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T-Mobile Fined $48M for Pulling Wool Over Customers' Eyes
October 21, 2016
The United States Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday announced that T-Mobile has agreed to a penalty of $48 million for misleading customers about restrictions on its so-called unlimited data plans. The company failed to inform subscribers to unlimited plans on its wireless networks and those of MetroPCS, which it owns, that their data bandwidth would be throttled when they hit a preset ceiling.
FCC Slaps Comcast With $2.3M Overbilling Fine
October 13, 2016
The FCC on Tuesday announced that Comcast would pay a record $2.3 million fine to settle its investigation into whether the cable operator improperly charged customers for services and equipment they never approved, a practice known as "zero billing option." Federal law bans cable operators from charging customers for unauthorized equipment or services.
Incentives-Driven Disaster: Wells Fargo's Ethical Implosion
September 21, 2016
Anyone who works with sales people knows that their ultimate incentive is their commission check. Since the first time that "sales" was identified as a profession, we've been paying the people who sell based primarily on their results. This has worked well -- but things are starting to change. The drive for results at the expense of all other considerations is running smack dab into new realities.
Samsung Catches a Small Break in Midst of Note7 Battery Pummeling
September 13, 2016
Samsung stock recovered slightly on Tuesday from the nosedive it took Monday, after regulators urged consumers to turn in more than 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 smartphones. Shares closed 4.2 percent higher on Tuesday, erasing some of Monday's $14 billion loss in market value. The FAA's alert came in response to a small number of reports of the phone's lithium ion batteries catching fire.
CFPB Report: Consumers Have Bones to Pick With Banks
September 1, 2016
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday released its August complaint snapshot, which indicates that consumers across the country have been filing a large number of complaints about access to banking services. Further, many consumers complained that when they tried to open new accounts, they were ambushed with negative reports previously not provided to them.
Consumer Reports Urges Tesla to Pull Plug on Autopilot
July 15, 2016
Consumer Reports has urged Tesla to disable the automatic steering function and change the name of its Autopilot driving assist feature. Questions recently have arisen over whether Tesla's Model S vehicles can operate safely without regular human intervention. Consumer Reports' change request sprang from concerns over a number of recent test crashes, including a fatal accident in Florida.
Google Boots Ads for Predatory Payday Lenders
May 12, 2016
Google on Wednesday announced that it would ban advertising for payday loans in its ad systems. Starting July 13, the company will prohibit ads for payday loans and related products where funds are due within 60 days of the date of issue, as well as ads for loans with an APR of 36 percent, said David Graff, Google's director of global product policy.
Hospitalized Stossel Bemoans Sorry State of Healthcare Customer Service
April 22, 2016
Fox News journalist John Stossel, who recently underwent an operation for lung cancer, on Wednesday wrote that although New York-Presbyterian Hospital's medical care is excellent, "the hospital's customer service stinks." Doctors "keep me waiting for hours, and no one bothers to call or email to say 'I'm running late,'" Stossel said. He doubted all the tests he was given were needed.
Facebook Exec's Brazilian Misadventure Signals Bigger Problem
March 10, 2016
The jailing last week of Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzoda in Brazil may have been the tip of an iceberg. Frustrated police made the arrest after Facebook failed to produce WhatsApp messages connected to a drug trafficking case. The incident is one of a growing heap of examples that highlight the difficulties law enforcement agencies face when trying to collect digital evidence.
FCC Chief Proposes End of Set-Top Box Rule
January 28, 2016
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday announced that he'd shared with colleagues a long sought-after proposal to loosen the set-top box's grip on home entertainment. The proposal seeks to spur competition and consumer choice in an arena dominated by large cable and satellite television providers. Wheeler's proposal would provide a mechanism for creating new ways to access video content.
Bad Batteries May Cause Hoverboard Craze to Flame Out
December 14, 2015
Amazon has pulled some of this holiday season's most popular gifts from its website amid safety concerns, according to reports that surfaced Monday. It apparently stopped selling several brands of electric self-balancing scooters -- aka "hoverboards" -- including the Swagway. The move comes on the heels of last week's news that several airlines no longer would allow the devices on flights.
The Trouble With Hoverboards and Lithium-Ion Batteries
December 14, 2015
As I'm writing this, a few more hoverboards have caught fire, and they now are banned on most domestic airlines, suggesting that shipping these things fast could be a problem. Australia even has put out a specific warning on hoverboards. The biggest problem is that a lithium ion fire in a large battery pack like this could burn down your house, and that would be an ugly end to holiday festivities.
Report: Botnets Help Bump Cyberattack Attempts by 20 Percent
November 17, 2015
ThreatMetrix last week reported that it had detected and prevented more than 90 million attempted cyberattacks in real time across industries from July to September. The attempted attacks covered fraudulent online payments, logins and new account registrations, and represented a 20 percent increase over the previous quarter, according to ThreatMetrix Cybercrime Report: Q3 2015.
Citibank Dinged $700M for Scamming Credit Card Customers
July 27, 2015
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week ordered Citibank and its subsidiaries to pay about $700 million in relief to eligible consumers and a $35 million civil penalty for, in essence, scamming consumers into paying for unwanted credit card add-on products and services. This is the 10th action the bureau has undertaken against banks for deceiving consumers.
CFPB: Mortgage Servicers Still Rooking Consumers
June 29, 2015
Mortgage servicers got a bad name during the subprime mortgage crisis, but despite that reputation damage, and despite new laws designed to get them on the straight and narrow, they're still up to their tricks, the CFPB has found. Between January and April, many servicers violated Regulation X, which spells out requirements for soliciting, completing and evaluating loss mitigation applications.
