PBM reforms needed now in order to expand access to lower cost biosimilars that would benefit all Americans

February 22, 2024

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) recently submitted a letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership expressing our collective support for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) reforms to improve consumer and patient access to biosimilars. Given the ongoing surge in prescription drug costs, expanding access to lower cost biosimilars represents a bipartisan solution that would benefit all Americans.

“We are hopeful PBM reforms will be included in a final March healthcare package,” said NCL CEO Sally Greenberg.

The 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 urges Congress to improve air travel as FAA reauthorization progresses

February 15, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Last week, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee advanced the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The legislation does contain some victories for consumers, but it does not contain the deep reforms of an uncompetitive industry that are sorely needed.

“Passengers are crying out to Congress to implement real reforms that make flying less miserable,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud John Breyault. “The Senate Commerce Committee could have used its twice-a-decade opportunity to swing for the fences on behalf of the flying public. Unfortunately, they settled for a bunt single.”

NCL, in coalition with other consumer and passenger rights organizations, has called for stronger safeguards to be included in the FAA reauthorization bill for years. Last February, NCL and eight other advocacy groups sent a letter to House and Senate Commerce Committee leaders urging support for a range of critical reforms to the airline industry. Key among those demands was a change to allow state attorneys general to enforce consumer protection laws against airlines, something that federal law currently prohibits them from doing. Thirty-seven bipartisan state attorneys general have also supported this reform, which both the House of Representatives and the Senate have so far ignored in their bills.

“Congress is running out of time to get this right,” said Breyault. “We strongly urge members of the Senate to make protecting the flying public a bigger priority as this bill moves to a floor vote.”

Several of the passenger rights coalition’s other priorities were included in the bill reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee. These reforms include a requirement that children be seated with their family and caregivers without additional fees, a requirement that air travel vouchers not expire before five years, standards for refunds in the event of a delay or cancellation, minimum customer service call center requirements, and creating an assistant Secretary of Aviation Consumer Protection.

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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.

Top Ten Scams report: Explosion of crypto reports raises alarm 

February 6, 2024

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cryptocurrency is being used in an increasing number of scams, leading to some of the highest median losses every reported to the National Consumers League (NCL). In its annual 2023 Top Ten Scams report, NCL found that the percentage of crypto-linked scam reports more than doubled year-over-year, making up almost 1-in-10 complaints received. The report, published annually, analyzed more than 2,700 consumer fraud complaints filed with NCL’s Fraud.org campaign last year.  

The median loss for reported investment frauds, including cryptocurrency, ballooned to $20,000. Just two years prior, the number was $1,750. 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.  

“Year after year, complaints to Fraud.org paint a heartbreaking picture,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud John Breyault. “It is clear that the problem of fraud is not going away on its own. It is past time for policymakers at every level to take this issue seriously and do everything they can to crackdown on this epidemic.” 

A record year for natural disasters appears to have been reflected in the numbers as well: reports of fake charity scams were up almost 200% compared to 2022. These complaints often involve fraudsters impersonating non-profit aid groups, particularly following crises like the wildfires in Maui. 

The top ten scam categories reported to Fraud.org in 2023 were:  

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

“Reporting fraud is an important step for victims,” said NCL Consumer Services Coordinator James Perry. “When someone reaches out, we can connect them with the right resources and begin to walk them through the recovery process. The information they share also helps inform decisions around fighting these scams.” 

Scammers contacting victims through the internet and phone calls initiated three out of four fraud incidents, with the internet replacing phone calls as the number one method of contact in 2023. The Top Ten Scams report also showed a worrying trend in scams targeting young consumers. Compared to 2022, complaints from consumers aged 18-25 increased by 13.12%. 

“The prevalence of scams online should worry everyone, especially as more of daily life becomes virtual,” said NCL Public Policy Manager Eden Iscil. “This is particularly troubling for younger individuals who we know statistically are more likely to become victims of fraud than any other age group. As consumers now grow up online, this problem will only get worse if we don’t dedicate resources to safeguarding our most vulnerable.”  

