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NCL statement: Delayed tax refunds begin arriving for EITC/ACTC recipients – National Consumers League

February 27, 2017

Don’t let refund delays keep you from claiming Tax Credit you deserve

Update

Washington, DC—While the IRS began issuing refunds for Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit recipients on February 15, the IRS has said that consumers should beginning to see those refunds appear in their bank accounts starting today.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at the National Consumers League.

“For families claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), a tax refund can account for as much as 30 percent of their annual incomes, making any delay in getting that refund a source of stress. However difficult, those impacted should soon start to receive their refunds. With the delay lifted, I encourage anyone yet to file to do so now and check if they are eligible for these important credits. Currently only four out of five eligible taxpayers claim the EITC every year. That means 20 percent of those eligible are potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in tax credits that they’re owed. These folks work hard. They should find out whether the EITC can work just as hard for them.”

Background

  • Statistics for Tax Returns with EITC broken down by state are available here.

  • Individuals can check to see if they are eligible for the EITC through the IRS EITC Assistant.

  • Consumers can check the status of their refund at irs.gov/refunds or the official IRS2Go mobile app.

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About the National Consumers League

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.

Press tele-conference at 10 am today followed by Downtown DC TV press event: Groups launching national campaign against Wells Fargo – National Consumers League

February 27, 2017

PRESS TELE-CONFERENCE ADVISORY

*** Today at 10:00 AM Eastern. To be followed by TV press event, closing a major account at Wells Fargo branch at 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 at 11:00 AM Eastern. ***

Call-in: 877-216-1555
Passcode: 644955

Coalition Launches Campaign to Urge Consumers to Close Wells Fargo Bank Accounts Until the Bank Drops Forced Arbitration Requirements on Customers and Employees

Broad Coalition Will Release Letter to Wells Fargo Bank CEO 

For immediate release: Monday, February 27, 2017

Washington, DC, Sacramento, CA, and San Francisco, CA —  A broad coalition of pro-consumer groups are launching a national campaign targeting Wells Fargo Bank over its illegal practices, and its denying customers and employees their constitutional rights under the 7th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to hold businesses that engage in illegal practices accountable in a court of law. 

The organizations will release a letter addressed to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan calling on the bank to cease imposing forced arbitration on its customers and workers.

One major consumer organization will announce that it is withdrawing its working capital, approx. $1.8 million, from Wells Fargo, closing its account with Wells Fargo, and switching to a more consumer-friendly bank that does not impose forced arbitration on its customers or employees.

Two victims of Wells Fargo will provide details about their personal experiences with the bank’s anti-consumer practices.

Tips will be provided about how to make the switch from Wells Fargo to banks and credit unions that do not impose forced arbitration.

EVENTS:

10 am Eastern Press Tele-conference: New national campaign targeting Wells Fargo.
Following tele-conference call, TV event: National Consumers League will close a major account at Wells Fargo branch at 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

DATE: Today, Monday, February 27, 10:00 AM Eastern

CALL-IN #: 877-216-1555, passcode 644955

SPEAKERS:

  • Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League
  • Rosemary Shahan, President, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation
  • Joe Ridout, Consumer Services Manager, Consumer Action
  • Two victims of Wells Fargo’s practice of opening accounts without permission
  • Attorney for one of the victims will be available to respond to legal questions about the litigation

*** NO Information Will Be Released Before the Morning of the Teleconference ***

News release, letter to Wells Fargo CEO Sloan, tips for consumers and other materials will be available today at: https://wedocount.org.   

Contact: Rosemary Shahan, President, CARS Foundation, 530-759-9440, or rs@carconsumers.org (Sacramento)
Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League, (202) 631-2301sallyg@nclnet.org (Washington, DC) or Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(724) 799-5392

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About the National Consumers League

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 to FCC: Consumers’ data security is too important to wait – National Consumers League

February 24, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang, NCL, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League, America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization is profoundly disappointed in the decision by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to suspend the implementation of critically-needed data security rules.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud:

“At a time when literally billions of consumers’ records — many containing sensitive personal information — are compromised on a seemingly daily basis, it is inconceivable that Chairman Pai would halt the implementation of the FCC’s data security rules at practically the last minute. That this action was taken as part of the ‘Friday news dump’ suggests that the new leadership at the FCC wanted to sweep this anti-consumer decision under the rug. All one need do is look at the staggering rates of identity theft linked to data breaches to understand the need for stronger data security protections. Last year, the FCC took the common-sense step of requiring Internet service providers — the gateways through which practically all consumer data flows — to abide by reasonable data security protections. Instead of allowing these much-needed protections to take effect, Chairman Pai has instead decided to leave consumers’ data at greater risk.”

