PBMs are driving the increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs for consumers, says NCL

July 23, 2024

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

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) today submitted a letter to both the Republican and Democratic chairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability expressing concerns about pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) driving the increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs for American consumers. The letter was submitted just as the committee was conducting a hearing with top executives from Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and Optum Rx.

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

“We are concerned that these anti-consumer practices are putting the profits of insurance companies and their PBMs before patients, local pharmacies, employers, and state governments. Congress has an opportunity to review these corporate practices and work to ensure a reduced market power, thus minimizing the incentives for PBMs to steer patients towards higher-priced medicines, claim higher and higher rebates to fatten their bottom line, and ultimately driving independent pharmacies out of business.”

The full letter can be accessed 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.

NCL sues Washington Nationals over junk fees not disclosed in advertised prices

July 17, 2024

Media contact: National Consumers League – Lisa McDonald, lisam@nclnet.org, 202-207-2829

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Consumers League (NCL) announced that it has sued the Washington Nationals on behalf of a class of affected consumers in the District of Columbia and beyond for violations of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act in connection with Nationals’ single-game ticket sales practices.

Consumers are entitled to truthful information from merchants, including information about prices. According to NCL’s complaint, the Nationals advertised deceptively low prices for their tickets by failing to disclose mandatory “ticket processing” fees that could increase ticket prices by more than 25%. The complaint explains that tickets the Nationals advertised on their website as “starting at $9” actually cost $11.25 once the mandatory “ticket processing fee” was added, and that in reality, the Nationals never intended to sell those tickets “starting at $9” on their official website.

Concealing fees of this sort – commonly known as “junk fees” – until late in the transaction is a misleading practice known as “drip pricing,” which frustrates and harms consumers, according to the complaint.

NCL’s complaint alleges that this has been a practice for the Nationals for years, and that these ticketing practices are misleading – and illegal under D.C. law. The D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), D.C. Code § 28-3901 et seq., provides a robust set of protections for consumers.  Among other things, it protects the basic right not to be misled about the price of goods and services being offered for sale.

“It’s disappointing that ticket sellers like the Nationals hide the real price of their tickets from consumers until so late in the process,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s chief executive officer. “The junk fees attached to the Nationals’ tickets are wrong, and they’re illegal.  We hope this lawsuit brings some much-needed reforms to the ticketing industry to help protect consumers from these abusive practices.”

NCL’s lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of the class of consumers as well as other relief.

Read the full complaint 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.

Understanding the transformative potential of the Juneteenth holiday

By Sally Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer, NCL

As I sat in my home study and contemplated the meaning of the Juneteenth holiday last month – with all the division in the country, with states banning discussions about racial and other forms of discrimination in schools, 8 States Debat[ing] Bills to Restrict How Teachers Discuss Racism, Sexism, and a Supreme Court decision banning schools from considering affirmative action in admissions – I could be just sad. But, unexpectedly, the Washington Post brought some encouraging news.

More on that in a minute.

First some definitions: Juneteenth is a federal holiday that marks the day when enslaved people in Galveston, TX were informed by a Union general  two years after the Emancipation Proclamation that they were free. What is Juneteenth? Learn the history behind the federal holiday’s origins and name. Their enslavers had not bother to tell them.

So, Juneteenth gives Americans the opportunity to think, talk, discuss, and learn about the scourge of slavery in the United States and how it finally ended. Juneteenth is also an opportunity to talk about history and what followed emancipation; the passage of Jim Crow laws intended to keep emancipated slaves in a state of poverty, and included rampages against Black communities in many cities throughout the nation, most notoriously in Tulsa, OK where the  1921 Tulsa Race Massacre took place and where thousands of lynchings of African Americans and others, including Native Americans. And in 1913, Frank Leo, a Jew who was tried and pardoned, was hanged by an anti-Semitic lynch mob in Georgia. In fact, no ethnic group was immune from these attacks,  including the Irish and Italian Irish and Italian neighborhoods.

Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids about these events?

Sadly, there is a backlash from conservatives across America to “talk” about our history, as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s decision noted above. That recent decision also unleashed attacks on corporate efforts at diversity.

But a new survey in published in the Washington Post (WAPO) today buoyed me. Yes, there has been backlash against teaching American history; this includes bans on discussing the history of slavery, but also a long history of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Native, and LGBT Americans citizens throughout our nation’s existence.

However, the WAPO poll suggests the public supports teaching about these issues. The April 2024 survey found that most Americans – 61 percent overall – thinks that having Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs in U.S. companies is a good thing.

Support for programs to increase racial diversity in the workplace remained steady over the past year, despite the attacks from conservatives. Last year, 62 percent of Americans said efforts to increase racial diversity in workplaces were a good thing, according to a Post-Ipsos poll. Most popular were mentorship opportunities for underrepresented groups with 75 percent of Americans supporting.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned DEI in his state, including at public colleges and universities. America First Legal, a group backed by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, has filed legal complaints over diversity practices at scores of companies, including United Airlines, Kellogg’s, Nike, and organizations such as the FBI, National Football League, and Major League Baseball.

But the WAPO poll also found that more than 8 in 10 Americans overall said they believe the country has made progress on that front since the 1950s, but perceived progress differs by racial and ethnic groups.

The Post article didn’t take sides or draw any broad conclusions but what this polling says to me is that there is a lot more support for raising awareness about civil rights, teaching about our nation’s history – and all of it – and conducting mentorship and DEI trainings, and with it teaching and learning about the history of racial and other forms of discrimination in America. That should give all of us who support more – not less – education and DEI in general – cause for hope. What better day to celebrate that hope than Juneteenth.

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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 staff attends consumer protection brownbag

By Sally Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer, NCL

On June 25, 2024, the National Consumers League (NCL) joined the Consumer Protection Brownbag event, moderated by Adam Teitelbaum, the Director of the Office of Consumer Protection at the DC Attorney General’s Office.

I shared the history and mission of NCL and discussed our more recent successes, including NCL’s advocacy role for workers in DC receiving minimum wage through the “One Fair Wage” initiative and the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2024, which now includes automatic refunds for flight cancellations and excessive delays and the elimination of fees for parents to sit with their children. We also discussed anti-trust concerns with the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and the ongoing lawsuit involving the DOJ and DC OAG. Moreover, I spoke about our case against Starbucks for false claims regarding ethically sourced products. Finally, I covered a range of consumer protection efforts, from fraud prevention and unit pricing enforcement to proposed alcohol labeling reforms.

Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), spoke about the mission of CFA and her personal journey from criminal lawyer to consumer protections advocate. She outlined CFA’s current focus areas, including tackling junk fees, combating forced arbitration clauses that limit consumers’ legal recourse, and advocating for product safety, food and alcohol regulations, investor protection, and insurance reforms. She also discussed the link between credit scores and car insurance, and how this association is one of the primary drivers of rising insurance costs. Witte highlighted CFA’s collaboration with regulatory agencies to address these pressing consumer issues.

Witte, Teitelbaum, and I responded to questions during the question and answer session about the obstacles faced by attorneys and advocates pursuing consumer protections and how the possible changes in administrative deference could affect the future of consumer protection.

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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 statement on Senate Reintroduction of Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

May 15, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Last week, Senate Democrats reintroduced legislation to revamp federal cannabis policy. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act aims to legalize cannabis at the federal level, create a new regulatory framework for cannabis, expand research into cannabis’ potential and risks, and more.  The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, has been actively monitoring the growing threats to consumer safety as the market for untested, unapproved cannabis products has exploded. NCL Chief Executive Officer, Sally Greenberg, released the following statement:

“We are grateful to Senators Schumer, Wyden, and Booker for their ongoing leadership in this space and for acknowledging the critical role of FDA in helping to protect public health. As cannabis products have grown in popularity – and most recently, high THC products have perpetuated the market – it is increasingly important that, if cannabis is legalized, our federal policies and regulations are science-based and prioritize public health. We know that cannabis manufacturers often make misleading or even false claims about their products ability to mitigate or even cure various health issues and consequently our leaders must help consumers better navigate this marketplace across the U.S. FDA is best positioned to achieve that outcome. A new report reiterates the need to ensure that FDA has sufficient regulatory tools and resources to mitigate public health risks and that more research be done to better understand the benefits, risks, drug interactions, etc. of cannabis products.”