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

Methodology  

The National Consumers League Top Ten Scams report analyzed 2,756 complaints submitted by consumers to NCL’s Fraud.org campaign in 2023. 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 nclnet.org.

NCL testifies before Senate, urges stronger protections against scams

February 1, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Highlighting the ongoing epidemic of fraud across the country, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault testified today before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Breyault advocated for stronger consumer protections alongside Carla Sanchez-Adams, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

“When NCL last testified before this committee in 2021, we warned that peer-to-peer payment platforms such as Zelle, Venmo, Cash App, and PayPal had become ‘payment methods of choice for scammers.’ Unfortunately, the problem has only worsened since then,” Breyault told the committee. “No amount of consumer education, better disclosure, or ‘friction’ put into payment flows will solve this problem alone. The payment platforms where fraud occurs must have a bigger financial incentive to stop scams before they happen.”

The Federal Trade Commission, the primary federal agency for reporting fraud, continues to receive record numbers of complaints, with 5.4 million reports in 2022. Since the last time Vice President Breyault appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, median losses to scams nearly doubled, from $374 per incident to $650. The emergence of new and unregulated technologies, such as peer-to-peer payment apps and cryptocurrencies, has also facilitated staggering losses. Crypto-linked fraud losses exceeded $1 billion annually in 2022 and 2023.

“We are not winning the fight against fraud,” said Breyault. “We need Congress to Act.”

Breyault urged the Banking Committee to swiftly pass bills like the Protecting Consumers From Payment Scams Act and Senator Elizabeth Warrens (D-MA) Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2023 to crack down on scams targeting peer-to-peer payment apps and cryptocurrencies, respectively.

This was Breyault’s fourth time speaking before Congress on policy solutions to address the incessant scams targeting Americans daily. Breyault’s full written testimony 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’s Greenberg urges MD Senate Finance Committee to support living wage legislation

February 1, 2024

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

Washington, DC – The CEO of the National Consumers League, Sally Greenberg, today testified before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee urging them to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers under Senate Bill 160.

“The restaurant industry is still not fully recovered from the pandemic,” says Greenberg. “States that pay tipped workers the full minimum wage report higher restaurant sales, employment growth rates.”

Greenberg’s full testimony 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.

National Consumers League sues Starbucks, alleging coffee giant deceives customers with claims of “100% ethical” coffee, tea

January 10, 2024

Media contact: Matt Lopez, 805-377-2950, matt.lopez@berlinrosen.com; Melody Merin, 202-207-2831, melodym@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, filed a lawsuit alleging that Starbucks is falsely and deceptively claiming “100% ethical” coffee and tea sourcing, detailing widespread evidence the company relies on farms and cooperatives that commit egregious labor and human rights violations. 

The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, notes that Starbucks has responded to its consumers’ demand for responsible corporate practices by launching a yearslong campaign to brand itself as a leader in ethical coffee and tea sourcing, including by developing its own set of “Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices” verification standards. In one promotional video featured during the 2023 holiday season, a Starbucks spokesperson says that when he drinks Starbucks coffee, “I know it was ethically sourced.” 

In reality, the lawsuit alleges, the company’s marketing misleads consumers and fails to convey the rampant sourcing from coffee and tea farms and cooperatives with a documented history of child labor, forced labor, sexual harassment and assault and other human rights abuses. 

“On every bag of coffee and box of K-cups sitting on grocery store shelves, Starbucks is telling consumers a lie,” said Sally Greenberg, chief executive officer of the National Consumers League. “The facts are clear: there are significant human rights and labor abuses across Starbucks’ supply chain, and consumers have a right to know exactly what they’re paying for. NCL is committed to exposing and reining in these deceptive practices and holding Starbucks accountable for living up to its claims.” 

In 2022, for instance, the Brazilian labor prosecutor issued a complaint against Starbucks’ largest Brazilian supplier, citing working conditions analogous to slavery, including illegally trafficking more than 30 migrant workers. At the Cooxupé collective, which accounts for 40 percent of Starbucks’ Brazilian coffee supply and has received the “C.A.F.E. Practices” certification, investigators found that workers put in excessive hours and carry coffee sacks weighing over 100 pounds on their backs. 

