NCL joins advocates in applauding Senate for repealing the national banking regulator’s predatory lending rule, urging the House to act soon

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) applauds the Senate for voting to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule, which allows predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. In a 52 – 47 bipartisan vote this week, the U.S. Senate voted to approve S.J. Res. 15, a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. “Chuy” García introduced a parallel resolution, H.J. Res. 35, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that the Senate has approved the resolution, the House needs to take swift action to stop the ongoing harm.

“We applaud this bipartisan rejection of rent-a-bank schemes,” said Sarah Robinson, NCL’s Public Policy Manager. “As consumers and small businesses look to rebuild from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, they must be protected from predatory lending. We now urge the House to move with urgency to prevent this rule from continuing to do harm.”

NCL was part of a broad coalition of more than 375 organizations representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia calling on Congress to overturn the “fake lender” rule, which threatens to harm consumers nationwide.

The rushed “fake lender” rule took effect in December and was issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The rule protects “rent-a-bank” schemes whereby predatory lenders (the true lender) launder their loans through a few rogue banks (the fake lender), which are exempt from state interest rate caps. The rule overrides 200 years’ worth of case law allowing courts to see through usury law evasions to the truth and replaces it with a pro-evasion rule that looks only at the fine print on the loan agreement. Predatory lenders charging 100 percent to 200 percent APR are already starting to push high-cost installment loans across the country that exceed the rates permitted under states’ laws.

A broad, bipartisan cross-section of experts and officials have called on Congress to repeal the fake lender rule. They include a bipartisan group of 25 state attorneys general, concerned the rule would effectively gut their state usury laws. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors, National Association of Consumer Credit Administrators, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, and many other groups also support Congress overturning the rule.

According to national polling, two-thirds of voters (66 percent) are concerned about the ability of high-cost lenders to arrange loans through banks at rates higher than the state laws allowed.

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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 supports Peloton treadmill recall

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) supports Peloton Interactive Inc’s decision to recall its Tread+ treadmill.

“The company has finally come to its senses and agreed to recall its treadmill, which has been caused deadly injuries to children,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Use of Peloton’s Tread+ exercise machines resulted in at least 72 reports of injuries, including the death of a 6-year-old boy.”

There were also 29 reports of children suffering broken bones, cuts, and abrasions. The agency that regulates these products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), took the unusual step of issuing an administrative subpoena in April when the company refused to provide information about the fatal injury to a child.

“It’s critically important that the company work with the CPSC to recall 125,000 treadmills, at no cost to customers, and safely replace or repair the treadmills so they no longer pose a threat to children or pets,” Greenberg said.

The recall agreement was accepted Wednesday morning in a vote by the Commission. The agreement requires Peloton to halt sales of the Tread+ machine and fully refund consumers who wish to return their equipment.

Greenberg also pointed out how problematic CPSC’s rules are for launching a recall like this one and called on Congress to amend its statute. “We agree with Acting Chair Robert Adler’s assessment that the CPSC faces nearly insurmountable hurdles in protecting the public because, under its statute, the Commission is required to negotiate at length with companies before it is allowed to issue any safety warnings. No other federal safety agency is under such restrictions. That needs to change for the safety of the public.”

To read our previous statement concerning the Peloton Tread+ recall controversy, click here.

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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 applauds U.S. Department of Labor’s withdrawal of the Trump Administration’s ‘Independent Contractor Rule’

May 6, 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 yesterday’s withdrawal of the Trump Administration’s “Independent Contractor Rule,” which would have too narrowly defined who is an “employee” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“The Trump Administration’s ‘Independent Contractor Rule’ would have been bad for American workers, especially women and those who toil in low-wage industries. It would have made it easier to classify workers like construction workers, farmworkers, Uber- and Lyft- drivers, janitors, and care givers as ‘independent contractors,’ denying them the rights and benefits ’employees’ have. It would have left workers already vulnerable to wage theft and safety risks even more at risk,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

In its announcement about the impending rule’s withdrawal, the U.S. Department of Labor noted that the FLSA requires employees be paid “at least the federal minimum wage for every hour they work and overtime compensation at not less than one-and-one half times their regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 in a work week.” Withdrawing the new rule preserves these essential worker rights and other protections granted by the FLSA.