Learn more about the cannabis consumer market and the path to safe cannabis at cannabiswatch.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.

Dallas High School team from Pennsylvania wins 2024 National LifeSmarts Championship

April 24, 2024

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

Washington, DC – Pennsylvania’s Dallas High School students were crowned the 2024 National Varsity LifeSmarts Champion in San Diego, California, this past Sunday, April 21. Coached by Kevin West, the Pennsylvania team consisted of Captain Marie Popielarz, Artem Smagin, Kareem Almeky, Riley Dewey, and Mahi Dohl.

Joining them in the final match was the Selah Gold FCCLA team from Selah, Washington. Members of the Washington team were Captain Hannah Christianson, Macie Ladd, Indiana Hilmes, and Hannah Rees, with Jeff and Dania Cochran serving as their coaches.

Rounding out the final four teams were the Crosby High School Bulldogs from Connecticut and the Country Clovers 4-H team from Delaware 4-H.

This year’s competition marked the 30th anniversary of LifeSmarts, the youth consumer education program of the National Consumers League. Forty-seven student teams—consisting of 230 students—traveled from across the country to compete over four days at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina in San Diego.

“This year’s Nationals was special because we are celebrating 30 years of the LifeSmarts program, with this year’s event being our largest competition to date,” said LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. “I want to congratulate all the teams and their coaches who came to San Diego to compete, learn from each other, and have fun. Congratulations to this year’s winning team from Dallas High School in Dallas, Pennsylvania!”

LifeSmarts is an education and scholarship program run by the Washington, DC-based National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization. It competitively tests junior high / middle school, and high school student’s knowledge of five topic areas including consumer rights and responsibilities, personal finance, health & safety, technology & workforce preparation, and the environment in online and in-person competitions using a quiz bowl-style format. LifeSmarts is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in partnership with student leadership programs such as 4-H BPA, FBLA, FCCLA, and SkillsUSA.

Each student on the first-place team received a $1,500.00 scholarship; second-place team members received $1,000.00 scholarships; and third-place team members received $750 scholarships. Team members who placed fourth received gift cards.

Teens from each of the 47 teams represented at Nationals also competed as individuals, and the top-scoring student in each LifeSmarts topic received a $500 scholarship from NCL. The 2024 winners are:

  • Consumer Rights and Responsibilities: Maria Huck, West Virginia
  • Environment: Artem Smagin, Pennsylvania
  • Health and Safety: Martaja Powell, Alabama
  • Personal Finance: Blake Sullivan, Missouri
  • Technology and Workforce Preparation: Jeremiah Hawley, Wyoming

Coleman Mangham from Varsity Wild Card 1 (Tift County 4-H, Georgia) and Shelby Brewer from Massaponax High School in Virginia were awarded co-LifeSmarts Students of the Year. They each received $100 Amazon gift cards.

Winning recognition as LifeSmarts Coaches of the Year were Ginger Walters from Massaponax High School and Sahvanna Mease from Calhan High School Colorado. Both coaches received $100 Amazon gift cards.

LifeSmarts State Coordinators of the Year were awarded to Mary Hillmann of Minnesota, and Kay Johnson and Tammie McCarthy, both from Wisconsin.

The Sarah Weinberg LifeSmarts Memorial Scholarship, given each year to a student who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to community service, was awarded to Marie Popielarz from Pennsylvania.

