVID-19 (boosters), Shingles, and Influenza. The Wilkes team was able to directly counsel 1,184 patients, and reached 49,313 people through their outreach efforts.

 

National Award Winner: Temple University School of Pharmacy – PA

Temple University is also a first-time winner of the Script Your Future National Award! This year, Temple students of pharmacy collaborated with health and community organizations in Philadelphia, including Temple University Hospital, and its affiliated clinics as well as the places where people live their lives such as local community pharmacies, parks, churches, charitable organizations, and schools. For example, Temple’s team worked with Dispose Rx to spread messages about the importance of safe drug disposal in North Philadelphia. This team also worked with the Children’s Mission to serve people who have no or unstable housing, and counseled them on their medications along with conducting blood pressure checks. Temple students directly counseled 234 patients, and reached over 400 patients through their activities.

 

Health Disparities/Underserved Focus Award Winner: Northeast Ohio Medical University School of Pharmacy – OH

The Northeast Ohio Medical University School of Pharmacy (NEOMED) team is this year’s winner of the Script Your Future Health Disparities Award! NEOMED’s team focused on reaching low-income and homeless individuals, the elderly, and refugees. NEOMED students worked with the Center for Families and Children, IKON Health Foundation, and Rose Centers for Aging Well to reach these underserved populations. Through their efforts, the NEOMED team vaccinated 456 patients, directly counseled 1,323 patients, reached 1,923 patients, and distributed and donated 3,254 resources.

 

Media Outreach Award Winner: Western University School of Health Sciences, College of Pharmacy – CA

This year’s winner of the Media Outreach Award is Western University College of Pharmacy! This team implemented creative uses of traditional and social media to spread messaging related to medication adherence, vaccine confidence, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, interprofessional collaboration, antimicrobial resistance, and safe drug storage & disposal. They created a brand-new podcast series that aimed to provide information on these topics, and made them available on multiple media platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and their website. The podcast series can be found here. Across all of these platforms, Western University’s team was able to get 1,203 views.

 

Creative Interprofessional Team Event Award Winner: University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy – PA

University of Pittsburgh’s pharmacy students demonstrated great interprofessional collaborations with other health professional students at their university. Their team included students from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Social Work. Their multi-disciplinary intervention with different health professional students helped to bring multiple perspectives and skills sets together to bridge gaps in expertise when counseling patients. Their interprofessional team documented over 1,800 unique patient encounters at community pharmacy sites, including patients with disease states like hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia to transplant and neurologic disorders.

 

Technology Innovation Focused Award: Touro University California, College of Pharmacy – CA

Touro University’s pharmacy students implemented creative uses of technology to increase messaging for medication adherence. They created a digital medication adherence wallet card, to help patients keep track of their medications in a more convenient way. Given that technology is so widely used today, this was a great effort by the students. They did mention an important issue, that there are people who do not have internet access, so these digital cards were given in complement with the physical wallet cards.

 

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge!

 

A word from NCL and one of our generous Script Your Future sponsors

“The Script Your Future program has been a great way to engage future health professionals and spread messages about the importance of medication adherence, vaccine confidence, and now, safe drug disposal. As we are still combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep patients on top of their health care needs, and participants of this program have been a part of these efforts. This year, we had over 1,000 participants conduct community outreach activities, and NCL continues to be impressed by the impact these students have on their respective communities across the country.”

  • NCL Executive Director, Sally Greenberg

 

Student pharmacists have been important contributors to the outreach to communities, especially throughout the pandemic. Medication adherence, vaccine access, and substance use prevention are critically important priorities and AACP appreciates NCL’s commitment to this recognition program.

  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Executive Vice President and CEO, Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, RPh

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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 Calls for Stronger Genetic Privacy Protections

April 7, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (“NCL”) today called on policymakers in Congress and the Biden Administration as well as industry leaders to adopt the organization’s new “Genetic Privacy Rights,” as guideposts for future actions to protect consumers’ genetic data. The group called for legislation, executive actions, and industry practices that protect the “complete confidentiality” of genetic data. The organization further called for the adoption of an “ethical use” standard prohibiting the use of consumers genetic data for military, surveillance, and similar purposes. Finally, given the emerging misuse of genetic data to violate human rights, the group called for protections against Americans’ genetic data being shared with countries deemed “foreign adversaries” of the United States.