DOL rightfully noted that independent contractor designations are not necessary to provide workers with flexible hours—something proponents of the new rule had suggested. “Employment and flexibility are not mutually exclusive,” said DOL.

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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 statement regarding efforts to ban menthol tobacco products

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) commends the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its efforts to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The FDA states it will work to keep menthol flavored tobacco products off the market by enforcing a potential ban against manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and retailers. The ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products is a historic measure to address health disparities present in vulnerable communities as a result of unfair marketing practices.

Menthol cigarettes continue to be heavily advertised, widely available, and priced cheaper in Black communities. Tobacco manufacturers have long deployed tactics that lure and entice young people with their menthol-flavored tobacco products, consequently contributing to a gateway for children to initiate cigarette smoking.

“For generations, tobacco companies have disproportionately targeted communities of color with advertisements of highly addictive menthol flavored tobacco products”, said NCL Executive Director, Sally Greenberg. The sales resulting from these predatory marketing practices have ravaged vulnerable communities, particularly African American youth. We applaud this Administration’s effort to protect consumers, particularly from the most marginalized areas of society, from the adverse effects of menthol-flavored tobacco products.

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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 consumer organization throwing support behind three major labor rights bills in Congress

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, founded in 1899 to advance the needs of consumers and workers, is backing three important federal bills aiming to even the playing field between workers and employers. The three pieces of legislation—the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act—would strengthen labor laws and give workers greater opportunities to organize and form unions, protecting the most vulnerable in our labor force.

“Decades of industry lobbying have made it increasingly difficult for workers to organize,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Employers enjoy unprecedented and unfair advantages during union organizing drives, which has led to far fewer opportunities for workers to make their voices heard in the workplace. NCL is pleased to support several legislative initiatives that would help right the course for America’s workers.”

According to a recent Gallup Poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans approve of unions—a number trending upwards up from about half in 2009.

“Consumers are recognizing that they are harmed when workers do not have a strong voice,” said Greenberg. “Industry abuses are more likely to go unchecked, resulting in unsafe and dangerous products making it to the marketplace. And when workers are fairly compensated on the job, they can afford to buy the products they create, stimulating further demand that benefits the economy.”

About the bills

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) would enhance collective bargaining rights, impose penalties on employers if they retaliate against workers who are trying to organize, and update labor laws to protect workers. The bill passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support this spring on a 225-206 vote. The bill currently awaits action in the Senate. Of 50 Democratic and independent Senators, 45 are currently committed to supporting the bill. If the Senate passes the bill, President Biden has pledged to sign it.

NCL strongly supports the PRO ACT and urges the Senate to swiftly pass this important measure.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) passed the House October 30, 2019, and was the product of bipartisan negotiations between leading Democrats and Republicans to modernize laws and treat with dignity and fairness our 2.4 million farmworkers, half of whom are undocumented immigrants. On March 18, 2021, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1603, passed the House again by a bipartisan vote of 247-174, with 30 Republicans joining Democrats in support. H.R. 1603, like the earlier version of the legislation.

“America’s farms and food systems depend on immigrants who pick our crops. But because so many don’t have legal status, they live in fear of deportation and cannot challenge illegal or unfair treatment in their jobs or in their communities,” said Greenberg. “FWMA provides a path to lawful permanent residency for these workers. Under the bill’s provisions, farmworkers would be able to improve their wages and working conditions and seek enforcement when their rights are violated. It also makes America more food-secure by ensuring that farmers have workers to harvest their perishable crops.”

The FMWA is a pro-consumer, pro-worker, and pro-agriculture bill that NCL strongly supports. NCL urges the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (PSFNA, HR 3463 and S 1970), would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that all states would have to provide to state and local workers.

There are nearly 17.3 million public sector workers across the country. Unlike private-sector workers, there is no federal law protecting the freedom of public sector workers to join a union and collectively bargain for fair wages, benefits, and improved working conditions.

Currently, 20 states do not provide all state and local public sector workers the ability to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits.

Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement that public sector employers recognize labor unions chosen by a majority of the employees voting, and that they bargain with the labor organization over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. If states fail to meet these standards, the bill gives the federal government the authority to intervene on behalf of public-service workers, ensuring their rights to form a union and negotiate with their employer.

NCL strongly supports the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and urges swift Congressional action in both the House and the Senate so that President Biden can sign the bill into law.