Many LifeSmarts teams entered the anti-counterfeiting digital poster contest, sponsored by Amazon. Winners of the digital poster contest were: School Without Walls, District of Columbia; Buffalo High School FBLA, Wyoming; Calhan High School Varsity, Colorado; Sweepstakes Team 3, Blair Oaks High School, Missouri; West Chicago High School, Illinois; JCHS FCCLA, Kansas; Tift County 4-H, Georgia; Sweepstakes Team 2, West Feliciana High School, Louisiana; Sweepstakes Team 4, Larimer County 4-H, Colorado; and Riverside High School / Hi-Point Career Center BPA, Ohio. Each team received a $100 cash prize.

Winners in the identity theft essay contest were Kyle Bakhsh – Sweepstakes Team 1 (Cobb County 4-H, Georgia); Parker Bennett – Sweepstakes Team 4 – Louisiana; Allie Higgins – Idaho;  Maria Huck – West Virginia, and Kristina Plank – Riverside High School/ Ohio Hi-Point Career Center BPA . Each received a $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of Norton.

Kenvue sponsored scholarships that were awarded to five students who excelled in educational and outreach efforts in OTC medicine safety. Winners were Alex Piscane, Florida; Chloe Doiron, Sweepstakes Team 2, West Feliciana High School Louisiana; Kyle Bakhsh, Sweepstakes Team 1, Cobb County 4-H, Georgia; Mahi Dohl, Dallas High School, Pennsylvania; and Natalie Rodriguez, Econoponax, Massaponax High School, Virginia.

The top teams in the TikTok/Instagram videos on OTC medicine safety garnered praise from the contest’s judges and were recognized with achievement certificates. The schools recognized were:

  • Sweepstakes 4- Colorado, Larimer County 4-H, Colorado
  • School Without Walls, Washington, DC
  • Gordon County 4-H Varsity, Georgia
  • Junction City High School FCCLA, Varsity WC 3, Kansas
  • John Marshall High LifeSmarts for Life, West Virginia
  • Minidoka County 4-H, Teal Taters 4-H Varsity, Idaho
  • Litchville-Marion High School, The Money Hounds, North Dakota
  • Dallas High School, Pennsylvania
  • Benton County 4-H, Norton WC 2, Arkansas
  • Pryor High School Tigers, Oklahoma
  • Blair Oaks High School Team Falcon, Sweepstakes Team 3, Missouri
  • Tift County 4-H, Varsity WC 1, Georgia

The LifeSmarts Team Spirit Award went to Odessa High School FBLA from Missouri. The team demonstrated outstanding camaraderie and great sportsmanship throughout the four-day championship.

Awards for best t-shirt design, Instagram contest, and meme and pin design were also announced. The best meme went to Francis Marion FBLA, Alabama. The People’s Choice t-shirt winner was JCHS FCCLA, Kansas and the LifeSmarts team t-shirt award went to West Virginia’s John Marshall High School. The Instagram contest winner was Odessa High School, Missouri. The inaugural LifeSmarts pin design contest was won by Gracie Erichsen of Junction City High School FCCLA, Kansas, and Landon Rourke and Layson Ferguson of West Feliciana High School, Louisiana.

“Students who come to Nationals are some of the most dedicated and competitive students in the country. Their knowledge of consumer topics is vast, which is commendable because that is the goal we set for the LifeSmarts program—to be well-informed consumers,” said NCL Chief Executive Officer Sally Greenberg. “The information they acquire through this program will help them become savvy and well-informed consumers.”

Sponsors of the 2024 National LifeSmarts Championship were Amazon, Kenvue, Norton, Discover, Tide, FICO, Comcast Universal, Melaleuca, AARP, Bayer, JP Morgan Chase, American Express, Washington State Employees Credit Union, and Zillow.

At Sunday’s closing ceremony, NCL announced that Chicago, Illinois will be hosting the 2025 National LifeSmarts Championship next year.