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About the National Consumers League

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.

Individual tax filings down in January; Consumers warned to beware of fraudsters taking advantage of processing delays – National Consumers League

February 15, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang, NCL, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Beginning this year, a new law required the IRS to delay issuing refunds for certain taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Starting tomorrow (February 15), the IRS will begin issuing refunds for those consumers impacted, but has warned consumers that they should not count on seeing their refund until the week of February 27.

This delay is believed to be responsible for a 78 percent drop in refund amounts compared to this time last year, leaving many asking: where’s my refund?

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, Vice President Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at the National Consumers League.

“This year’s delay may be why the IRS is seeing a significant decrease in the number of people filing returns as compared to this point on the calendar in previous years. Though the IRS will begin issuing refunds for Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit recipients starting today, it is important that filers know that, due to processing times, taxpayers may not receive their refund for another two weeks. A tax refund can account for as much as 30 percent of working families’ annual incomes. Thus, any delay in getting a refund can be a significant source of stress and, potentially, an opportunity for fraudsters or others to take advantage of consumers’ short-term cash crunch. If you are worried about the status of your refund, the best way to check is by visiting irs.gov/refunds or by using the IRS2Go smartphone app. While this won’t speed up the arrival of a refund check, it can help consumers better plan for any cash shortfall a refund delay causes.”

Background

  • According to the IRS, there has been a 24 percent drop in tax returns filed compared to this time in 2016.
  • The official IRS2Go smartphone app is available in both English and Spanish on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon. https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs2goapp
  • The IRS offers several no-cost options for taxpayers to prepare and file their returns and keep 100 percent of their refund. Consumers comfortable using online services and who made $64,000 or less in 2016 can use the IRS’s Free File Program. Free File gives consumers free access to tax filing software from twelve leading tax preparation companies. For those who need more hands-on help and made $54,000 or less in 2016 there are free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs in their communities, which are staffed by IRS-certified volunteers.
  • The National Consumers League also released an infographic with tips to help consumers reduce their risk of tax identity fraud.

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About the National Consumers League

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’s Greenberg honored with Champions of Access award by Association for Accessible Medicines – National Consumers League

February 14, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang, NCL, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Orlando, FL—At an annual meeting of the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM) (previously the Generic Pharmaceutical Association) in Orlando today, the National Consumers League (NCL) was honored with the prestigious Champions of Access award. Accepting the award on behalf of NCL was Sally Greenberg, who has served as NCL Executive Director since 2007. The inaugural Champions of Access award was presented to Greenberg at #ACCESS17, before an audience of nearly 700 generic industry stakeholders, by AAM President and CEO Chip Davis.

“Partnerships with organizations such as NCL are critical to increasing access to safe, effective and more affordable generic and biosimilar medicines,” said Davis. “We are proud to honor those organizations and individuals who share this commitment and will continue working tirelessly so that more patients and consumers can access the medicine they need at a cost the system can bear. Congratulations to Sally and NCL, true ‘Champions of Access,’ for their work advocating for programs and policies that keep medicines within reach, improving lives and strengthening our economy in turn.”

Greenberg and NCL were recognized for their work advocating for programs and policies that promote low-cost, effective drugs that benefit patients as well as the American healthcare marketplace.

“On behalf of NCL, I am honored to accept this award from AAM,” said Greenberg. “NCL has a long track record of working to ensure access to safe and affordable foods and drugs—beginning with NCL’s work to pass the Food and Drugs Act in 1906, through our work today to ensure that patients have expanded and affordable access to the safe, effective treatments needed to maintain a healthy, positive quality of life.”

