Ten consumer advocacy organizations call for action on aviation consumer protection priorities in letter to DOT

August 27, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey, SE
Washington, DC 20590

RE: Promoting DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Mission and Passenger Priorities

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

The undersigned consumer advocacy organizations appreciated the opportunity to meet with you on July 27. We welcomed your close attention to our recommendations for actions the Department of Transportation (“DOT” or “Department”) should take to promote and enhance consumer protection in the air travel marketplace. We are encouraged that under your leadership, consumer protection will not be an afterthought at the DOT.[1]

In that regard, we write today regarding the key priorities we identified during our meeting and to request meetings with appropriate officials as you move forward on implementation.

First, as we discussed, we hope you will be publicly and personally highlighting consumer protection as a key part of DOT’s mission. DOT is the sole consumer protection agency, at any level of government, with authority over the air travel industry. Your public statements about your expectations for consumer protection in the air travel marketplace will put the airlines on notice that the DOT under your leadership will vigorously enforce existing consumer protections and seek new ways to better protect travelers as the industry emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, and going forward.

Second, on the specific priorities we raised with you, all of which you were receptive to addressing, we ask that you help arrange for us to meet with the appropriate officials at DOT and FAA with authority to address these priorities. Those priorities include:

  • Taking immediate action to address the airlines’ practice of issuing expiring travel vouchers for flights not taken on account of the pandemic. The four major U.S. airlines had $10 billion in unused travel credits on their books at the end of 2020. Many billions of dollars in credits will expire this year, due in no small part to inconsistent airline rules regarding when such credits must be used.[2] As was the case last year, travelers continue to be caught in an untenable situation: either endanger their health by flying despite the risks to themselves and others from the resurgent COVID-19 virus, or lose their substantial ticket investments. We request that you publicly call on the airlines to grant refunds, or at the consumer’s option, provide indefinite extensions and transferability of vouchers, for travel that was scheduled to have occurred since the pandemic began. We also urge you to investigate whether the airlines’ failure to do so would constitute an unfair or deceptive practice under DOT’s §41712 authority. We appreciate that DOT has recognized the importance of addressing the more than 100,000 complaints it received in 2020 related to ticket refunds stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the ongoing enforcement action against Air Canada[3] and the planned NPRM on airline ticket refunds[4] do not adequately address the magnitude of this unprecedented situation. To date, no domestic airline has been fined by DOT for any anti-consumer transgressions identified during the pandemic. Conversely, DOT has not hesitated to fine passengers when justified, with fines totaling more than $1 million in 2021 alone.[5]
  • Fulfilling Congress’s directive that DOT address airlines’ family seating practices. Under the airlines’ current family seating practices, families traveling with small children must either forgo purchasing the most affordable classes of tickets or risk being seated far from their children during their flight. Recognizing this situation as indefensible, Congress directed the DOT to review and “if appropriate, establish a policy” directing air carriers to ensure that young children can be seated with their families at no additional cost.[6] But to date, DOT has limited its response to publishing a web page to educate the public about family seating and the availability of the DOT’s complaint process.[7] Separating young children from their families during flights not only creates needless anxiety; it also poses a safety risk during in-flight emergencies, and even puts children at increased risk of sexual assault.[8] We urge DOT to act on Congress’s directive and initiate a rulemaking to mandate that families with small children be seated together at no additional cost. In our view, the airlines’ family seating practices also constitute an unfair or deceptive practice under DOT’s §41712 authority,
  • Acting on Congress’s mandate that FAA establish minimum seat size standards. There currently exists no federally-mandated minimum seat size standard for U.S. airlines. Combined with badly out-of-date Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) emergency evacuation testing standards, the lack of a minimum seat size standard puts passengers at significant risk. Congress,[9] consumer groups,[10] an FAA advisory committee,[11] and the DOT’s Inspector General[12] have all called attention to this risk. The FAA’s continued resistance to establishing a minimum seat size standard led Congress to direct the FAA to do so no later than October 2019. It is now nearly two years since that deadline passed. The DOT should implement this Congressionally-mandated action without further delay.

