The Best Consumer Self-Advocacy Tool You’ve Never Used – The New York Times

“Even semiprofessional consumers like me run into our share of problems. These are particularly irksome, since we should probably know better than to find ourselves on the wrong end of a busted product or poorly delivered service.So this week, I’m pleased to share with you the single best tool I’ve ever found for getting my money back or my money’s worth. In fact, it has never failed me.

It’s called the Executive Email Carpet Bomb (E.E.C.B. for short) — a well-written message to the right group of corporate executives, whose email addresses are often pretty easy to figure out. A group of renegades at a blog called Consumerist first published the concept 10 years ago this month.”

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The ‘Fix’ for Net Neutrality That Consumers Don’t Need – by Tim Wu – NYT

“In analyzing the attack on net neutrality, one looks in vain for the problem that needs to be fixed. Net neutrality refers to rules intended to ensure that broadband providers cannot block content or provide faster delivery to companies that pay more. The policy was put in place in the George W. Bush administration, where it enjoyed bipartisan support. In the years since, it has sheltered bloggers, nonprofit organizations like Wikipedia, smaller tech companies, TV and music streamers, and entrepreneurs from being throttled by providers like AT&T and Verizon that own the “pipes.” ”

Rule of thumb. If At&t and Comcast are for it, I’m against it. These jerks think customers are fleecing opportunities.

I recommend a video on youtube by John Oliver last year on this subject.

Here is a comment that I found helpful:

Jerry Xu

UK 1 day ago

Net neutrality is what encourages technological innovation and competition on the open internet.A s the article states, it means that the speed of internet that you pay for is the speed you get for all websites, all the time. How would anyone be opposed to that? Unfortunately, ISPs (internet service providers) such as your Verizons and your at&ts want to be able to get more money out of you and other online websites & companies by charging for the “fast lane” equivalent of internet connections, slowing down & throttling the connections of those who don’t pony up the money. The problem is that this so called “fast lane” of internet connections runs at literally the same speed as internet connections under the Net Neutrality laws. It’s not paying to run faster, it’s paying so you don’t get slowed down.

The point is, should Net Neutrality laws be abolished, ISPs like Comcast & Time Warner will be able to charge more monthly for internet services. So not only will consumer’s be charged the monthly/yearly fee for their internet, but they may be charged more for using certain online services like YouTube and Twitter. This is the internet equivalent of your electric company charging you extra for using it to power your desk fan. The company doesn’t have the right to charge you for what you use it for, only for the service itself. Furthermore, these ISPs most likely own TV & cable services & can dictate what competes & what doesn’t. Killing net neutrality kills the open internet.

Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back – The New York Times

“Mr. Cain said he never knew the lawsuit had been brought against him until the money was gone. Neither did other Baltimore residents who were among the hundreds of people sued by the collector, Midland Funding, a unit of the Encore Capital Group, in Maryland State Court. Some of them said they did not even owe any money, or their debt had long expired and was not legally collectible, according to a review of court records.In any case, the Encore subsidiary was not licensed to collect debt in Maryland.Yet when Mr. Cain brought a class action in 2013 against Midland Funding, the company successfully fought to have the lawsuit dismissed.If the plaintiffs wanted to try to recover their money, they would have to do so in private arbitration. And because class actions are banned in arbitration, Mr. Cain and the others would have to fight the unit of Encore — one of the largest debt buyers in the country with vast legal resources — one by one.”

Source: Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back – The New York Times

Is Money Corrupting Research? By LUIGI ZINGALES- The New York Times

“Chicago — THE integrity of research and expert opinions in Washington came into question last week, prompting the resignation of Robert Litan, an economist, from his position as a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.Senator Elizabeth Warren raised the issue of a conflict of interest in Mr. Litan’s testimony before a Senate committee examining a proposed Labor Department rule designed to protect consumers in their dealing with retirement-plan brokers.The testimony was based on a paper Mr. Litan had prepared for the Capital Group, a mutual fund company. Mr. Litan disclosed that the Capital Group, which has a stake in the debate, had funded his paper, but he did not disclose that it had also commissioned it. Mr. Litan concluded that the regulatory rule, while well intentioned, would be too costly. He resigned because he testified as a Brookings fellow, violating a recent Brookings rule change that would have prohibited that.”