NCL has long advocated for availability of generic alternatives to brand name treatments as a cost-saver for Americans. In the United States, generic drugs represent 89 percent of all prescriptions dispensed, but account for only 27 percent of total drug costs. Over the decade from 2006-2015, the use of generic drugs saved the U.S. health care system approximately $1.46 trillion. In order to reduce out-of-pocket costs while receiving the same quality of care, NCL encourages consumers to ask their health care providers if there is a generic version of their prescription available.

For more information about NCL’s work in health, visit www.nclnet.org.

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About the National Consumers League

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.

Fraud trends: Bogus Internet sales remain most-reported fraud for fourth year in a row; Median reported loss to fraud doubled in 2016 – National Consumers League

February 1, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, has released its annual compilation of the top ten scams reported to Fraud.org, NCL’s flagship project for fraud prevention and education. Based on an analysis of more than 7,000 fraud complaints submitted by consumers to Fraud.org in 2016, NCL is warning consumers to beware Internet merchandise sales scams.

For the fourth year in a row, Internet merchandise scams topped the list of complaints reported to Fraud.org. The way many consumers first come into contact with these scams is via a “too good to be true” ad on a website, social media platform or Internet forum. Popular ways scammers catch consumers’ eyes is with deep discounts on goods like iPhones, sneakers, luxury apparel, video game systems and even pets.

While the top scam didn’t change in 2016, a key measurement of how scams affect consumers did: the cost of falling victim to fraud increased significantly in 2016. In complaints where a loss was reported, the median loss was $600, double what was reported in 2015. The most expensive type of scam for victims continued to be friendship and sweetheart swindles (also known as “romance scams”), with a median loss of $2,000.

“The key to avoiding these merchandise scams is to shop around. If the price you’re being quoted is far below what reputable merchants are asking, that’s a red flag of fraud,” said John Breyault, vice president, public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League. “Once you hand over your credit card number or send a wire transfer to the seller of these goods, chances are that all you’ll get in return is a headache, not a sweet deal.”

Another trend observed in 2016: scammers have been turning away from wire transfer and embracing gift cards as payment method. In 2016, wire transfers and credit and debit cards remained the payment method of choice for scammers, but gift cards increased significantly as a new form of payment. In 2016, Fraud.org saw a 30 percent increase in complaints where the payment method included gift cards, including numerous complaints where scammers asked for payment via iTunes gift cards. In such instances, the victim is instructed to load funds onto a gift card and then give the code and PIN number off the back of the card to the scammer, who then quickly deducts funds from the card, leaving the consumer with worthless plastic and little recourse to obtain a refund. 

“The fight against fraud is constantly evolving, as criminals refine their tactics for separating consumers from their hard-earned cash,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We hope our annual list of top scams helps consumers know what to watch out for and avoid falling victim, especially since falling victim for one of these scams is apparently getting more costly.”

Read the full 2016 top ten scams report.

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

National Consumers League urges consumers to enroll in Marketplace health insurance by January 31 deadline – National Consumers League

January 25, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Amidst uncertainty about the future of health insurance for millions of Americans, the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, is joining with other health advocacy groups urging consumers to enroll in health coverage by the January 31, 2017 deadline.

“While the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act swirls in Congress, the most important thing that consumers can do right now to protect their health is to enroll in or change their Marketplace health insurance plan by the January 31, 2017 deadline. Consumers can go to HealthCare.gov to find a plan that works for them,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. 

Along with its colleagues in the health advocacy community, NCL is encouraging consumers to enroll in coverage in order to take advantage of a range of free benefits and preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act, including birth control, HIV screenings, cancer screenings, diabetes screenings, and other important health services.

At HealthCare.gov, consumers can compare plans and choose the combination of price and coverage that best fits their needs and budget. Consumers will also be able to find out if they qualify for financial help with their premium costs.

If consumers have questions about health insurance, they can visit MyHealthPlan.Guide, a joint project of NCL and America’s Health Insurance Plans, to educate consumers about choosing and using their health insurance and living a healthy lifestyle. Consumers may also contact HealthCare.gov’s Marketplace Call Center toll-free at 1-800-318-2596 for assistance with enrolling.  