As leisure travelers continue to power the airline industry’s taxpayer-supported recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time for action by the DOT to address anti-consumer industry practices is now. The DOT cannot stand by while travelers endure unprecedented delays and cancellations, struggle to obtain refunds, are prevented from sitting with our children, and are squeezed into ever-shrinking and increasingly unsafe seats. The importance of prioritizing accountability for consumer protection has been highlighted anew in recent months, as the domestic airline industry has experienced a series of operational meltdowns, leading to thousands of delayed, canceled, and rescheduled flights, disrupting the travel plans of millions of American consumers.

Thank you again for the commitment you have given us to ensuring protection and fair treatment for the flying public.

Sincerely,

Business Travel Coalition
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Reports
EdOnTravel.com
FlyersRights.org
National Consumers League
Travelers United
Travel Fairness Now
U.S. PIRG

cc:

The Honorable Maria Cantwell, Chair, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & TransportationThe Honorable Roger Wicker, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation
The Honorable Kyrsten Sinema, Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation
The Honorable Ted Cruz, Ranking Members, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation
The Honorable Peter DeFazio, Chairman, House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
The Honorable Sam Graves, Ranking Member, House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
The Honorable Rick Larsen, Chairman, House Subcommittee on Aviation
The Honorable Garret Graves, Ranking Member, House Subcommittee on Aviation
Blane Workie, Assistant General Counsel for the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, DOT
John Putnam, Acting General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel, DOT

 

[1] Josephs, Leslie. (2021, July 28) Legroom, vouchers, seating fees: Consumer advocacy groups take complaints to DOT. CNBC.com. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/28/legroom-vouchers-seating-fees-consumer-travel-groups-take-complaints-to-dot-.html

[2] McCartney, Scott. (2021, March 17) The Airline and Hotel Pandemic Vouchers That May Prove Worthless. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-airline-and-hotel-pandemic-vouchers-that-may-prove-worthless-11615986078?mod=article_inline

[3] U.S. Department of Transportation. (2021, June 15) U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection Initiates Enforcement Proceeding Seeking Approximately $25 million Against Air Canada for Extreme Delays in Providing Required Refunds [Press release]. https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportations-office-aviation-consumer-protection-initiates

[4] https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=202104&RIN=2105-AF04

[5] Federal Aviation Administration. (2021, August 19) FAA Fines Against Unruly Passengers Reach $1M [Press release]. https://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=26440

[6] FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. §2309. https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ190/PLAW-114publ190.pdf

[7] U.S. Department of Transportation. (2020, March 4) Family Seating. https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/family-seating

[8] Rosato, Donna. (2020, March 4) Airlines Fall Short in Fixing Family Seating Problems. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/air-travel/airline-fixes-to-family-seating-problems-fall-short/

[9] Silk, Robert. (2020 August 17) Travel Weekly. https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/Congress-FAA-to-set-standards-for-seat-size-delay

[10] FlyersRights.org. (2021 August 17) The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat. https://flyersrights.org/f/the-case-of-the-incredible-shrinking-airline-seat

[11] Federal Aviation Administration. “Emergency Evacuation Standards Aviation Rulemaking Committee. https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/committees/documents/index.cfm/committee/browse/committeeID/757

[12] U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. (2020 September 16) FAA’s Process for Updating Its Aircraft Evacuation Standards Lacks Data Collection and Analysis on Current Evacuation Risks. https://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/default/files/FAA%20Oversight%20of%20Aircraft%20Evacuations%20Final%20Report%20-%2009-16-20.pdf

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 applauds confirmation of Marty Walsh as U.S. Labor Secretary

March 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, welcomes the Senate confirmation of Marty Walsh as U.S. Labor Secretary. Walsh will be the first Labor Secretary in more than 50 years with a union background. During his confirmation hearing, Walsh spoke out against systemic racism and pledged to do the hard work of enacting policies that address the issue. “It’s not simply just throwing fancy words out there, but in policies, it’s actually doing the work, rolling up our sleeves,” he told Senators.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

We look forward to Marty Walsh’s confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Labor. His background as a union leader in the building trades and as a former state legislator and the mayor of Boston will suit him well for the position. In recent years, we have seen worker rights and worker protections seriously eroded; Marty Walsh will fix that. He will restore badly needed protections and support workers’ right to collective bargaining.