“Starbucks’ failure to adopt meaningful reforms to its coffee and tea sourcing practices in the face of these critiques and documented labor abuses on its source farms is wholly inconsistent with a reasonable consumer’s understanding of what it means to be ‘committed to 100% ethical’ sourcing,” the complaint reads. “Similarly, Starbucks’ failure to disclose to consumers the unreliability of these certification programs and their limitations as a guarantee of ethical sourcing are misleading omissions material to the decision-making of a reasonable consumer.”

To protect consumers who may unknowingly be buying unethically sourced coffee or tea — and paying a premium for those products — National Consumers League seeks an order enjoining Starbucks from further engaging in deceptive advertising and requiring the company to run a corrective advertising campaign. Making good on its representations to consumers would require Starbucks to significantly reform its sourcing and monitoring practices to ensure that workers on the farms and cooperatives that supply its coffee and tea products are treated fairly and in accordance with the law. 

Across Starbucks’ Global Supply Chain, Pattern of Abuses Emerges

Over the last decade, a broad range of investigations by government agencies and journalists has uncovered a clear pattern of labor and human rights abuses at Starbucks’ preferred farms and cooperatives — even those that have received the company’s own “C.A.F.E. Practices” certification.

  • At the James Finlay plantation in Kenya, a Starbucks tea source, undercover reporters with the BBC exposed rampant sexual abuse, including supervisors forcing women into having sex in exchange for work. Thousands of Finlay workers have also filed a class action lawsuit alleging grueling working conditions that wore down their bodies and detailing Finlay’s practice of firing chronically injured workers instead of providing them with healthcare. Finlay workers are reportedly paid the equivalent of $30 per week. 
  • At the Starbucks-certified Mesas Farm in Brazil, law enforcement officers in 2022 rescued 17 workers, including a 15-, 16- and 17-year old, from slavery-like conditions, which included outdoor work, unprotected from the elements, that required workers to lift coffee sacks weighing over 130 pounds. The Mesas Farm has also failed to provide the workers with the personal protective equipment that is required by Brazilian law. 
  • At three different Starbucks certified farms in Guatemala, Channel 4 found children under 13 years old working 40 or 50 hours per week. 

Although Starbucks has repeatedly been made aware of the rampant abuses at its supplier and “C.A.F.E. Practices” certified farms and cooperatives, the company has failed to respond with meaningful action.

“Starbucks misleadingly fails to disclose facts material to consumer purchasing decisions, including that many of its supposedly ethical suppliers have in fact relied on forced and/or child labor, i.e. that C.A.F.E. Practices certification does not guarantee the absence of forced and child labor,” the complaint reads.

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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 competition regulators for centering consumers and workers in 2023 Merger Guidelines

December 19, 2023

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

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released their final merger guidelines, describing how the agencies will review mergers and acquisitions. The agencies improved upon existing guidelines by recentering marketplace competition and federal antitrust law, a break from previous enforcement regimes that allowed waves of consolidation to occur economy-wide with few repercussions.

“The 2023 Merger Guidelines mark a historic return toward these agencies’ original mandates—to protect the public from predatory corporations,” said National Consumers League Chief Executive Officer Sally Greenberg. “Decades of rubber-stamping harmful deals have allowed anti-consumer and anti-worker practices to run wild. NCL welcomes the updated guidelines and appreciates that the Commission and Department have signaled an intention to examine proposed deals holistically. Strong enforcement of our antitrust laws is key to combatting price gouging, privacy violations, wage suppression, and other noxious practices.”

NCL strongly supports the application of antitrust laws to protect consumers, workers, and our democracy. NCL’s comments to the DOJ and FTC on the 2023 Merger Guidelines 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 statement on DOT’s fine against Southwest Airlines

December 18, 2023

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark enforcement action against Southwest Airlines over the company’s operational meltdown during the 2022 holidays.