The Health Insurance Exchanges will remain in place through 2017. “Don’t place yourself or your family at financial risk from unexpected health expenses. Enroll in coverage now before it’s too late!” said Greenberg.         

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About the National Consumers League

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

National Consumers League to HHS nominee: ‘Maintain women’s access to free contraception’ – National Consumers League

January 23, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy group is today calling on Congressman Tom Price, a doctor and President Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS), who appeared before the Senate in confirmation hearings last week and will again tomorrow, to drop his insistence that women should have to pay for contraception.

“The facts are in: because of increased and free access to contraception, the U.S. abortion rate has declined 14 percent between 2011 and 2014 and well over 60 percent of the decline in the number of abortions occurred in states without new restrictions,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League (NCL), which has advocated on women’s health issues since its founding in 1899. “The Congressman is out of touch with the economic realities facing women.”

Reports cite a 2012 interview with Price by Think Progress reporter Scott Keyes, in which the reporter asked Price: “One of the main sticking points is whether or not contraceptive coverage is going to be covered under health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially low-income women … where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?” Price’s response: “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”

“Congressman Price has his head in the sand. Providing girls and women with highly effective contraceptive methods that are free and universally available is the best way to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion, a goal we all share,” said Greenberg.   

According to a new report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, U.S. abortion rates reached a record low in 2014, for the first time falling below its level in 1973—the year abortion became legal nationwide. Anti-abortion groups and policymakers often claim credit for reduced incidence of abortion due to restrictions on access, but the facts prove otherwise: among the 28 states and the District of Columbia that did not have major new restrictions in effect, all but three saw abortion declines in 2011–2014, and combined they accounted for 62 percent of the total decline in the number of U.S. abortions. This follows another decline in abortion during the 2008–2011 period, which was driven entirely by a steep drop in unintended pregnancy, which in turn was explained by improved contraceptive use.

“The Guttmacher Report shows no clear pattern linking restrictions and declines in abortion incidence,” said Greenberg.

Greenberg also stated, “We call upon Congressman Price to maintain women’s access to free contraception and the other preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act. The nominee for this critically important HHS post should work to preserve and improve women’s health, not roll back the clock.”

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About the National Consumers League

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

National Consumers League statement on today’s U.S. Supreme Court argument on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association – National Consumers League

January 11, 2016

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, cindyh@nclnet.org or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy group, has released the following statement about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court today.

Friedrichs v California Teachers Association is a case handpicked by special, powerful anti-worker interests asking the Supreme Court to overrule a longstanding precedent established under Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

Last fall, NCL joined a Friend of The Court brief, signing on with the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights and the National Women’s Law Center, arguing that the Court should uphold Abood v. Detroit Bd of Ed (1977), holding that public sector collective bargaining agreements may include “fair share” provisions. The brief details how unions provide one of the most successful vehicles for providing economic and professional opportunities for women, people of color, and LGBT individuals, including lowering the income gap and increasing access to basic benefits like health insurance and parental leave, and providing important protections against discrimination.

The National Consumers League believes that Abood is based on the constitutional principle that those covered by a union contract should be required to pay their share of fees. When employees elect a union to represent them, everyone who benefits from a negotiated contract should contribute to the costs of securing that contract, even those who might not agree with every union position.

Indeed, there are communities right here in Washington that work within this current fair share regime to very positive effect. In Montgomery County, MD, the superintendent, along with the three unions in the county, actually all sit at the table together each year to create a budget that aims to keep necessary cuts away from directly affecting students.

“It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court is revisiting Abood, a case that has stood for 35 years. Since our founding in 1899, the NCL has supported the rights of workers to organize, be represented by a union, and have a communal voice that allows them to have an equal say over working conditions, benefits, and health and safety,” said NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “That means that those benefitting from these contracts should contribute their fair share in dues and fees. The current system benefits the whole community because it brings better public services, stronger public schools, and more vibrant communities. If the Court bans fair share, it will make it more difficult for teachers, firefighters, and nurses to negotiate for wages, benefits, and improved public services. We call on the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and affirm the obligation of all covered by union contracts to pay their fair share.”

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About the National Consumers League

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.