Walsh was a proponent of Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which passed the House last year. It would add labor protections for workers and make it easier to organize. He will work to ensure that the labor inspectorate is revitalized and he will restore the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as an entity that safeguards the health and safety of workers. He is also a supporter of raising the minimum wage, which has not kept up with inflation and should receive a major increase.

The National Consumers League works closely with the Department of Labor in pursuing strategies to reduce global child labor. We know that Walsh views the exploitation of children in child labor and the forced labor of children and adults as a human rights abuse that deserves concerted action. We look forward to Marty Walsh’s leadership at this vital cabinet position as the nation emerges from a dreadful pandemic that has impacted so much of the American workforce.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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

National Consumers League releases its top 10 food and nutrition policy priorities for 2021

March 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—As the food and nutrition policy debate ramps up at the federal level, the National Consumers League (NCL) today released a 10-step action plan to address the explosion of food-related diseases in the United States and the unprecedented hunger and food safety challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announced at a time when policymakers must confront a series of crises affecting the health and nutritional status of the American public, NCL’s action plan focuses on implementing policies that will improve food safety, reduce food insecurity, and address food waste while also removing the pervasive roadblocks that keep consumers from making more informed food and beverage choices. Due to these barriers, research studies show that Americans, on average, consume 50 percent more sodium per day than health experts recommend, more than 80 percent have dietary patterns that are low in vegetables, fruit and dairy, and only 23 percent consume amounts of saturated fat consistent with the limit of less than 10 percent of calories.[i]

“Effective policies are necessary to overcome the fragmented food supply chains, child hunger, food waste, and food safety challenges caused or amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic,”said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. “At the same time, the threat of food-related disease requires the sustained attention of the advocacy community. This is why NCL will intensify its education and advocacy in 2021 to advance healthier eating, improve food safety, reduce food insecurity, and elevate food waste as a consumer issue.”

Serving as the consumer voice in championing policy solutions that will have a direct impact on the American public, NCL will focus its efforts these ten priorities:

  1. Elevate portion control and balance as a consumer issue

NCL will advance the recommendations contained in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to achieve a healthy balance of food choices through education and advocacy that emphasizes portion control and ensures consumers know the recommended daily intake of calories is 2,000 per day.

  1. Reduce excess sodium in the diet

Because excess sodium in the diet can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, NCL will encourage consumers to flavor foods with herbs and spices and choose products with reduced or no salt added, thereby advancing the goal set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lower sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.

  1. Improve the labeling of alternative sweeteners

NCL is supporting a Citizen’s Petition to FDA to ensure transparent labeling of novel sweeteners and has joined with other consumer groups in urging FDA to stop misleading claims, such as “No Added Sugars,” “Zero Sugar,” and “Reduced Sugars,” that imply a new product is healthier than the original without disclosing that the sugar reduction resulted from reformulation with artificial substances and sugar alcohols.

  1. Make Alcohol Facts labeling mandatory

Continuing a fight launched in 2003, NCL and other consumer, public health, medical, and nutrition organizations will urge the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade (TTB) to issue rules requiring an easy-to-read, standardized “Alcohol Facts” label that lists the ingredients in all beer, wine, and distilled spirits products. Currently, TTB has opted for voluntary labeling, and the result is that many products remain unlabeled or carry incomplete labeling information.

  1. Require labeling of caffeine content

Because FDA only requires that food labels disclose there is added caffeine in a food or beverage, NCL will press the agency to require that all products containing caffeine be required to list the amount per serving and per container. This will make it easier for consumers to know how much caffeine they are consuming from different products so they can stay below the 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day level that FDA has determined is not generally associated with dangerous side effects.

  1. Modernize food standards of identity

Because many “standards of identity” — recipes for what a food product must contain and how it is manufactured — are now 75 and even 80 years old and out-of-date, NCL supports FDA’s action plan to modernize food standards of identity. NCL is also calling attention to several food products — such as olive oil, Greek yogurt, and canned tuna — where issuing new or updated standards of identity are needed now.