“Unlike a password or credit card number, consumers’ DNA cannot be changed even if it has been compromised,” said John Breyault, NCL’s Vice President for Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “While personal data of all types can be misused to harm consumers, the unique and inalterable nature of genetic data makes special privacy and security protections necessary. As access to genetic data becomes increasingly widespread in both private and governmental contexts, the threats of misuse have only grown.”

The potential for misuse of genetic data has been highlighted by the activities of foreign adversaries of the United States. For example, entities associated with the Chinese government have made it a priority to collect genetic data of American citizens to help build more effective surveillance technologies. The Russian government has also sought to collect genetic data to build “genetic passports” that experts believe could be used to build lists of individuals’ genetic traits and health risks.

“Clear rules of the road that give consumers’ genetic data the utmost legal protection is urgently needed,” said Breyault. “Consumers should be confident that when they share their genetic data with health care providers or private entities, that data will not be shared for purposes beyond which it was provided or with entities that are not committed to the ethical use of that data.”

The full list of NCL’s proposed genetic privacy rights is available here. A roadmap of potential legislative, executive, and industry actions is available 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 www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League support for investigation of anti-competitive practices in the live event ticketing industry

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

 

April 1, 2022

 

The Honorable Jonathan Kanter

Assistant Attorney General

Antitrust Division

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

 

RE: National Consumers League support for investigation of anti-competitive practices in the live event ticketing industry

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Kanter,

On March 15, 2022, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar urged the Department of Justice (“the Department”) to investigate the state of competition in the live-event marketplace, including potential violations of Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s updated consent decree.[1] The National Consumers League, America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, supports Senator Blumenthal’s and Senator Klobuchar’s request for the Department to take action on the issue of live entertainment marketplace competition.

As the Department is aware, just one company, Live Nation Entertainment (“LNE”), controls roughly 80% of the primary ticketing market following Live Nation’s vertical

integration with Ticketmaster.[2] In the Department of Justice’s own words, Ticketmaster benefits from “high barriers to other companies successfully, substantially, and profitably entering or attempting to expand in the market for primary ticketing services to major concert venues.”[3] There is no indication that the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger (and further monopolistic actions since 2010) have reduced these barriers to entry.[4]

In fact, anticompetitive behavior in the live-event marketplace is so egregious that the Department was forced to obtain an updated consent decree with LNE in 2020.[5] Although the modified final judgement was a welcome act, consumers still suffer due to many of LNE’s business practices.[6] Since the announcement of the updated consent decree, Live Nation has continued to eliminate marketplace competitors, including an acquisition that received the Department’s approval.[7]

As a result of toxic market practices, concert attendees, sports fans, theater enjoyers, and other live-event goers must endure punishing hidden fees. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that on average, purchasers paid an additional 27% of the ticket’s original value in fees.[8] Recent media reports have found fees as high as 78% of the ticket’s starting price.[9] This is after consumers must contend with scalpers employing illegal ticket-buying “bot” software and other unscrupulous methods in order to even secure their tickets.[10]

The unfortunate state of the live entertainment marketplace warrants an investigation by the Department—with specific attention to LNE’s compliance with the updated consent decree. The harmful impacts of LNE’s near-monopoly are unacceptable. We urge the Department to conduct a thorough investigation of these practices and, if necessary, take action to ensure market health and consumer protection.

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg

Executive Director

National Consumers League

 

[1] United States Senator Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal & Klobuchar Urge DOJ Action to Restore Competition in the Concert & Live Entertainment Market. (March 2022). https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/blumenthal-and-klobuchar-urge-doj-action-to-restore-competition-in-the-concert_live-entertainment-market

[2] United States Government Accountability Office. Event Ticket Sales: Market Characteristics and Consumer Protection Issues. (April 2018). Pg. 4. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-18-347.pdf

[3] United States Department of Justice. Competitive Impact Statement, United States of America v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., No. 1:10-cv-00139 (D. D.C. Jan. 25, 2010). https://www.justice.gov/atr/case-document/competitive-impact-statement-209

[4] The Hollywood Reporter. Live Nation Accused of Shutting Out Venues That Don’t Use Ticketmaster. (January 2022). https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/live-nation-ticketmaster-class-action-1235070131/; Ticket News. Ticketmaster Resale Returns to Broker-Focused Conferences Despite Past Controversy. (July 2021). https://www.ticketnews.com/2021/07/ticketmaster-resale-returns-to-broker-focused-conferences-despite-past-controversy/

[5] United States Department of Justice. Justice Department Will Move to Significantly Modify and Extend Consent Decree with Live Nation/Ticketmaster. (December 2019). https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-will-move-significantly-modify-and-extend-consent-decree-live