Source: Is Money Corrupting Research? – The New York Times

Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued – The New York Times

“A vast majority of the more than 10 million Americans who have defaulted on or are behind on repaying their student loans could have benefited from income-driven repayment plans that are intended to ease pressure on distressed borrowers and keep them from defaulting on their federal loans.These plans can allow borrowers with low income or high debt — or both — to pay less each month, or even nothing, until their finances improve without being penalized or going into default. But many borrowers never even hear about these payment plans, thanks to poor customer service by the companies that are paid more than $600 million a year by the government to manage these accounts, process monthly payments and enroll distressed borrowers in alternative repayment plans.”

Source: Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued – The New York Times

Here is a comment from the Times which I suport:

Vanadias

Maine 52 minutes ago

“Student loan companies are not “failing” borrowers. They’re intentionally obfuscating, mismanaging information, or flat-out lying to borrowers in order to keep them trapped in debt bondage forever. Go ahead and look up the consumer reports of any major debt servicing company. They are filled with tales of grift and harassment; companies that just happen to “lose” huge amounts of money paid towards a principal or that conveniently forget about payment plans in which their borrower participates. In the meantime, these companies can sell massive debts to one another at pennies on the dollar, while charging interest rates that break the orbit of our now permanent zero interest rate policy.

We are way past the point of effete “oversight.” These deadbeat companies should be nationalized, their assets should be redistributed to the borrowers that they have defrauded, and their execs should stand trial. Or, we can wait for this problem to manifest itself, once again, in the streets. ”

Dewey, Cheatem & Howe Recent cases of disturbing business practices underscore the need for good regulation, which is at stake in next year’s election. nytimes.com|By Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman: “No doubt I, like anyone who points out ethical lapses on the part of some companies, will be accused of demonizing business. But I’m not claiming that all businesspeople are demons, just that some of them aren’t angels.

There are, it turns out, people in the corporate world who will do whatever it takes, including fraud that kills people, in order to make a buck. And we need effective regulation to police that kind of bad behavior, not least so that ethical businesspeople aren’t at a disadvantage when competing with less scrupulous types. But we knew that, right?”

Recent cases of disturbing business practices underscore the need for good regulation, which is at stake in next year’s election.
nytimes.com|By Paul Krugman

After Volkswagen Revelation, Auto Emissions Tests Come Under Global Scrutiny – The New York Times

“In the United States, as attorneys general across the country opened investigations, Dan Becker, director of the safe climate campaign at the Center for Auto Safety, said the country also needed to rethink how emissions were tested. Independent testing has shown a widening gap between results in laboratories and the real world, raising suspicion.“The automakers have proven that they’re not trustworthy,” Mr. Becker said. “The government has to overhaul the testing to make sure that independent parties ensure that the cars that are put on the road pollute less and are safe.” ”

Source: After Volkswagen Revelation, Auto Emissions Tests Come Under Global Scrutiny – The New York Times

Muffled in the Hamptons, Uber Makes Some Noise – The New York Times

“Understandably, Mr. Kopoulos is not thrilled that he pays annual fees of more than $4,000 to the town for his six cars and that Uber takes much of his summer business.

“They should have respect for the local drivers,” he said. “They tried to take over. They had 500 cars and no permits. I have a place where I park my cars. I have office space at 62 Newtown Lane. Uber doesn’t have any of that.” ”

via Muffled in the Hamptons, Uber Makes Some Noise – The New York Times.

Consumer alert. Avoid the Hamptons, unless you have your own private transportation.  The town is in a war with Uber and shut it down, because they didn’t get a cut of the action. Many of the cab companies are dumps famous for overcharging, and gypsy cabs are often pirates too. The Hamptons, a good place not to go.

Some cities and towns have allowed cab companies to overcharge, because they are taking huge fees to license the cab companies. They haven’t, at least in New Haven, ever bothered to get the system to work for the consumer. Some cities and towns probably deserve to be cut out of the loop, by the Uber solution. The huge fees municipalities charge cab companies and licensed operators are a hidden tax to the consumer.

On the other hand, the cities and towns have to maintain the roads and police so cabs can roll. Can cities and towns gently get a financial compromise from Uber, that doesn’t feel like a shakedown of both the company, and its happy riders? This debate and tug of war is interesting and worth watching.

There is a good consumer argument in my mind, that other, more general taxes and fees go to cover the cost of roads and police. In the US, we should, as environmentalists, want our taxes to encourage the use of public transportation. Cabs are probably better than everyone driving in their own cars everywhere, so we want to encourage their use, and make sure they are an excellent value. That is the Uber advantage apparently.