  1. Revise the definition of the term “Healthy” and front of pack food labeling symbols

While supporting FDA’s decision on modifying how “low fat” will be calculated as part of the agency’s criteria for when a food can be labeled as “healthy,” NCL will press FDA to address if and how added sugars content is calculated. NCL will also encourage FDA to adopt a “Traffic Light” labeling system to depict “healthy” on the front of the package.

  1. Strengthen the food safety system

NCL will work to make improvements in the nation’s food safety system, including pressing to expand pathogen testing in meat and poultry products and to finalize FDA’s Food Traceability Proposed Rule, which would establish a standardized approach to traceability record-keeping.

  1. Reduce the amount of food waste

Every year, about 90 billion pounds of food goes uneaten in the United States, with huge environmental and food insecurity consequences.  To change this food waste crisis, NCL will raise awareness of food loss and waste and inform consumers about how they can reduce food waste in their homes and when they go out to eat.

10. Increase funding and access to federal nutrition programs

NCL will work to make permanent the 15 percent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase now included in the American Relief Plan, while also pressing for additional funding for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.

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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.
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Days before crucial deadline, NCL joins 300+ groups call for Congress to rescind ‘Fake Lender’ rule that facilitates predatory loan schemes

Only a majority vote in Congress would be needed to overturn rule that helps triple-digit interest rate loans evade state and voter-approved interest rate caps and spread across the country

March 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—With just a few days left before a crucial deadline, the National Consumers League (NCL) joined a broad coalition of 324 organizations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia calling for Congress to eliminate a Trump-era regulation that took effect in December and could “unleash predatory lending in all 50 states.” The rushed “fake lender” rule, which was issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), would facilitate “rent-a-bank” schemes whereby predatory lenders launder their loans through a few rogue banks, which are exempt from state interest rate caps, through a superficial partnership meant to evade critical predatory lending rules. Linked here and included at bottom is the coalition’s letter to Congress.

“States across the country have passed laws to protect their citizens from predatory lending. This harmful rule undoes that progress,” said Sarah Robinson, Public Policy Manager at the National Consumers League.  “We call on Congress to protect consumers from these types of predatory loans that target vulnerable communities and seek to trap borrowers in a cycle of debt.”

As was done more than a dozen times under President Trump, this Congress could use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rescind recently finalized regulations, including the OCC’s “fake lender” rule, with just a majority vote in both chambers, limited debate, no filibuster, and the president’s signature. However, to be considered, there is a strict deadline for CRA resolutions to be introduced, estimated to be April 4. With spring recess coming up, the practical deadline is likely the end of this week. A CRA of the OCC “fake lender” rule has not yet been introduced. These resolutions also must be voted upon by a certain date, currently estimated for sometime between May 10 and May 21.

The coalition of signatories to the letter consists of 325 groups, including civil rights, community, consumer, faith, housing, labor, legal services, senior rights, small business, student lending, and veterans organizations representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter states that “[t]he rule replaces the longstanding ‘true lender’ anti-evasion doctrine with a ‘fake lender’ rule that allows lenders charging rates of 179 percent or higher to evade state and voter-approved interest rate caps merely by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork – just as payday lenders were doing in the early 2000s.”

The groups warn, “These lenders charge triple-digit interest rates, target the financially vulnerable and communities of color, and trap consumers in devastating cycles of debt…. Currently, there are only a few of these rogue, predatory lenders, but they will spread to all 50 states if the OCC rule is not overturned.”

A 2-pager explanation of the “fake lender” rule is 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.
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National Consumers League letter in support of Gilbride to DC Circuit Court of Appeals

NCL sent the following letter to the Counsel of the President in support of Karla Gilbride’s nomination to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

March 11, 2021

Ms. Dana Remus
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Support for the nomination of Karla Gilbride to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Dear Ms. Remus:

The National Consumers League urges the Biden Administration to nominate Ms. Karla Gilbride to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. As an organization founded in 1899 to advocate for the interests of consumers and workers, NCL believes that Ms. Gilbride would be an outstanding judge on one of the United States’ most important courts.