[6] Variety. John Oliver Blasts Ticketmaster in Scathing Broadside Against Ticket Prices, Fees, Secondary Market. (March 2022). https://variety.com/2022/music/news/john-oliver-ticketmaster-prices-fees-secondary-market-1235204410/

[7] Complete Music Update. Ticketmaster gets approval for deal to buy Rival. (April 2020). https://completemusicupdate.com/article/ticketmaster-gets-approval-for-deal-to-buy-rival/

[8] United States Government Accountability Office. Event Ticket Sales: Market Characteristics and Consumer Protection Issues. (April 2018). https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-18-347

[9] The Guardian. John Oliver rips Ticketmaster and live music costs: ‘One of the most hated companies on earth’ (March 2022). https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2022/mar/14/john-oliver-ticketmaster-live-music-costs

[10] United States Federal Trade Commission. Cracking down on ticket bots that leave you out in the cold. (January 2021). https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2021/01/cracking-down-ticket-bots-leave-you-out-cold#:~:text=Ticket%20bots%20may%20also%20be,the%20tickets%20for%20higher%20prices

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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.

Child Labor Coalition welcomes the reintroduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety 2022 (CARE Act)

March 31, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C.—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), representing 38 groups engaged in the fight against domestic and global child labor, applauds Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE). The legislation, introduced on Cesar Chavez Day, would close long-standing loopholes that permit children in agriculture to work for wages when they are only age 12. The bill would also ban jobs on farms labeled “hazardous” by the U.S. Department of Labor if workers are under the age of 18. The children of farm owners, working on their parents’ farms, would not be impacted by the CARE Act.

“Today, I am re-introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act) with my friend and co-lead Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva to protect the rights, safety, and future of [children who work on farms],” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, Thursday.

“I’m proud to co-lead this important legislation with Rep. Roybal-Allard to protect the children of farmworkers. Farmworkers remain some of the most exploited, underpaid, and unprotected laborers in our nation. They and their children deserve legal protections, better working conditions, and higher workplace standards to protect their health and safety. It’s past time we updated our antiquated labor laws to give children working in agriculture the same protections and rights provided to all kids in the workforce,” said Rep. Grijalva.

“Children working for wages on farms are exposed to many hazards—farm machinery, heat stroke, and pesticides among them—and they perform back-breaking labor that no child should have to experience,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “Current child labor law discriminates against children who toil in agriculture. It’s time these dangerous exemptions end. We applaud Rep. Roybal-Allard and Rep. Grijalva’s leadership in re-introducing CARE.”

“Ending exploitive child labor on American farms is long overdue and this legislation will result in healthier, better educated farmworker children and help end the generational poverty that afflicts many farmworker families,” said Reid Maki,Coordinator, Child Labor Coalition and Director of Child Labor Advocacy, National Consumers League. The CARE Act has been endorsed by 200 national, regional, and state-based organizations, noted Maki.

“Children as young as 12 are being hired to do backbreaking work on US farms, at risk of serious injuries, heat stroke, pesticide poisoning, and even death,” said Margaret Wurth, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, a CLC member. “Existing US child labor laws are woefully out of date and put child farmworkers at unacceptable risk,” Wurth said. “Congress should act swiftly to adopt the CARE Act and ensure that all children are protected equally.”

The CLC’s strategy for child labor on U.S. farms is guided by its Domestic Issues Committee Chair Norma Flores López who worked in the fields as a young girl. “Decades ago, my family and I were crowding into the back of a pickup truck with our few belongings, and starting our two-day journey towards the fields of Indiana, Michigan, or Iowa. What awaited me, starting at the age of 12, were long hours of back-breaking work earning low wages. I was one of the faces you see in photographs from the fields, hidden behind a bandana.  Fast forward more than 25 years, and we are still fighting for young girls –and boys — who are enduring exploitation, harvesting the fruits and vegetables we eat. The same reality that I once lived awaits the approximately 300,000 children who work on American farms today,” said Flores López, who also serves as Chief Programs Officer of Justice for Migrant Women and was the 2021 recipient of the U.S. Department of Labor Iqbal Masih Award.

“For too long, children laboring in U.S. agriculture have been denied the protections they deserve to ensure their health and well-being. Too often, kids working on commercial farms are subjected to dangerous, unhealthy, work that’s detrimental to their education and far too often results in harm or even death. The CARE Act would address this problem and give children working on farms the same protections as children working in other industries,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization.

