Welcome to Consumers’ Notebook, where we feature news-you-can-use and other timely information to help you become a more informed consumer. Check back often to read the latest pieces in our Notebook.
Some Airlines Finally Offer Free ‘Kid-Friendly’ Seat Assignments
One of the biggest challenges when flying with children is trying to book adjacent seats. Some major U.S. airlines have finally promised to guarantee family seating—if possible—at no additional cost.
Check Washing Makes a Comeback; Here’s How to Protect Yourself
Check washing has been around for decades, but it’s made a comeback in the last few years, with victims reporting losses ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
Expert Advice: Seven Tips to Help You Be a Better Consumer
This is National Consumer Protection Week (March 5-11) and to celebrate Checkbook asked five experts to share some of their wisdom. Their advice will help you be a better consumer all year.
FTC Warns Eye Doctors to Provide Prescriptions for Free, as Required by Law
In late February, the FTC sent cease and desist letters to 24 eye care prescribers warning them that, based on customer complaints, they appear to have violated the Contact Lens Rule, and in some cases, the Eyeglass Rule.
Should You Give Up Your Privacy to Save on Auto Insurance?
Many auto insurers offer to reduce customers’ premiums by as much as 30 or 40 percent if they agree to allow companies to monitor how, when, and where they drive, with little oversight on how they can use the data.
FTC Charges GoodRx with Illegally Disclosing Customers’ Health Information
Millions of Americans have saved money on their prescription drugs by using coupons from GoodRx. But at what cost? Federal regulators have accused the discount drug and telehealth provider with violating federal law by “failing to notify consumers” about its “unauthorized disclosure” of their health information to other companies.
Proposed Rule Would Curb Excessive Credit Card Late Fees
On Feb. 1, the bureau proposed a rule that would cap ever-increasing credit card late fees at $8 and require financial institutions to justify future price hikes.
Report: Data Breach Notices Lack Key Details, Enable Identity Theft ‘Scamdemic’
There’s a good chance you received a data breach notice last year—possibly more than one. Unfortunately, last year only 34 percent of breach notices included details about what was obtained from attacks, the lowest number in five years.
Federal Regulators Cracking Down on Hidden Fees
Many companies use hidden fees to obtain bigger payments from customers without having to increase their advertised prices. These bait-and-switch schemes cost consumers “tens of billions of dollars each year,” make comparison shopping difficult, and “leave consumers feeling powerless and cheated,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Tax Season Is Officially Underway; Here’s What You Need to Know
Millions of Americans will be disappointed that they’ll get less money back than last year—or even owe money—as they prepare their federal tax returns for 2022.
Avoid Getting Stuck with a Flood-Damaged Used Car
Buy a used vehicle that’s been inundated by flood waters, and you’re going to have problems down the road—no matter how nice it looks.
Fraud Alert: Customer Service Imposter Scams
To gain your confidence, con artists lie about who they are. They impersonate IRS agents, debt collectors, bankers, Social Security Administration employees, and law enforcement. These days, they’re also finding it lucrative to pose as customer service agents.
Flight Delayed or Canceled? Luggage Lost? Know Your Rights
In the U.S., if your flight is delayed or canceled, or if your baggage gets lost or damaged, unfortunately airlines aren’t required to do much for you. But it’s important to know your rights—however limited—if an airline strands you, delays you for hours, or loses your stuff.
Are Your Kids’ Smart Toys Spying on Them?
Toys equipped with microphones, cameras, or sensors create all sorts of privacy and security issues.
Study Finds Some Recalled Toys Are Still Up for Sale
A recent study by U.S. PIRG found that, incredibly, some toys that had been recalled due to known safety defects are still being sold new online.
More Online Retailers Now Charge Return Fees
Better check the return policy before buying online. A growing number of retailers are charging shipping fees that they deduct from the amount they refund.
Student Loan Repayment Pause Extended Yet Again
After a federal appeals court halted a plan to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans, the Biden administration on Tuesday extended a payment pause until the end of June 2023.
Consumer Advocates Urge Supermarkets to Stop Digital Discount Discrimination
A coalition of national consumer groups recently sent a letter to the presidents of a dozen large supermarket chains, calling on them to “stop discriminating against senior citizens and low-income shoppers” who cannot take advantage of in-store digital-only discounts.
DOT Fines 6 Airlines and Orders Them to Refund $600 Million to Stranded Passengers
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has ordered six airlines to pay $600 million in refunds to passengers who had their flights canceled or significantly delayed during the pandemic. Only one of the six, Frontier, is a U.S. airline.
Can You Trust Online Reviews for Home Warranty Companies?
For decades Checkbook has urged against buying home warranty plans, which we see as terrible deals. Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, publisher of ConsumerWorld.org, found something curious when he looked into online reviews for American Home Shield.