Ms. Gilbride’s legal acumen, combined with her compelling character traits of perseverance and integrity, make her uniquely suited to serve on our nation’s courts.  She has devoted her career to representing the underserved and most vulnerable members of our society. From her early legal work representing disabled Americans fighting for equal treatment and opportunity, to her extraordinary appellate work on behalf of citizens returning from incarceration who, as consumers, were being charged outrageous prepaid card fees, to her successful legal work to hold predatory debt collectors accountable, Ms. Gilbride has demonstrated not only superior oral and written legal skills, but also an unyielding dedication to protecting and serving the public interest.

As the executive director of the National Consumers League, I have witnessed Ms. Gilbride’s stalwart legal advocacy on behalf of consumers. She is a precise and thoughtful legal thinker. Many of us in the consumer community have admired her ability to explain complex legal concepts in basic terms, have benefitted from her willingness to comment on draft briefs and help other attorneys prepare for oral argument. She is a skilled advocate, a generous colleague, and a powerful public ambassador to policymakers on issues that are important to consumers.

Our federal courts must reflect the full range of professional legal experience, including those with legal services backgrounds. Karla Gilbride, who has used her prodigious legal skills to effectively represent marginalized people while also combatting challenges in her own life, is exactly the kind of judge the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals needs.

We thank you for your consideration and ask if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg

Executive Director

National Consumers League

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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.
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National Consumers League welcomes appointment of Janet Woodcock as acting commissioner of food and drugs

For immediate release: January 29, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) welcomes the naming of Dr. Janet Woodcock as Acting Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration. Woodcock will oversee the full breadth of the FDA’s work.

This statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

We welcome Dr. Woodcock’s naming as Acting Commissioner of the FDA. Her decades of experience and deep knowledge of this critically important federal health and safety agency, its staff, and its vast legislative and regulatory authority, makes her an excellent choice to head the FDA as the nation’s healthcare infrastructure struggles to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. NCL works not only on drug safety and development, but on food policy issues, which also falls under the purview of the FDA; thus, we share many issues of mutual concern to consumer advocacy and fight for the implementation of important safety and health regulations.

Dr. Woodcock has long been a friend of the consumer community and has maintained an ‘open door’ policy with consumer and patient advocacy groups, willing to listen to all sides and make time on her very busy calendar for the concerns of average citizens. In 2017, NCL was proud to recognize Dr. Woodcock with the National Consumers League’s Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award, an honor for outstanding leaders who transform the world we live in for the better. The award is named for Florence Kelley, NCL’s fearless first leader and towering historical figure who pioneered health care and labor reform in the first decades of the 20th Century. NCL welcomes Dr. Woodcock as Acting Commissioner of the FDA and looks forward to continuing to support the agency’s hard work through a productive relationship.

Dr. Woodcock has been bestowed numerous honors over her distinguished public health career in addition to NCL’s Florence Kelley Award, most notably: a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices; the Ellen V. Sigal Advocacy Leadership Award in 2016 from Friends of Cancer Research; and the 2019 Biotechnology Heritage Award from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and Science History Institute.

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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.

Letter to Congress: NCL calls for confirmation of Becerra as Health Secretary

January 22, 2021

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden:

The National Consumers League (NCL) is America’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, representing consumers and workers on marketplace and workplace issues since our founding in 1899. NCL has long advocated for equitable access to affordable quality health care for all. Today, NCL continues to work tirelessly to ensure the nation’s COVID-19 response meets the needs of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

As such, we call on the Senate to act expeditiously to confirm the appointment of Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). AG Becerra’s appointment to Secretary of HHS is welcomed by advocates across the health care spectrum. As a nation in the midst of a public health crisis, there has never been a more critical time for bipartisanship. AG Becerra’s speedy confirmation would be a positive step forward to setting aside political ideology and working across the aisle to serve the American people.

AG Becerra is a proven champion for increasing access to health care in low-income minority communities, which are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. As Attorney General of California, AG Becerra’s stalwart leadership helped to preserve key consumer health care protections enacted by the Affordable Care Act. We anticipate that Attorney General Becerra will lead the HHS pandemic response with the same health equity and social justice principles he’s employed throughout his career.

NCL strongly supports the nomination of Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the next HHS Secretary and urges this Committee to report his nomination favorably to the Senate. NCL is encouraged this Committee has already begun the nomination process by sending its initial questionnaire to the nominee, and hopes this is an indicator that the diligent work to confirm AG Becerra’s appointment to HHS will commence without delay.