To learn more about NCL’s youth consumer education program, visit LifeSmarts.

Photos from the 2024 National LifeSmarts Championships 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.

Consumers and music lovers beware: My piano-moving scams saga

By Sally Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer, National Consumers League

The National Consumers League fights scams. We manage Fraud.org and James Perry on our staff is a world expert on scams.

I often tell the staff that the only recent scam I almost fell for was the piano moving scam.

Here’s how the scam works. Someone posts that their uncle, friend, brother, or parent has a beloved, very expensive, and fancy piano that needs a good home. It’s always a grand piano or baby grand piano, always “in excellent condition,” often “just tuned,” a valuable instrument, and in demand. It needs “a good home, someone who will love it like my relative/friend always has.” That person is “giving away the piano for free, all that is required to pay to have it moved.” A picture of the piano is often posted, and it is indeed a baby grand piano. A very authentic photo will often be included. The payment options are nonrefundable options. Another red flag.

Here’s a classic scam email:

Hope your day is going great. The ” Wurlitzer 200A Electric Piano” used to be owned and played by my husband who is now deceased and it was last tuned in November last year before he passed, I’m almost done moving my properties and I don’t think my husband will be happy if I was to sell his piano, at the same time I’m not happy seeing it around because of less storage I have in my new house, so I’m hoping to give it out to someone who is a passionate lover of the instrument.

The first lady I thought would get it didn’t show up as she promised, and I wasn’t going to leave it alone in an empty house. It’s currently going to be with the movers I employed to move my properties from my place, which they’ve moved for onward delivery, if you really don’t mind making new arrangements with the movers, I can attempt to get in touch with them to reroute it, this should not attract many charges. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but do let me know if you wish that I get through to the movers. Just so you know I’m not giving out a scrap or a waste. It’s in good shape and condition.

Regards,

John Doe

Family Piano has some great tips for recognizing the scam, including that no one gives a valuable piano away to strangers.

A few years ago, I got such an email and thought, “Oh boy, finally a great piano I can play and for free as long as I pay to have it moved!” So I called and was told that the owner would put me in touch with the movers. However, the piano was in Oklahoma. Hmmm, I thought this email came from someone in my synagogue, just down the street. I smelled something fishy, so I googled “piano scams,” and up popped hundreds of stories about people attempting to take advantage of a wonderful piano given away for free, paying moving costs to get it, and finding out the cost of moving the piano is the scam.

The Better Business Bureau has a whole site devoted to piano-moving scams here.

Here’s one example from the BBB site:

One consumer reported this experience after contacting the so-called moving company: “The customer service rep sent me a picture of packaged piano and asked me to pay the moving fee. They sent me an invoice for $843 and instructions on how to send the money through PayPal. They asked me to send them the receipt via email so they could prepare for the shipment. Three days later, they gave me a ‘trucking number.’ But on the morning the item should’ve been delivered, they sent me an email saying there was an unexpected payment owed on the piano and I would need to pay an additional $1,424… If not, they said they would return it to their warehouse.”

So, of course, that was the end of that. In fact, the offer I received exactly replicated many other consumers had received. I didn’t go through with the transaction, thankfully.

Then, just last week, someone named “George Hooper,” from “East Chevy Chase” posted this note on Nextdoor app:

“A friend of mine, who lives in McLean, VA, can’t take her piano with her. (George Steck – Paris, London, New York – baby grand piano. It was a practice piano at the Kennedy Center. In excellent condition.) She’s willing to give it away for free providing the recipient pays for moving the piano. Let me know if you want a pic of the instrument and the owner’s contact info, but please don’t respond to this extraordinarily good deal unless you are very serious about acquiring it.”

I hadn’t realized, though in my line of work I should have, that Nextdoor has become rife with scams and people are more trusting because they think everyone is a bona fide neighbor. Repair scams are especially prevalent on Nextdoor, such as described here on BuzzFeed.

And Nextdoor itself is posting this warning to users.

