Advocates call on Biden Administration to act on airline passenger protection mandates

May 28, 2024

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

WASHINGTON, DC – With the summer travel season under way, consumer and passenger rights advocates today called on the Biden Administration to act expeditiously on consumer protection rulemakings and other actions mandated by the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization language. In a letter to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg, the groups urged the Administration to prioritize the following actions: 

  • Nominating a pro-passenger Assistant Secretary of Aviation Consumer Protection; 
  • Ensuring that the initiate a rulemaking to establish minimum seat size standards; 
  • Improve reporting of the causes of flight delays to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; 
  • Ensuring that customer service channels are staffed by humans; and 
  • Completing a Government Accountability Office study of airline industry consolidation. 

“Beginning the hard work of making airline travel less frustrating for passengers should not wait for the next election,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at the National Consumers League (NCL), which organized the letter. “Congress gave the Administration an aggressive timeline for implementing the new law, and we do not want these important new protections to be slow walked.” 

Both parties and both Houses of Congress put forth key protections for consumer advocacy, competition, and safety,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation & Travel at American Economic Liberties Project. “In the past we’ve seen legislation that was not fully acted upon, and we urge the Biden Administration to swiftly and decisively implement these new laws.”  

“The message from Congress is clear: the Administration must promptly take concrete steps to improve air travel for Americans,” said Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection for Consumer Federation of America. “Rather than waiting or delaying, the Administration should push forward and prioritize the implementation of the Reauthorization Act.” 

“Congress has done its job and now it’s time for the Administration to do theirs,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog Director at U.S. PIRG. “As we saw during COVID, our economy and our quality of life relies a lot on safe, reliable air travel. We’re eager to see these changes enacted quickly in hopes that air travel will become pleasant again.” 

“Since 2007, FlyersRights as the largest airline passenger organization has been advocating for many of the provisions in this legislation,” said Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org. “But while Congress previously required the FAA to enact numerous measures such as minimum seat size in 2018, FAA and DOT have often failed to act on Congressional mandates. This time must be different!” 

The letter was signed by nine consumer and passenger advocacy organizations, including the American Economic Liberties Project, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, FlyersRights.org, National Consumers League, Public Citizen, Travelers United, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. 

To read 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.

2024 Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge awards six winners across four categories

May 23, 2024

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

The thirteenth annual Script Your Future contest saw participation by 16 schools in 9 states and DC and directly communicating with over 12,000 patients nationwide.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Consumers League (NCL) and its partners announced the winners of the thirteenth 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, among other topics.

This year, NCL saw not only a robust increase in the number of schools of pharmacy participating, but an exciting array of creative solutions to the medication adherence challenges consumers face. All participants focused on greatly increasing their connections with their communities, by focusing on patients underserved by the healthcare system, and with each other, by working closely with other professional groups and key stakeholders. After much deliberation and review, this year’s winners are

  • Saint Joseph’s University,
  • Temple University,
  • University of New Mexico,
  • University of Charleston,
  • High Point University, and
  • Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM).

The 2024 Script Your Future Team Challenge is an awareness campaign coordinated by NCL with support from its partners and the Challenge sponsors – Bayer, Eli Lilly, Kenvue, Pfizer, USP, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies Global (ASOP Global), the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), the Association for Accessible Medicines Biosimilars Council, the Biosimilars Forum, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

This year’s winners, selected from dozens of applications and 16 participating educational institutions, are listed below.

National Award Winner: St. Joseph’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy – PA

The St. Joseph’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy team is one of the National Award winners for 2024! During the 2024 Challenge, students on the St. Joseph’s team decided to focus on a theme of “knowledge is key”. Their goal was to help patients learn more about their conditions and improve adherence and have healthcare providers learn more about identifying nonadherence and combatting it. Not only did the St. Joseph’s team collaborate within their community and their campus, but they also broadened their Script Your Future activities beyond their community via a Humanitarian Service-Learning trip to Costa Rica! The St. Joseph’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy team was able to reach nearly 800 people within their communities, and beyond.

National Award Winner: Temple University School of Pharmacy – PA

Temple University is a long-time participant of the Script Your Future Team Challenge and this is their second time winning the National Award! This year, Temple students at the school of pharmacy not only continued to collaborate with health and community organizations in Philadelphia, including Temple University Hospital and its affiliated clinics, but also focused on meeting their community members where they were by working with grocery stores, libraries and student centers. Temple’s team worked with ShopRite grocery stores and Temple Health to have students fill a gap and provided comprehensive medication review for patients stopping at the Temple Health hub. The team also worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to offer free HIV testing to undergraduate students and discuss medication use, adherence and disease stigma. Through their events this Challenge, Temple students reached over 400 community members.