“America would be unrecognizable without the gains made by working families and unions,” said Greenberg. “The movement needs an even playing field to do its job. These three bills are a good start, and NCL is proud to support each of them.”

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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.

Consumer group urges FDA and CDC to remain vigilant in enforcing hand sanitizer standards

April 27, 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—This week, the National Consumers League (NCL) wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urging them to remain vigilant on the enforcement of proper manufacturing and distribution of hand sanitizers as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the initial surge in demand for hand sanitizers, the federal government relaxed certain regulations in order to get over-the-counter products into consumers’ hands. The combination of a need for an immediate ramp-up of hand sanitizer distribution and reduced oversight led to a concerning trend of what NCL believes is a case of mislabeling — and unfortunately misleading — information regarding hand hygiene products.

While local and small businesses stepping up to produce products for their communities is admirable, hastily manufactured hand sanitizer operations have resulted in lower efficacy rates, with even some reports of products being made with dangerous ingredients. As a result, the FDA has currently identified 230 hand sanitizer products marketed in 2020 as unsafe or ineffective.

NCL commends the FDA and the CDC for their ongoing efforts to keep the American people safe. But the fight against this virus is far from over, and under-regulated hand sanitizer production and distribution will only prolong this public health crisis.

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

“For more than a century, the National Consumers League has fought for access to quality products, honest labeling, and safe, effective medicines for American consumers and workers. And leaving this growing issue alone would be a disservice to the many people NCL has worked so hard to protect.”

NCL urges the FDA and the CDC to enforce the law and hold accountable those businesses engaged in the production and distribution of poorly manufactured and dangerous hand sanitizer products.

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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 supports permanently lifting restrictions on access to mifepristone

April 26, 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) applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for moving to increase access to the abortion pill, mifepristone. As of April 12, the FDA will temporarily allow mifepristone to be dispensed by mail for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Patients are now able to obtain a safe and effective abortion pill through a telemedicine consult, without risking exposure to COVID-19 with an in-person visit.

Though mifepristone has been used in the United States for more than 20 years to safely and effectively end early pregnancies and treat early miscarriage, the FDA has placed particular restrictions on mifepristone when it’s used for pregnancy termination. Unlike other medications, patients can only obtain the abortion pill directly from a certified medical provider who has a prescriber agreement with the drug manufacturer.

In the early months of the pandemic, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other provider groups filed a lawsuit that challenged these restrictions and subsequently won the suit to temporarily lift the restrictions to abortion care during the pandemic.

“This was a win for women’s health, but more importantly for women who live in rural and medically underserved communities who rely on telemedicine for their health care,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

The win, however, was short-lived. In January 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an appeal by the Trump Administration that put an end to the temporary lift, effectively restricting patient access to medication abortion care.

On April 11, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, sent a letter to ACOG and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), stating that the FDA reviewed recent evidence and found that using telemedicine to provide abortion pills would not increase risks and would help patients avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.

“While we welcome this temporary change, we urge the FDA to continue to review the evidence and scientific data and permanently lift unnecessary restrictions beyond the public health emergency. If it’s safe enough to prescribe through telemedicine during COVID, then it is clearly safe enough to use beyond COVID,” said Greenberg. “We hope the FDA will consider the vast health and socioeconomic benefits that increased access to medically safe abortion via telemedicine would pose for women who rely on this essential reproductive service.”

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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 testimony at CDC emergency meeting on J&J vaccine safety

April 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—Today the National Consumers League (NCL) testified before the emergency meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to discuss updates on the recommendations to pause the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The full testimony appears below:

José R. Romero, MD, FAAP, Chair
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Mailstop A27
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

RE: Docket No. CDC-2021-0044; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

For over 120 years, the National Consumers League (NCL) has championed vaccine education and access for consumers to these lifesaving medical interventions. We extend our gratitude to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the opportunity to serve as a voice for consumers.

NCL commends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their concerted efforts to promptly address the recent adverse events observed by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The decision for a momentary pause in the distribution of the vaccine enacted out of “an abundance of caution” illustrates how swiftly the agencies acted on vaccine surveillance data.

Consumers should be comforted to know that the vaccine safety monitoring system in place to protect them is working effectively, and further encourages transparency, following the reports of severe cases of a rare form of blood clots observed in young women. The pause allowed the agencies to gather and review additional evidence to ensure the safety of the American people.