Supreme Court to Hear 'Non-Injury' Privacy Class Action
May 6, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court last month granted a request from Spokeo, a data aggregator, to consider whether the legal basis litigants must meet to file a claim in federal court should be broadly or narrowly defined. In the case, Spokeo, Inc. v. Thomas Robins, Thomas Robins is a resident of Virginia acting individually and as representative of a class.
FTC Upgrades IT to Protect Consumer Privacy, Data Security
April 8, 2015
The FTC, which is at the forefront of regulating the impact of information technology on consumers, is bolstering its technical resource capabilities through a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation. The FTC is concerned about the failure of commercial entities to make adequate disclosures or to properly address data breaches and privacy issues.
Banks' Arbitration Clauses May Hurt Consumers: Report
March 16, 2015
Tens of millions of American consumers use consumer financial products or services governed by predispute arbitration clauses that may put them at an unfair disadvantage, suggests a CFPB report released last week. In some cases, the arbitration clauses are mandatory. Larger banks often include arbitration clauses in their consumer checking account and credit card contracts.
FTC Goes to Bat for Duped DirecTV Customers
March 16, 2015
The Federal Trade Commission last week charged DirecTV with deceptive advertising practices in a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. DirecTV, which has been in discussions over a potential merger with AT&T, currently has more than 20 million subscribers across the United States.
We Done Good, Consumer Protection Chief Tells Lawmakers
March 5, 2015
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made great strides in carrying out its mission, which is to ensure consumers are fairly treated in the financial marketplace, Director Richard Cordray said Tuesday at a House Financial Services hearing. The bureau's qualified mortgage rule put new measures in place to prevent the sloppy underwriting that led to the subprime mortgage problem.
FTC, Private Sector Lock Horns Over Consumer Data Protection
February 25, 2015
The major headline hacking event of 2014 involved data theft at a highly visible enterprise: Sony Pictures. Perhaps just as significant in e-commerce security was a 2014 federal court ruling which allows the FTC to continue penalizing commercial firms for failure to protect consumer data from hackers. That decision has been challenged, and in early March the FTC and its opponent will square off in court.
A Little Dab of Credit Card Data Can ID Customers
February 2, 2015
Credit card users may be dismayed by findings MIT Researchers reported last week in the journal Science: Just four pieces of vague non-identifying information were enough to identify 90 percent of people in a data set of 1.1 million credit card users. When the researchers went to work with three pieces of less vague information, they achieved 94 percent success.
CFPB Shifts Some Power to Mortgage Shoppers
January 13, 2015
The CFPB on Tuesday introduced Owning a Home, a set of online tools designed to make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for the best deal in mortgage financing. With one tool, users can plug in a credit score and ZIP code to get a sense of the current interest rates being offered within a particular area. There is also a guide that walks consumers through various loan options.
Data Breach Law Tops Obama Privacy Initiatives
January 12, 2015
A proposed national data breach reporting law, aimed primarily at protecting consumer privacy, headlined several initiatives the Obama administration announced Monday. The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act clarifies the obligations of companies when there's been a data breach. It includes a requirement to notify customers within 30 days of the discovery of a breach.
CFPB May Rein In Payday Lending
January 5, 2015
The CFPB reportedly is considering various approaches to reforming the payday loan industry. The bureau is concerned about the short-term, high-rate debt consumers take on. States typically have been responsible for regulating payday loan company practices. If the CFPB should take action, it would be the first time federal regulations were applied to this financial niche.
Feds Pounce on Sprint for Phone Bill Cramming
December 18, 2014
The United States government is delivering a one-two punch to Sprint over the practice of cramming -- allowing third parties to place unauthorized charges on customers' bills. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on Thursday filed a civil suit against Sprint over the issue. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission reportedly is planning to hit Sprint with a $105 million fine.
Iowa to Lead Digital Driver's License Movement
December 12, 2014
Iowa plans to issue digital drivers' licenses in the form of a smartphone app by next year, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, said earlier this week at a public state agency budget hearing. The digital license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops, as well as by security officers who screen travelers at Iowa's airports.
Snail Mail Surveillance: Rules Are Weak - and Routinely Broken
October 30, 2014
The U.S. Postal Service didn't adequately follow its own rules last year, when it secretly recorded and shared information about some 49,000 pieces of mail to further criminal and national security investigations, according to an audit report from the Office of Inspector General. Information recorded under the service's longstanding mail cover program is limited to what's written on the exterior.
AT&T: We Told Our Customers 'Unlimited' Doesn't Mean 'Unlimited'
October 29, 2014
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday filed a complaint in a California federal court against AT&T, seeking compensation for customers who were told they had unlimited data plans but in reality did not. The legal action stemmed from a practice AT&T began in 2011 of throttling data delivery to customers with unlimited data plans when their data usage reached a specified amount during a billing period.
California Lays Down the Kill-Switch Law
August 27, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a bill requiring that anti-theft measures be incorporated into all smartphones sold within California. It doesn't specify the particular technologies used to enable that capability, but it does require that the feature, also known as a "kill switch," give smartphone users the ability to remotely disable their devices in the event they're lost or stolen.
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What's your alarm level over cyberattacks on the Internet's infrastructure?
Red: A deadly cyberwar will occur -- It's when, not if.
Orange: A big one could be costly and threaten public safety.
Yellow: We need to improve cybersecurity at a faster pace.
Blue: Regional outages will become more frequent and more annoying.
Green: There's no way anyone could take out the entire Internet.