Under-Represented Community Outreach Award Winner: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Pharmacy – PA

The 2024 Under-Represented Community Outreach Award goes to LECOM for the 2024 Script Your Future Team Challenge. This year, LECOM’s team, over the course of 60 service events, was able to counsel and connect with over 1300 individuals. By working with local officials and other community organizations, LECOM specifically reached out to their community members effected by poverty and disability. Through their partnership with the County Fair organizers and by organizing regular health fairs and several series of regularly scheduled education sessions, LECOM successfully focused on their community members who may not receive adequate care otherwise. This focus on community members who are underrepresented across healthcare or may have harder struggles with engaging with necessary healthcare, was greatly impressive.

Media/Communications Award Winner: High Point University – NC

The first of two Media/Communications Awards for the 2024 Challenge is awarded to High Point University! This year, High Point University hosted ‘surge challenges’ where students completed infographics and videos. These graphics and videos were then used to further educate the public and healthcare professionals about medication adherence and awareness. Additionally, the High Point team, in partnership with the other pharmacy schools across the state, participated in a Flu-be-gone challenge, to see which school administered the most flu vaccines in a specific week. The team was able to administer over 430 flu vaccines across the week through the Flu-be-gone challenge. Through creative, and catchy, communications the High Point University team connected with over 2800 of their community members.

Media/Communications Award Winner: University of Charleston School of Pharmacy – WV

The second of this year’s Media/Communications Awards goes to the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy (UCSOP)! With a decade of submissions, UCSOP has been a long time participate of the Team Challenge. This year, UCSOP, in collaboration with the West Virginian Pharmacists Association, participated in a legislative advocacy day at the state capital. With over 70 UCSOP students, faculty and staff participating, UCSOP spoke with local news and their state elected officials on a number of important bills related to medication adherence and the pharmacist’s role in health and patient care! The team also hosted an Out-of-the-Darkness walk focusing on suicide prevention and manned a booth at the city of Charleston’s Green Chilli Cookoff. Overall, UCSOP’s communication and outreach efforts were creative, impressive and impactful to their community.

Inter-Professional Award Winner: University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy – NM

As a first-year participant, we’re excited to award the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy the Inter-Professional Award for 2024! For their first year, the team at the University of New Mexico was able to work with nearly 30 students from 8 different healthcare programs at the University, including biomedical sciences, population health, occupational and physical therapy programs and many more. We were incredibly impressed with the events and the interprofessional outreach that the team was able to accomplish. Across two events, University of New Mexico was able to engage with 300 community members.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2024 Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge!

A word from NCL

“Despite the chaos many universities have experienced across the country, it is heartening to see that students and faculty are coming together to collaborate on important issues in their communities. Healthcare generally, and medication adherence specifically, can be a matter of life or death for many consumers. NCL is very proud of the hard work, dedication, enthusiasm, and commitment to community the Script Your Future challenge teams, partners, and supporters continue to exhibit. Congratulations to all of the teams.”  –  NCL Director of Health Policy Robin Strongin

To learn more about Scrip Your Future and the Medication Adherence Challenge, visit Script Your Future  website or contact Sam Sears at samanthas@nclnet.org.

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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 Supreme Court for siding with consumer protection in upholding CFPB’s constitutionality

May 16, 2024

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) is pleased to celebrate the victory for consumers in today’s Supreme Court decision. In upholding the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) funding structure, the Court has rejected extremist legal theories and allowed the agency to continue its important work to maintain a fair financial marketplace and promote economic and racial justice.

“The Supreme Court delivered a blow to the payday lending industry who challenged the CFPB’s funding for their own commercial gain. This is good news for consumers across the country,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s CEO. “The Court’s ruling clears a cloud over agency’s work and makes clear that financial regulators will not be gutted on behalf of special interests.”

The Bureau’s funding structure was key to its independence from short-term political agendas, similar to the Federal Reserve Board and other key regulators. Without the CFPB, consumers would be vulnerable to a slew of junk fees, predatory collection practices, and unfair application processes for some of their biggest financial decisions.

Further reading:

  • NCL statement on Fifth Circuit decision to invalidate CFPB’s independence
  • NCL applauds the CFPB’s effort to prohibit junk fees in financial services
  • NCL supports CFPB’s proposal to remove medical debt from credit reports
  • NCL applauds decisive action by CFPB against fraudulent payments processor
  • NCL supports confirmation of Rohit Chopra as CFPB director
  • Leading consumer groups call on FTC and CFPB to update study on accuracy of consumer data

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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 Congress’s passage of aviation consumer protection improvements

May 16, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through 2028, sending it to the president. The legislation includes a number of wins for the millions of consumers who travel by air every year: airline vouchers cannot expire in less than five years, caregivers can sit with their minor children without paying an extra fee, and passengers will automatically receive a refund if their flight is cancelled.