Over 560,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19. The risk Americans face for dying from COVID-19 is one in 600 persons. While the risk of dying from COVID clearly outweighs the risk of forming blood clots from the vaccine, we commend the efforts of public health officials to evaluate the specific effects of the vaccine on women, to help ensure further safety and efficacy.

Due to its ease of transport and one-shot delivery, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is the most accessible and convenient vaccine presently available. The vaccine has been administered to over 7 million Americans, with overwhelming success. Further delay of administering this vaccine only delays our ability to end the pandemic that much sooner.

The reports of adverse events experienced by patients who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are concerning and we appreciate the transparency afforded to the public during this time to identify and resolve the situation. NCL has long advocated for vaccine safety and for consumers to feel confident that they are safe, especially in the midst of a mass vaccination campaign.

In closing, we encourage the CDC to maintain effective public messaging to instill vaccine confidence. Consumers should rest assured that vaccines are effective measures to protect public health and vital to national efforts in ending the pandemic.

Thank you for your consideration of our views on this important public health issue.

Sincerely,

Jeanette Contreras, MPP
Director of Health Policy
National Consumers League

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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 calls on Congress to protect consumers in wake of Supreme Court ruling in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC

April 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) is deeply disappointed with today’s Supreme Court ruling in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission. For decades, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has relied on section 13(b) of the FTC Act to seek restitution for victims of fraud. The court’s decision in this case undermines that authority, making it significantly more difficult for the Commission to provide relief to consumers who are defrauded by scam artists and companies engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices.

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

The Court today put the interests of a convicted scammer above the needs of fraud victims. We are incredibly disheartened at the decision to deprive the FTC of one of its most effective tools for clawing back criminals’ ill-gotten gains. This decision will embolden the criminals who annually defraud millions of consumers, costing them billions of dollars and untold emotional damage. We hear practically every day from victims of scams whose financial lives have been ruined by scammers. Consumer need and deserve a consumer protection agency empowered to make them whole. Congress should urgently pass legislation restoring the FTC’s 13(b) authority to obtain compensation on behalf of fraud victims.

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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.

Consumer group calls on Peloton to recall treadmills

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 is advising consumers to stop using Peloton treadmills and is calling on Peloton to immediately recall its Peloton Tread+ treadmill exercise machine. According to recent reports, the product poses a danger to children and pets — including a child death — in what has been described by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as a “different hazard pattern than is typically seen.” The CPSC learned that there were dozens of such incidents and issued a safety warning over this past weekend, saying it “found that the public health and safety requires this notice to warn the public quickly of the hazard.” The CPSC also took the unusual step of issuing an administrative subpoena to require Peloton to disclose the name of the child who died.

“This pattern of injury and death is not acceptable, and it is wrong for Peloton to blame user error,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The CPSC shouldn’t have to subpoena a company for information about a child who died using its product. The company should be working closely with the federal safety agency with jurisdiction over these products. Dozens of children getting dragged under a Peloton Treadmill and sustaining grave injuries or death requires immediate action by the company. Peloton should recall these Treadmills at no cost to customers and either redesign them to prevent hazards or stop selling the product altogether.”

Peloton is a $34 billion company predicted to double in value by 2024.

“The CPSC and the company must work together to expedite a recall and get these products out of people’s homes. These injuries are certainly foreseeable, and we thank Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), both of whom chair consumer subcommittees in Congress,” said Greenberg. “We agree with Senator Blumenthal, who called on Peloton to ‘immediately cooperate with the CPSC to recall its dangerous and deadly treadmill. Amid dozens of incidents of hurt kids and pets — with broken limbs, brain injuries, and death after being pulled underneath the machine — it’s clear that the Peloton Tread+ must be recalled.’”

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Schakowsky asked the CPSC to investigate earlier in April, noting: “With families spending more time at home and together, home exercise equipment dangers are especially worrisome, and any potential risks to consumers and their families must be carefully scrutinized. The CPSC must be able to act nimbly in identifying and responding to emerging hazards. In addition to the absence of publicly available information about the child fatality, other publicly reported incidents involving the same treadmill model suggest potential obstacles preventing the Commission from taking swift action to protect the public.”

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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.