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Archive for the ‘Consumer Protection’ Category

Look, if you thought making the world a better place was going to be easy, you got a rude wake-up call Wednesday morning. Now, you can either whine or you can roll up your sleeves and join the fight. Michael Kieshnick, president of CREDO Mobile, has some suggestions in HuffPo on what you can do to help push back against the Tea Party and its handpicked members of Congress. Here are his top three  suggestions:

1. Commit to Taking Down FOX News. So long as FOX News has any credibility within the Beltway, it will be a pipeline for malicious material that will poison our political culture. Join our friends at Color of Change.

2.Tell the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act during the lame duck session. We were able to defeat the Texas Oil Initiative, Prop 23 in California, in part because we knew who the enemy was — having disclosure of corporate contributions brings the enemy out in the open for us to take on and fight. The DISCLOSE Act passed the House and came within a single vote of passing the Senate. One vote. You can join this fight by taking action with Public Citizen at http://citizen.org/disclose-act-action.

3. Keep fighting to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This issue will get resolved during the lame duck session. Take action here.

To see the rest of his top 10 list, click here. And we would add another to this list: Join Public Citizen and help us fight corporate power in Congress, in the courts and in the executive branch.  Join Public Citizen for as little as $20 a year.

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If you don’t know anything about AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, you should. The case, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9, has frightening implications for consumers.

Basically, the court will decide whether companies can deny consumers and employees the right to band together through class actions to fight fraud, discrimination and other illegal practices. AT&T argues that the courts must enforce the fine print of its contracts that ban class actions. Public Citizen attorney Deepak Gupta will argue before the court on behalf of consumers, claiming that the contracts are unconscionable and unenforceable.

When a large number of consumers have claims for small amounts, it is not feasible to pursue the claims without a class action. Concepcion is exactly that kind of case. The Concepcions allege that AT&T illegally charged them $30.11. Multiplied by the number of AT&T’s California customers alone, the allegations implicate ill-gotten gains in the millions of dollars. But if consumers can litigate the claims only one by one, no one will do so, and AT&T will keep the proceeds of its illegal activity.

In the video above, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman and Gupta give a telephone press briefing on the case.

If AT&T wins, not only will it be difficult for AT&T’s customers to hold that company accountable for its actions, but also for people with civil rights, labor, consumer and other kinds of claims that stem from corporate wrongdoing. Dozens of organizations, including leading civil rights and consumer groups, have filed briefs asking the court not to allow corporations to ban class actions. The briefs and other information about the case are available at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

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Is the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals going to take another look at Vernor v. Autodesk, the case in which software maker Autodesk says consumers don’t have the right to resell their software on secondary markets, such as eBay or even yard sales? Last month, a Ninth Circuit panel ruled against the consumer, Timothy Vernor.

Public Citizen, which represents Vernor, had argued that Vernor was protected by a century-old precedent that says consumers have the right to transfer or dispose of copyrighted products they have bought. However, the court ruled that Vernor had infringed on the company’s copyright and violated the terms of Autodesk’s “license agreement” with the original owner – the fine print that software users see upon installation and must click “accept” to gain access to the product.

If the court’s ruling stands, consumers face the risk of being slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit whenever they sell used software or video games at a garage sale, donate these items to a library or even loan them to friends. If book and music publishers were to use the same sort of licensing agreements, the same risk would extend to books and music CDs.

Public Citizen asked the full Ninth Circuit to rehear the case, and on Oct. 20, the court asked Autodesk to respond to Public Citizen’s request. The move signals the Ninth Circuit’s interest in reconsidering Vernor.

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The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is now on record saying he doesn’t read the fine print.

Much of that fine print is there just to take away consumer rights. If Supreme Court justices don’t even read it, one hopes they will limit the damage that corporations can do with it.

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The FDA has announced that it will revoke approval of a medical device for injured knees because, as Public Citizen testified in 2008, the Menaflex device made by New Jersey-based ReGen Biologics should never have been approved in the first place.

Public Citizen researchers told the FDA there was no scientific evidence to support the device’s approval. Subsequent events revealed how political pressure from some New Jersey members of Congress forced the device  through the FDA approval process. Dr. Jonas Hines, the Public Citizen researcher who appeared before the FDA, said that political shenanigans “cast a shadow on the ostensibly objective approval process.” The FDA’s decision to revoke the ReGen approval should be the agency’s first step in overhauling the medical device approval process.

“Although we are pleased that the FDA acknowledges its mistake in clearing the ReGen Menaflex, this decision is long overdue,” Jonas said. “We hope this represents the beginning of a new era in medical device approval, one in which the health of Americans supersedes any industry threat of the stifling effect on innovation of improvements in regulation.”

Gardiner Harris in the NYT writes that the FDA “had never before admitted that it approved a drug or device mistakenly, never rescinded such an approval without citing new information about the product, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.”

So is it a “new day” at the FDA? It might be a little premature to bust out the champagne, but following the decision earlier this month to pull the dangerous diet pill Meridia from the shelves, we will go so far to say that October has been a good month for patients.

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In case you missed it, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman was on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann Friday night to talk about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s all-out assault on our democracy. The chamber has pledged to spend $75 million this election to elect candidates — mostly Republicans — who will further its pro-business, anti-consumer agenda.