The measure also strengthens the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) ability to hold air carriers accountable when they break the law by tripling the maximum civil penalty the Department may impose and creating an assistant secretary position for aviation consumer protection.

“The National Consumers League is grateful to the negotiators of this bill for working to improve the flying experience,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud John Breyault. “Without support from Senator Cantwell, Senator Cruz, Representative Graves, Representative Larsen, and their diligent staff, these important new consumer protections would not have made it to President Biden’s desk.

“We look forward to the president signing the bill into law and a robust enforcement regime from DOT. Particularly, we expect the FAA to act on its mandate from Congress to establish minimum seat sizes on airplanes—a directive Congress has given the agency twice now.”

Unfortunately, Congress missed a significant opportunity to enact structural change in how airlines are regulated. The airline industry still enjoys extraordinary privileges and remains protected from Federal Trade Commission and state government oversight. A tax break for add-on fees remains in place, encouraging air carriers to generate revenue from added charges instead of the base fare. And a provision that would have established bare-bones safeguards around the devaluation of frequent flyer rewards was stripped from the bill.

While there is still work to be done, the flying public undoubtedly secured important wins in this reauthorization. NCL is appreciative of the allies to consumers who championed our priorities on the Hill and we will continue to advocate for passengers as the legislation is implemented in the coming years.

Further reading:

  • Consumer advocates support federal review of air industry’s data collection practices
  • Full list of consumer and public interest advocates’ priorities for the FAA reauthorization
  • Consumer groups call for a moratorium on smaller airplane seats pending FAA safety review

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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 supports AI liability rule, recommends extending its reach

May 2, 2024

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

Washington, DC – This week, NCL and six other consumer advocacy and public interest organizations submitted comments in support of a Federal Trade Commission proposal that would establish legal liability for AI developers who know (or have reason to know) that their AI is facilitating fraud.

The FTC’s proposed rule would enable the agency to crack down on scams that use deepfakes and voice cloning. It would also help to fill a glaring gap in its ability to hold impersonation frauds accountable, like romance and grandparent scams. This hole in the Commission’s capacity to return funds to victims of fraud is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2021 AMG Capital Management v. FTC case.

“While some AI developers implement safeguards to prevent the misuse of their products, many do not,” said NCL Public Policy Manager Eden Iscil. “The FTC’s initiative in this space should put companies on notice that they cannot put out unregulated AI tools and allow criminals to supercharge their frauds with them.”

Recent trends have shown the urgent need for the FTC to have strong enforcement options to combat impersonation fraud. NCL’s Top Ten Scams report for 2023 found significant consumer losses attributed romance and family-and-friend imposter fraud, with victim complaints showing median losses at $8,000 and $1,040, respectively. Generative AI, including text generation, voice cloning, and visual deepfakes, can enable these scams to be significantly more effective. The Federal Bureau of Investigation noted a 322% increase in sextortion reports between 2022 and 2023, attributing much of the increase to the proliferation of AI tools.

The Center for American Progress, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and NCL urged the Commission to clarify that the liability for AI developers in facilitating fraud should also apply to companies that provide scammers access to AI tools, even if the companies did not develop the AI themselves. The full comments can be found here.

Additional reading:

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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 on Upcoming Congressional Hearings with UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty

April 30, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Tomorrow, the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear from UnitedHealth Group CEO on the insurance company’s cyberattack that put millions of medical records and patient privacy at risk.

The cyberattack is, of course, cause for concern, but there are also several other ways major insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group are hurting consumers. These companies have taken over the prescription drug marketplace – they are integrated with the pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who gatekeep our prescriptions, limiting access and increasing out-of-pocket costs.

Here are the top questions American consumers deserve answers to:

  • How will your company work to not only protect patient data going forward, but also protect patient choice and power in their healthcare decision-making?
  • Can you explain the relationships and makeup of UHG, Optum Rx, and Optum Health? How does this vertical integration give consumers a fair choice when it comes to their health when there is a clear incentive to keep patients – and thus profit – in the UHG family?
  • UnitedHealth Group’s PBM Optum Rx claims to benefit consumers by negotiating rebates with drug manufacturers – why, then, aren’t consumers experiencing lower costs at the pharmacy counter?
  • How much does Optum Rx collect each year in rebates from drug manufacturers? How much profit does the UHG corporation rake in from prescription drug purchases?
  • Is UHG aware of the significant health and financial challenges that prior authorization requirements impose on consumers and their families?

The insurance industry is riddled with poor incentives that ultimately hurt consumers. Lawmakers have an opportunity this week to shine a light on these problems. We need bipartisan reforms to give consumers more power when it comes to their prescriptions, and ultimately, their 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.