In addition to raising the minimum age at which children could work in agriculture, CARE would increase minimum fines for employers who violate agricultural child labor laws when those violations lead to serious injury, illness, or death of minors. The legislation would also strengthen regulations that protect minors from pesticide exposure and improve analysis of child labor health impacts.

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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.

LifeSmarts announces partnership with Discover® Student Loans  

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

During Financial Literacy Month, LifeSmarts teen consumer literacy program has introduced a new lesson focused on financing a college education and understanding student loans.

March 31, 2022

Washington, DC– The 28th National LifeSmarts Championship is on the horizon for the National Consumers League’s (NCL) youth consumer education program. Through LifeSmarts students learn about real-life consumer issues and compete to win prizes and scholarships at the National LifeSmarts Championship in April each year. Tomorrow, April 1, is the start of Financial Literacy Month. To commemorate this month, NCL is proud to announce a new lesson about financing a college education, made possible through financial support from Discover Student Loans.

On April 21, 39 teams from across the country will meet in Washington, DC, to compete in the 2022 National LifeSmarts Championship.  The Championship competition takes place over four days in which students will showcase their knowledge of personal finance topics as well as consumer rights, technology and workforce preparation, health and safety, and the environment.

Thanks to Discover Student Loans, LifeSmarts has created a new lesson on financial aid, with questions that will be featured in the National Championship. In the fall, the lessons and new competition focus will be fully integrated into the program for the new school year. Students and educators will see a concentration on personal finance topics at both the 2022 and 2023 National LifeSmarts Championships.

“We are so pleased to work with Discover Student Loans to help our students learn more about the important subject of paying for post-secondary education,” said National Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. “We know LifeSmarts gives students the skills they need to succeed as adults, and we see students applying what they learn immediately at home and in their communities. We are thrilled to be able to give special focus to the most crucial lessons in personal finance, and we look forward to rolling out new resources for educators and opportunities for student participants.”

Last year, students answered more than 3.5 million consumer questions about credit reports, nutrition, social media, and everything in between. More than 100,000 students will participate this year.

LifeSmarts is active in all states and the District of Columbia, where NCL is headquartered. “We are excited to have the opportunity to focus on personal finance for consumers at this age, when they are beginning to make decisions for themselves and influencing decisions made by their parents,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of NCL. “Too often, traditional high school curriculum fails to teach students vital information to become successful adults, and LifeSmarts helps to close that gap.”

“It’s important that students and their families plan and save for college expenses, pursue free financial aid such as grants and scholarships, and understand the options for federal and private student loans,” said PK Parekh, senior vice president of Discover Student Loans. “We are very happy to work with LifeSmarts to help students learn through real-world lessons about personal finance, financial aid, and responsible borrowing.”

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About LifeSmarts

LifeSmarts is a comprehensive consumer education program that is free to middle school and high school students and educators. The goal of the LifeSmarts program is to create consumer savvy young people who will be better equipped for adult life in today’s complex, global marketplace. Visit LifeSmarts.org for more information. LifeSmarts: Learn it. Live it.

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 federal funding for maternal health in 2022 appropriations

March 18, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League applauds the passage of the 2022 omnibus appropriations act. The appropriations bill, signed into law, includes over $1 billion in federal funding to support critical maternal health provisions needed to address the nation’s alarming maternal mortality rates.

We are pleased that many provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 were included in the FY 2022 appropriations bill. The new law provides a significant increase in funding for the CDC’s safe motherhood & infant health programs. This additional support will help to identify drivers of maternal death rates in the states and expand evidence-based programs and interventions at hospitals and birthing facilities across the nation. The bill also includes a significant funding increase to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, which will assist state and local health entities in providing the essential health and social services that our most vulnerable birthing people and babies need.

Provisions from the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act were also included in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill. These provisions provide funding that supports health professional schools to train future health care professionals about perceptions and biases in maternal health, which currently contribute to inequities in maternal health outcomes. In addition to racial bias, it is critical to invest in diversifying and expanding the perinatal workforce to include nurses, doulas, behavioral health professionals, and other practitioners. In a recent blog post, NCL Health Policy Associate Milena Berhane discusses the importance of diversifying the workforce and the negative impacts of racial bias on the quality of care for racial and ethnic minorities.

We recognize that perinatal suicides, which occur during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum, are a leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States. We are pleased that this appropriations act provides increased federal funding for maternal mental health programs. The additional funding will be critical in expanding access to community-based treatment and recovery services for pregnant people and new mothers who struggle with mental health or behavioral health conditions. The spending bill also funds additional necessary mental health resources, by increasing funding for the 24/7 maternal mental health hotline that is available to pregnant people and new mothers.