Olbermann: We’ve heard, today in fact, that taxes kill jobs. That regulations kill jobs and, yet, somehow in the Clinton presidency there was massive job growth. If the Chamber is not really fighting regulation because it’s a job killer —  that’s just a front for something else — what’s the something else?

Weissman: The hypocrisy of this claim is staggering. The reason we are  in the great recession right now is because we don’t have enough regulation. If we had had regulation on Wall Street we wouldn’t be in the boat we’re in now. If we had had regulation in the Gulf of Mexico we wouldn’t have had the BP disaster . . . Why does the Chamber oppose regulation? Do they really believe it’s about jobs? No, they believe it’s about the bottom line for the big, multi-national corporations they represent.

Check out the entire segment.

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If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their “competing” Washington D.C. rallies don’t have your attention by now, you  a) have just woken up from a 25-year coma b) live in a shack in Montana where you are working on your great anti-technology manifesto, or c) are among the 4 percent of the population who truly believes President Obama might actually have been born in the Alpha Centauri solar system.

When both Big Os — Oprah and Obama — endorse your Rally to Restore Sanity, you know you might be on to something. Since Sept. 16, when Stewart announced his Oct. 30 rally, along with Stephen Colbert’s satirical March to Keep Fear Alive, 180,000 people on Facebook have said they plan to attend the event, while another 100,000 have said they might.

Public Citizen plans to be there, and we’ve been encouraging people to submit ideas for signs that we’ll hand out at the rally on the National Mall. We plan to pick the slogan that we think best sums up the message we want to share with the throngs of people who will be packed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So far, more than 3,000 slogans have been entered in our “What Sign Should I Bring to Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ ” contest. Another 1,000 people have joined the accompanying Facebook page, and hundreds more are spreading the word on Twitter with the hashtag #signs4sanity.

Picking the best one is going to be difficult. We’ll be asking our Facebook fans to help, but in the end,  we may have to resort to the old picking a slogan out of a hat method. You can read the thousands of sign suggestions and enter your own at www.citizen.org/jon-stewart-sanity-rally-signs.

Generally, the sign suggestions fall into five categories: (more…)

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By David Arkush and Christine Hines

Jon Stewart, the popular host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and “America’s most trusted newsman,”  regularly imparts an astute critique of American political affairs and media.

The comic’s recent two-part exchange with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, for instance, elicited – in between the funny jabs – thoughtful, nuanced discussion on policy, politics, and the president. As Daily Show fans though, we cringed a little during his chat with O’Reilly when they briefly discussed so-called “tort reform,” the phrase used by the health industry and big business to advocate taking away your access to the courts

O’Reilly first broached the issue when Stewart was a guest on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. He complained that President Obama could have worked with Republicans during the health care reform debate by adding “tort reform” to the bill. Stewart shot back that the president said he was willing to compromise on the issue, a priority for Republicans, even though it wouldn’t save much in health care costs. In their second conversation, this time at the Daily Show. Stewart blasted the extent of corruption, in media and finances (financial services?), and then strangely expressed a willingness to offer “right wing tort reform,” as he called it. It wasn’t clear why he mentioned it. Perhaps to suggest he would bargain on the issue in exchange for measures that curb corruption.

We’re with him on the need to end corruption. Government and corporate accountability are at a serious low point; we’ve proposed (more…)

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Last week, the Food and Drug Administration took the inadequate measure of restricting the sale of the dangerous diabetes drug Avandia. Public Citizen has long been pushing the FDA to ban Avandia, much like its European counterparts recently did.

Now comes this troubling look at the extent to which GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Avandia, covered up the life-threatening side effects of its diabetes medication. Paul Thacker, who was the leading investigator for Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Finance Committee,  writes in Mother Jones what he learned during his three-year investigation:

During that time, my colleagues and I combed through over 250,000 pages of internal GSK documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses and whistleblowers. What emerged was a troubling picture of a company that had placed corporate profits over patient safety. While suppressing inconvenient evidence about the risks of its top-selling drug, the company even began to develop another drug to treat the very side effect Avandia has been linked to.

Yes, you read that right — Instead of recalling Avandia, which was linked to causing heart attacks in patients, GlaxoSmithKline decided the better thing to do was to develop another drug that could treat the condition caused by Avandia.

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Flickr photo by isafmedia

A daily look at news from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal that caught our eye:

Elections and Campaign Finance
  • Tight Campaign Budgets May Hinder G.O.P (NYT)
Health
  • U.S. Joins Pfizer Suit Over Drug’s Marketing (NYT)
  • Warning labels on cellphones proposed (WP)
  • Itching for a bite of bedbug trade (WSJ)
  • Rate increases denied to some private Medicare plans (WSJ)
Financial Reform
  • Fed sets stage for action, waits to take it (WP)
  • Summers to step down (WSJ)
  • Obama, Warren and the imperial presidency (WSJ opinion)
  • A settlement for Lehman and SocGen (WSJ)
  • CFTC says new rules will get vote next week (WSJ)
Workplace Safety
  • Report Blasts OSHA Efforts to Protect Whistleblowers (WP)
  • Merit Systems Protection Board Weighs National Security Powers Against Employee Rights (WP)
Ethics
  • Bell tolls for officials in California pay scandal (WSJ)
Energy and Enviroment
  • Kerr-McGee loses royalties ruling (WSJ)
  • Solar-subsidy spat flares between companies (WSJ)

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