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

“Today’s DOT action sends an unambiguous signal to the airline industry that passengers’ time is valuable and there will be consequences for carriers that waste it. The unprecedented $140 million fine demonstrates that consumer protection remains a top priority under Secretary Buttigieg’s leadership. However, enforcement is just one tool in DOT’s toolbox. While we welcome today’s announcement, passengers should be protected regardless of which airline they choose to fly. This will only happen if DOT enacts strong rules to ensure that consumers are compensated when flights are delayed or cancelled, that refunds are processed without delay, and that unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition are policed vigorously. We look forward to continuing to work with DOT and the industry to make this a reality.”

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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 supports table saw safety standard proposed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission

December 8, 2023

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) submitted comments to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) this week on the Commission’s proposed rule to require a safety standard for all table saws. The “Safety Standard Addressing Blade-Contact Injuries on Table Saws” proposal is projected to prevent more injuries and save more money than any rule ever proposed at the agency.

“NCL applauds the CPSC for moving toward a final rule to make table saws safe and to prevent the over 50,000 injuries – many of them finger amputations – that occur each year from table saw accidents,” said NCL CEO Sally Greenberg.

Pam Gilbert, NCL Board member and former Executive Director of the CPSC noted, “The matter of table saw safety has been an ongoing concern of the CPSC and National Consumers League for more than a decade; we believe this rule would finally bring much-needed safety technology to this ubiquitous woodshop tool found in millions of US households.”

Previous voluntary standards have been ineffective in preventing injuries, thus the need for this mandatory safety standard using proven effective technology that prevents serious injuries from table saws. Indeed, a 15-year trend analysis (from 2004 to 2018) of table saw injuries showed no reduction in table saw injuries from 2010 to 2018, despite the fact that a voluntary standard that became effective in 2010 required new table saws to be equipped with modular blade guard systems.

The Commission expects that the proposed rule would prevent or mitigate an estimated 49,176 injuries treated in hospital emergency departments or other medical settings per year and that net cost benefits, even when factoring the cost of the technology, would range from $1.28 billion to $2.32 billion per year.

The proposed rule would limit the depth of cut of a table saw to 3.5 mm or less when a test probe, acting as surrogate for a human finger or other body part, contacts the spinning blade at an approach rate of 1 m/s. CPSC staff estimated that the proposed rule would prevent or mitigate the severity of 54,800 medically treated blade-contact injuries annually.

To read the views of woodworkers themselves, this YouTube link tells first-hand accounts, some of which have been included in NCL’s comments. One is below:

“My father cut all four of his fingers off with a Radial arm saw years ago. Three fingers are bolted back together so he can only move them at the knuckle, the index finger was lost due to infection. He had to have a skin graft on all his fingers pulled from his thigh, so they now all grow hair so he has to shave them otherwise they grow hair. In airports, he always sets off the metal detectors. When I was looking at table saws about 8 years ago it was between the sawstop contractor (hybrid wasn’t out yet) and Powermatic 3hp cabinet. My father was with me at the time while I was a teenager at woodcraft. One look at his hand and it was obvious which saw I walked out with. 8 years later I still use the Sawstop contractor saw and it looks just like when I bought it, Its a fantastic investment and probably the only one that is relatively easy to justify to your wife. “

As Commissioner Rich Trumka, himself a woodworker, observed in his comments “…[t]he rule would provide the greatest net benefit to society of any rule in the agency’s history that I’m aware of—up to a $2.32 billion net benefit every year.”

The National Consumers League fully supports this Proposed Rule and greatly appreciates the years of dedication and work from the CPSC’s engineers, statisticians, and economists and the leadership of CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn Saric in moving this to the top of the Commission’s agenda.

NCL’s comments 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 the confirmation of Monica Bertagnolli as next NIH director

November 9, 2023

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

The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the U.S. Senate’s decision to confirm Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This past Tuesday, the Senate voted 62-36 for Bertagnolli to take over the leadership role at NIH – a role that has been vacant for nearly two years. Preceding Bertagnolli was 2022 Trumpeter Honoree Dr. Francis Collins, who served as NIH director for more than 12 years.

“Dr. Bertagnolli brings a wealth of knowledge and experience,” said NCL CEO Sally Greenberg. “As a surgical oncologist, former director of the National Cancer Institute, and former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Bertagnolli is the right person to oversee the NIH as this important agency serves a critical role in advancing public health.”

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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.