Consumer groups welcome protections in FAA reauthorization agreement, urge continued improvements

April 29, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. House and Senate negotiators released their bipartisan and bicameral compromise bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As consumer and public interest advocates, we are grateful to members of Congress who are utilizing this opportunity to implement meaningful safeguards to the flying experience. However, as the last few years have demonstrated, there is a need for even more protections to address the extreme hardships that passengers have been forced to endure. Given the limited opportunity to enact reforms in the five-year cycle of the FAA reauthorization, we strongly urge Congress to enact amendments to further strengthen the bill before its final passage. 

“Consumers are notching significant wins in this package, but there is still work to be done to fix a broken airline industry,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Tripling civil penalties, codifying DOT’s authority to issue important consumer protection rules, prohibiting family seating fees, and creating an Assistant Secretary position charged with protecting airline passengers will all have meaningful impacts on the flying experience. There is more that can be done as this bill heads to the floor, including requiring airlines to maintain 24/7 customer service telephone lines, protecting against the devaluation of frequent flier benefits, and codifying DOT’s ability to protect consumers from unrealistic airline scheduling practices. We look forward to working with leaders in Congress on this important issues.”

“Considering this bill was expected eight-plus months ago, you might have thought House and Senate negotiators would have taken the extra time to include all of the meaningful protections airline passengers deserve,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog Director with U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “We’re particularly concerned with the absence of some provisions that would make air travel less burdensome, such as fee transparency.”

“Airline passengers will achieve some real gains in this bill and we look forward to seeing continued progress to strengthening the bill to include compensation for consumers,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s Director of Consumer Protection.

“This legislative package includes some important steps forward for air travel consumers and ensures that some existing protections are not weakened,” said Erin Witte, director of consumer protection for Consumer Federation of America. “As this bill moves toward passage, we urge Congress to take full advantage of the opportunity to make it as strong as possible.”

Importantly, there are several boons for consumers in this version of the reauthorization, including:

  • Establishing a permanent office of consumer protection at the Department of Transportation, headed by a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary;
  • Requiring airline vouchers to be valid for at least five years;
  • Tripling the amount DOT can fine airlines for law violations;
  • Requiring air carriers to allow families to sit together with no extra charge;
  • Commissioning a Government Accountability Office study on competition and consolidation within the industry.

As it heads to the Senate floor, passenger advocates are urging senators to protect those provisions while supporting additional amendments that were included in previous versions of the House and Senate reauthorization bills, including: 

  • Requiring airlines to provide cash refunds for cancellations and significant delays automatically, without the need for consumers to navigate often-complicated refund processes; 
  • Eliminate a loophole that would allow FAA to avoid creating safe and humane seat size dimensions; 
  • Provide DOT with clear authority to regulate unrealistic and deceptive flight schedules; 
  • Codifying DOT’s authority to mandate ancillary fee transparency; 
  • Directing FAA to study the impact of shrinking seats sizes on the safety of airplane evacuations and passengers with disabilities.

Additional reading:

  • Full list of consumer and public interest advocates’ priorities for the FAA reauthorization
  • Consumer groups call for moratorium on smaller airplane seats pending FAA safety review

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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.

Consumer advocates support federal review of air industry’s data collection practices

April 29, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Today, a coalition of seven consumer and public interest advocacy organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting the agency’s review of airline and ticket agents’ data collection practices.

The coalition outlined several areas concerning passenger privacy that DOT should examine, including:

  • How airlines collect consumer data from their websites and mobile apps, including sensitive data like precise location information and web browsing activity
  • How airlines collect and use consumer data in relation to their mileage and rewards programs
  • How airlines collect and use consumer data in relation to the New Distribution Capability system

Additionally, the coalition urged DOT to explore permanent mechanisms for consumers to have better control over their own data, such as requiring aviation companies to follow data minimization principles, implementing transparency requirements around industry actors’ data practices, and creating tools for consumers to exclude themselves from those practices.

Airlines currently enjoy unique privileges that almost no other industry in the nation has. The U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and state governments are unable to hold air carriers accountable for violations of consumer protection and civil rights laws—only DOT has this authority.

The signatories to the letter are the American Economic Liberties Project, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Ed Perkins on Travel, FlyersRights, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the National Consumers League. 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.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Watch the National LifeSmarts Championship live at 8:30 am PST on Sunday, April 21

April 20, 2024

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

San Diego, CA – Watch the 30th National LifeSmarts Championship from San Diego via livestream here on Sunday, April 21. The semifinal matches begin at 8:30 am PST, and the championship match begins at 10:15 am PST.

Kahoots will be offered by the LifeSmarts Engagement Advisory Panel for viewers to participate in.

Be sure to tune in to see who wins the 30th National LifeSmarts Championship and the Florence Kelley Cup!

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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.