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Archive for the ‘Consumer Protection’ Category

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, joined Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez this morning to talk about our new report that shows the pharmaceutical industry has overtaken the defense industry in the amount of fines paid for violating the Fair Claims Act.

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Weissman

With the year coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how things are going. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done together. We won some hugely important victories and built an increasingly powerful movement to take on corporate power.

I’ll be reviewing our achievements—and addressing the just-announced deal to give massive tax cuts to the nation’s richest people—in subsequent messages.

For now, I want to offer a snapshot of corporate power in Washington. It’s not a pretty picture.

Corporate crime and wrongdoing is an everyday fact of life in the United States and around the world. Still, the past year has been remarkable for a series of (more…)

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Corporate America is raking in higher profits than ever before.

On Capitol Hill, lobbyists are calling for cuts to line the pockets of the super-rich while gouging holes in the safety net for those hit hardest by the Great Recession.

And in January, a new Congress will arrive — a Congress stacked with members whose campaigns reaped the benefits of the limitless corporate money unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s time for We, the People to take a stand.

Join us next month in demonstrations against Corporate America on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. To stay in the loop on planning and preparations, sign up at www.citizen.org/i-will-stand-up-to-corporate-america.
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Barring any additional delays, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will vote tomorrow on the final rule for the much-anticipated product incident database. It couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate or symbolic time – a day before the start of the holiday (toy!) season – because it will be the last shopping season that consumers will lack a powerful consumer protection tool, the online product incident database.

The Commission’s vote to approve the database rule should have occurred last week, but it was delayed at the request of Commissioner Anne Northrup, who, along with Commissioner Nancy Nord, opposes it. These product incident database opponents offered an alternative proposal – one that seemed to be more of a tool to protect businesses, rather than consumers.

If all goes well tomorrow (notwithstanding the expected opposition), the database will launch in March 2011, ushering in a new era for consumer empowerment and improved product safety.

The database is expected to significantly lessen the amount of time dangerous products remain on store shelves. So by the time next year’s holiday shopping season comes around, shoppers will be able to search the database to determine whether products they hope to buy were reported as potentially harmful, and share their experiences with others as well.

Recent actions by Congress and federal regulators have led to improved product safety, but product recalls and reported injuries still remain high. The CPSC said last week that toy-related injuries are increasing (pdf).  And Illinois’ attorney general released a long list of recently recalled toys and other children’s products to alert buyers of their potential to harm. I’ll surmise that if consumers could have shared and researched these incidents themselves through a vigorous online database, a number of unnecessary injuries would have been avoided.

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The announcement by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that propoxyphene-containing products are finally going to be taken off the market – because of dangers previously known and acted upon, with bans announced in the UK almost six years ago, and in Europe, almost 1½ years ago – is a serious indictment of the FDA’s long-lasting unwillingness to protect people in this country from a deadly but barely effective painkiller. In announcing the ban in 2005, the UK stated that the efficacy of propoxyphene (sold generically and under the brand name Darvon) “is poorly established and the risk of toxicity in overdose, both accidental and deliberate, is unacceptable” and that “[I]n relation to safety, there is evidence that fatal toxicity may occur with a small multiple of the normal therapeutic dose and a proportion of fatalities are caused by inadvertent overdose.” The FDA’s claim that this is the first evidence that the drug is dangerous at the “standard therapeutic dose” thus rings dangerously hollow.

The FDA’s deadly delay in this case starkly illustrates how one of the most important public health concepts, the precautionary principle, was embraced by the UK and Europe, but was for too long recklessly rejected by the FDA.  (more…)

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For too long, some manufacturers have tried to keep information about their defective products under wraps and away from consumers, unnecessarily increasing the risk associated with, and number of injuries and deaths caused by, these products. Wednesday could mark the beginning of the end of that practice and the start of a new chapter in product safety.

That’s when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will issue its final rule on the building and maintenance of an online, searchable incident database – a critical piece of the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Expected to be launched in March, the database promises to hand over tremendous purchasing and reporting control to consumers. While consumers have long been able to report product incidents to the commission, with the online database, they can publicly submit reports (more…)

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Today, Public Citizen joined with other consumer advocacy groups in a letter to the debt commission (PDF) condemning a dangerous proposal by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to use “comprehensive medical malpractice liability reform to cap non-economic and punitive damages and make other changes in tort law” as a way to reduce the national debt and urging the body to remove it from its final report.

Patients’ legal rights continue to be a scapegoat in the public debate on solutions to the country’s skyrocketing health care costs.  However, the proof is in the pudding. When Public Citizen examined Texas’ experience with strict liability limits (PDF) since their adoption in 2003, we found that injured patients in Texas lost their access to the courts but the restrictions did not translate into health or cost benefits. Instead, the opposite has occurred. In Texas: the uninsured rate has increased, remaining the highest in the country; health insurance cost has more than doubled; spending increases for diagnostic testing (measured by per-patient Medicare reimbursements) have far exceeded the national average; and the cost of diagnostic testing in Texas (measured by per-patient Medicare reimbursements) has grown 50 percent faster than the national average.

Clearly, tort reform will not cut the fat.

To blame high costs on medical malpractice litigation is to ignore the facts. In 2008, the cost of medical malpractice liability fell to less than 0.6 percent of the $2.1 trillion in total nation health care costs as measured in 2006. In fact, there are nearly 10 times as many injuries caused by medical negligence (PDF) as there are malpractice claims. (more…)

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The U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn’t had the best year when it comes to looking out for the rights of average citizens, heard arguments this morning in another case that has huge implications for everyone reading this post. The case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, puts the rights of consumers to band together in class-action lawsuits at risk. If the court rules in favor of AT&T, corporations could put clauses in their consumer contracts prohibiting class-actions. David Lazarus wrote about the potential fallout in a recent L.A. Times column:

Consumer advocates say that without the threat of class-action lawsuits, many businesses would be free to engage in unfair or deceptive practices. Few people would litigate on their own to resolve a case involving, say, a hundred bucks.

“The marketplace is fairer for consumers and workers because there’s a deterrent out there,” said Deepak Gupta, an attorney for the advocacy group Public Citizen who will argue on consumers’ behalf before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“Companies are afraid of class actions,” he said. “This helps keep them honest.”

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Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in AT&T v. Concepcion, a significant case that will decide whether corporations can use the fine print of their contracts to ban consumers and employees from participating in class actions. Public Citizen’s Deepak Gupta is lead counsel for the respondents in the case.

David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times discussed the case in a column today. The Huffington Post saw fit to highlight Lazarus’ article, posting it as its lead central story for a time on its web site. The story has garnered over 4,000 comments from readers, mostly critical of business’ effort to take away ordinary citizens’ legal rights.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund points out on its web site that the outcome of AT&T v. Concepcion could have severe implications on civil rights litigation. Class action lawsuits, such as Brown v. Board of Education, made “significant progress toward the Constitutional aspiration of a “more perfect Union,”” the NAACPLDF says on it web site.

Consumer Action, a national nonprofit organization that provides consumer advocacy and education, released a statement today on the case. “Class actions are a critical tool for consumers to pursue justice against giant corporations like AT&T,” says National Priorities Director Linda Sherry.

Both the NAACPLDF and Consumer Action submitted amicus briefs in favor of the consumers in Concepcion.

Christine Hines is the consumer and civil justice counsel for Public Citizen.

Cross-posted from FairArbitrationNow.org

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