My immediate response to the offering was to warn users that this is a piano moving scam and not to fall for it. This George Hooper, whoever he is, became irate and said I had “poisoned” his benign email. He then listed the name of the woman with the piano and phone her number was a Northern Virginia area code. I called her and she confirmed she had the piano and I could come and look at it, but she would have to get me through security. Then I asked whether I could get my own movers and her response was, “Yes, well I have to get it tuned and I have a moving company that has moved it twice and it has legs so it’s complicated.”

It all sounded so believable, but I was still suspicious.

It occurred to me that if you’re giving away a piano for free and it is going to be moved, why would you get it tuned?

A few people said they wanted the piano and George said, “It’s gone. I’ll send a photo of the person who bought it who can play a concert for you once it has been delivered.” That’s the last we heard.

So I went online and read the thousands of piano moving scams, such as this story. The lengths they will go to!

This article points out all the red flags for piano moving scams. Be wary of them and be wary of people like “George Hooper”!

The National Consumers League supports Agency’s proposal to reduce CO hazards of portable generators

June 28, 2023

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

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) appeared at a June 28 hearing at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hearing to submit comments on a proposed rule to reduce injury and death associated with acute Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning[1].

“NCL strongly supports the CPSC rulemaking to address these preventable deaths and poisonings. Consumers rely on portable generators when the power goes out – they often don’t know that carbon monoxide (CO) emissions can reach dangerous levels, far higher than even from a car,” said Sally Greenberg, CEO of the NCL. “We applaud the CPSC for vastly improving the safety requirements for portable generators.”

Reducing CO emissions means employing CO detectors linked to alarms and shut-off mechanisms.  Reliance on existing voluntary standards has proved insufficient and have not reduced the risk of injury.

1332 CO poisoning deaths were reported between 2004 and 2021.  The CPSC proposal is particularly urgent because extreme weather conditions are becoming more common with climate change.  Portable generator usage will only grow, and time is of the essence to make them far safer and reduce their CO emissions. Generators with safe designs are already available and on the market; the stronger safety standards should be required for all generators.

NCL supports the critical message that portable generators must never be operated inside.  However, warning messages on generators need proper placement. They are used during complex emergency settings, in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados or snowstorms. As NCL’s comments note, related factors, such as electrical cord length, rain and wind, lot size, or theft concerns lead consumers to place the generators too close to the home or even inside the home, which is poses serious risk of CO poisoning.

NCL’s made the following recommendations:

  • Add audible alarms to visual alarms when CO levels are high and have triggered a shutoff of the portable generator.
  • Replace wording on the generators to tell consumers to locate them “far away” from homes with existing CDC, FEMA, and CPSC guidance to say that they must be located at least 20 feet from homes.
  • Provide consumers with steps for safe operation in wet conditions.
  • NCL also noted in its comments that portable generators featuring lower CO emissions are currently on the market. The rule is not prescriptive, and there are no intellectual property obstacles to wider adoption of the safety technologies.

Matt Gillen, NCL consultant and expert, submitted oral comments to the CPSC on behalf of NCL; [2] NCL also submitted additional written comments.

Mr. Gillen noted that: “Portable generators help consumers when the power goes out.  But they cause an average of 74 carbon monoxide fatalities each year.  The CPSC’s proposed regulation will eliminate these preventable deaths.  And with extreme weather events surging, there is a real urgency in adopting this proposed regulation.”  

[1] https://d.docs.live.net/7b748bbe5182e693/Desktop/Portable%20Generator/NCL%20Portable%20generator%20comments%20WRITTEN%20Final%206%2012%2023.pdf

[2] https://d.docs.live.net/7b748bbe5182e693/Desktop/Portable%20Generator/NCL%20Portable%20generator%20comments%20ORAL%20FINAL%206%2018%2023.pdf

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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.