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg
Executive Director
National Consumers League

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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

National Consumers League releases report examining sustainability, consumer choice, and confusion in food and beverage packaging

Oct. 1, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) has released a report on the rampant confusion among consumers about food and beverage packaging recyclability, and is today calling for changes to sustainability in food and beverage packaging for brands, retailers, and policymakers. The report explores the recycling enterprise in the United States, marketing and labeling practices, and packaging options that contribute to sustainability—and finds that most consumers are in the dark when it comes to the reality of the state of recycling in the United States.
“Consumers have no idea what is recyclable and what isn’t,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of NCL. “More effective and transparent labeling is necessary to advance sustainability goals for the benefit of consumers and the environment.”

The report finds that common symbols, especially the “Mobius Loop” triangle, misleads consumers about the recyclability of products—especially plastic—which is not, in fact, endlessly recyclable and usually ends up in a landfill or the natural environment. While some companies are leading the way on packaging sustainability, switching to endlessly recyclable glass bottles or metal cans, others are making short-term cost calculations without taking into account the long-term damage.

“Companies can, and should, employ packaging choices to promote sustainability,” said Greenberg. “Manufacturers and retailers, alike, should offer the most sustainable options wherever possible, whether it’s beverage containers or single-serving food packaging. We hope our report will help raise awareness about sustainability and ensure that consumers have better information and a greater selection of sustainably-packaged food and drinks.”

For more information about NCL and this report, please visit www.nclnet.org.

Read the report (PDF): Examining Sustainability, Consumer Choice, and Confusion in Food and Beverage Packaging

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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.

Advocating for emergency air transport coverage

This spring, NCL sent a letter to the CEOs of Cigna, Aetna, and UnitedHealth Group, urging them to enter into productive negotiations with air medical service providers to ensure coverage of emergency air medical transportation. The ask came as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, making air medical services even more essential, particularly in rural America.

“We are increasingly concerned about emergency air medical access during this crisis, and believe this life-saving care should be covered by every insurance plan,” said NCL Associate Director of Health Policy Nissa Shaffi.

“We are asking that insurers review the robustness of their coverage policies and immediately enter into network negotiations with air medical providers so that this critical service is covered, and patients are never left with a bill they cannot pay.”

NCL urges Administration to take action to combat COVID-themed fraud, patient harms online

April 10, 2020

Contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – April 10, 2020 – The National Consumers League (NCL), in partnership with 42 patient and provider advocacy, public health, industry, and research groups, has issued joint letters to Vice President Mike Pence, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other state and federal leaders calling for swift action to protect consumers against COVID-19 misinformation, scams, and fraud online.

“NCL commends the White House Coronavirus Task Force and other officials for their dedication in responding to the coronavirus crisis,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic makes your work against healthcare and financial fraud more important now than ever. However to further flatten the curve and save lives, we urge the Administration to quickly implement increased evidence-based actions and to help protect consumers from predatory attempts to take advantage of our new economy.”

Since the start of the pandemic, criminals launched thousands of COVID-specific global scams and phishing attacks, using the coronavirus crisis to profit at patients’ expense. “Criminals have exploited the fear and confusion caused by the coronavirus for their own personal profits. More must be done to mitigate the health and financial harms experienced by consumers nationwide,” said Greenberg. In the past few weeks alone, more than 100,000 website domain names have been registered containing terms like “covid,” and “corona,” most of which have been found to be outright dangerous. The Federal Trade Commission indicated receipt of nearly 14,000 coronavirus-related complaints totaling fraudulent losses nearly $10 million.

NCL has long called for increased regulation and enforcement against illegal online acts that result in public health and economic harm. The joint letter encourages the Administration to move swiftly to enact and enforce existing no-cost solutions to better protect consumers. Additionally, it calls on the Administration to  ground their efforts in science, address systemic internet policy problems and prepare for an ongoing wave of COVID-19 related scams during the economic downturn.

Co-signers of the letters include Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, BIO, Coalition for a Safe and Transparent Internet, Consumer Brands Association, Kroll, Lilly, LegitScript, and USP. The full letter can be read here.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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.