NCL applauds Congress for providing funding for critical maternal health provisions within the FY22 Omnibus bill. We will continue to advocate for the passage of additional maternal health provisions in future legislation and spending bills until we end the maternal mortality crisis in our nation.

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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 joins LGBTQ+ coalitions to address credit issues for transgender and nonbinary community

March 17, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League has joined efforts with LGBTQ, consumer, and legal advocacy groups to address credit-related problems encountered by transgender and nonbinary consumers.

The letter  to the major credit reporting companies, notes that transgender and nonbinary consumers face a myriad of issues after they change their names — with serious consequences for their financial and personal lives. The transgender and nonbinary community have reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that they cannot get Experian, Equifax and TransUnion to correct their credit reports.

Some issues reported are that their credit report fragments into two or more unconnected files upon their name change or are not there at all. Many times their credit scores drop by hundreds of points, precluding them from accessing banking services, mortgages, auto financing, employment, and rental housing. Transgender and nonbinary consumers find that even when they were able to contact and persuade a customer service representative at one of the Big Three credit bureaus to manually fix their report, a new upload of data reverts their credit histories back to fragmented or incomplete files. Some have even reported serious fallout after their credit histories reflected their “deadname” or former name, thereby outing them as transgender to potential employers, rental agents, car dealerships, or financial institutions.

The letter asks the credit reporting industry to:

  • Utilize consumers’ full 9-digit Social Security numbers in matching algorithms to ensure credit information is associated with the correct credit file.
  • Facilitate name changes by having clear procedures to update a consumer’s name on their credit report when presented with a legal name change order and ensure that staff are sufficiently trained in those procedures and are able to provide culturally competent service to transgender and nonbinary consumers.
  • Reduce the burden on transgender and nonbinary consumers to submit name-change documentation to each credit reporting agency by instituting a “one-stop” system that allows a consumer to submit a single request to have the legal name on their report updated, and ensures the request is communicated to all consumer reporting agencies.
  • Prevent the occurrence and recurrence of fragmented credit files by creating procedures to detect when a consumer changes their legal name with a creditor, to associate the new name with their credit file, and to consolidate a consumer’s credit information in their current and previous names in a single credit file — as the industry presently does when cisgender women and other consumers change their last names.
  • Prevent the disclosure of transgender and nonbinary consumers’ deadnames to landlords, employers, and underwriters by disclosing only a consumer’s current legal name in reports provided to credit report users.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL leads effort to encourage FDA to adopt safer standards for OTC hearing aids

March 10, 2022 

Media Contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC – Today, National Consumers League (NCL), along with 29 not-for-profit, public health organizations from across the country, sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the agency’s ongoing process to establish regulations that will soon allow hearing aids intended for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss to be sold over-the-counter (OTC) without any involvement of a medical professional. As the FDA finishes developing its final OTC hearing aid regulation, we urge the agency to include stronger measures to better protect consumers affected by this new category of medical devices.  

We applaud the FDA for its efforts to provide increased access and affordability through the creation of this new category of hearing aids. At the same time, the FDA must ensure these devices are safe, particularly given that many consumers will purchase OTC hearing aids without knowing their clinical level of hearing loss and not having any support from a medical professional. In addition to hearing loss, many OTC hearing aid users may also have other medical challenges impeding their ability to recognize and/or react to loud or uncomfortable sounds produced by these hearing aids. Under such circumstances, the need to ensure OTC hearing aids fulfill their intended purpose without risking unintended harm cannot be understated. 

The letter states: “To ensure the safety of consumers, we believe the FDA should implement the recommendations of the nation’s leading associations of hearing care professionals, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Audiology, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and International Hearing Society. These associations are urging the FDA to lower the maximum sound output to 110 decibels and establish an amplification (or gain) limit of 25 decibels. These associations, as well as respected entities like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have made clear that allowing sounds to enter the ears of consumers at the proposed levels can cause serious and permanent hearing damage within mere seconds.” 

Importantly, these recommendations will not have any impact on the FDA’s goal of providing increased access to affordable hearing devices, compromise the effectiveness of OTC hearing aids, or discourage innovation—they will only make them sufficiently safe for consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss.  

Read the full letter HERE. Learn more about the issue here: OTC Hearing Aids- Gain and Output 

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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.