We must never forget the importance of vaccines

Sally Greenberg

By Sally Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer

I have written before about being born into a family that experienced the agony of the polio epidemic. My uncle Roger Joseph’s battle with the disease—including his diagnosis in 1951 by my father, a practicing internist—devastated our entire family. My uncle, a golden boy, popular, handsome, brilliant, and kind, graduated from the University of Minnesota and Harvard Law School; he also won a silver star for his military service in WW2. Married with three daughters, he had a thriving law practice when he fell ill.

His case was severe and rendered him paralyzed. Confined to an Iron Lung for two years, the device was designed to stimulate breathing in patients whose lungs no longer functioned. With a great deal of therapy, my Uncle Roger, by then quadriplegic, moved to a motorized wheelchair that he ended up using for the rest of his life. He doted on his children, moved in with my grandmother, slept in a rocking bed to facilitate his breathing, and had an attendant on duty 24 hours a day. When we visited my grandmother, we visited our uncle too. He also came to our home for Sunday dinners, and I recall him taking breaths carefully before speaking, and when he did, he was wry and funny. He also had to learn to write again with his non-dominant hand. My mother, who had always idolized him, marveled at how his handwriting never changed.

My uncle lived 16 years with polio, thanks to a loving family, modern medicine, financial wherewithal, his wheelchair, and his attendant. Paralyzed from the neck down, he nonetheless spent these years productively, doting on his daughters, going to work every day, and attending baseball games, and even traveling abroad.

In 1954, U.S. physician Jonas Salk developed a vaccine to prevent the disease. The polio vaccine was first tested on 1.6 million children in Canada, Finland, and the United States before it was used more broadly. By 1957, annual cases had dropped from 58,000 to 5,600, and by 1961, only 161 cases remained. Had my uncle had access to the vaccine, he never would have gotten sick.

The powerful lessons about vaccines weren’t lost on anyone in my family. This explains why I feel obligated to confront head-on the dishonesty and lies of the anti-vaxxers. I have traveled to the CDC and the FDA numerous times to testify in support of childhood and adult vaccinations, and each time have been confronted by vaccine deniers.

Here’s the problem: Those of us with memories of family members with devastating diseases like polio are aging out. We are victims of our own success in wiping out childhood diseases. Younger generations have now been vaccinated for polio, measles, rubella, mumps, influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough so they do not know the trauma these illnesses caused to millions of families. Come to think of it, I’m in that category myself.

Florence Kelley, who in 1899 launched the National Consumers League, wrote in the 1880s about the dark days of “diphtheria”; she lost three young siblings to the disease, which sent her mother into lifelong depression. But I have never known anyone with diphtheria, thanks to vaccines.

My 27-year-old son never had measles—nor any of his friends. But my siblings and I all did, along with rubella, chicken pox, and the mumps. Measles alone is far more serious than often understood. In 2021 alone it killed nearly 128,000 unvaccinated children under age 5 around the world.

All of which leads me to the reason I have written this blog. Each year, Uncle Roger’s daughters proudly award the Roger E. Joseph Prize, (created by my Uncle Burton Joseph, in honor of his brother and their dad) and for this year’s prize, my cousin Linda produced a video; it tells a compelling story of her experience with her father’s illness. Hebrew Union College, which graduates reform rabbis, hosts the awards. Honorees have included Rosa Parks, Henry Louis Gates, Morris Dees, Sara Bloomfield, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. A complete list is at the link below.

Indeed, the Roger E. Joseph Prize is a point of immense pride for our family, but it also gives us the opportunity to talk about diseases like polio and, now Covid, and the critical importance of the vaccines developed to prevent them.

How truly fortunate we are to have a medical establishment that has helped to prevent families from suffering, the way ours did, when a loved one falls ill from an infectious disease.

As the anti-vaccine movement grows each year—a = movement that traffics in conspiracy theories and junk medicine—note Robert Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vaccine crusade, which his own family has denounced in this article published by Politico.

Now more than ever we need to have conversations about the critical importance of vaccines.

http://www.rogerejosephprize.org/about-the-prize