Latest in Consumer News

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Wireless carriers are victims of phone cramming too, they just make billions of dollars instead of losing it

A new report and hearing on the subject by the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation revealed that third-party billing on wireless phone bills has evolved into a billion-dollar industry for carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. Most wireless carriers were aware of the growing cramming problem at least six years ago, but continued to retain lax oversight and self-regulation policies leaving ample opportunity for scammers to strike. Just this week, the FTC announced a series of recommendations that could slow, or even cease, the practices of cramming and direct carrier billing.

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BofA ordered to pay $1.3 billion over Countrywide lending program

A New York judge ordered Bank of America to pay nearly $1.3 billion in penalties in a civil fraud case involving a mortgage program that Countrywide had nicknamed “the hustle,” which fast-tracked the processing of mortgage applications. After a monthlong trial, a jury decided last fall that BofA and Countrywide were liable for selling thousands of bad loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The lending program fast-tracked mortgage applications from August 2007 through May 2008. Shortly thereafter, Bank of America bought Countrywide, the nation’s largest home lender at the time.

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GI Bill loophole keeps 4 major for-profit educators from violating law

Senate investigators found eight of the top 10 recipients of GI Bill funds were for-profit colleges. In addition, the report said, “the amount of taxpayer dollars paying for veterans to attend for-profit colleges meanwhile has skyrocketed from $640 million in the 2009-10 school year to $1.7 billion last year.” The University of Phoenix’s San Diego campus has received more GI Bill money than any brick-and-mortar campus in America. The school’s overall graduation rate is less than 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

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PG&E accused of obstructing justice in San Bruno blast probe

A federal grand jury indicted PG&E Tuesday on a total of 28 counts stemming from the San Bruno natural-gas explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The utility could be punished by fines of as much as $1.3 billion, based on its profit associated with the alleged criminal conduct. That would be on top of $2.5 billion in possible penalties associated with state regulatory violations.

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Nation’s top 10 consumer complaints

Do-not-call violations and other telemarketing abuses were the fastest-growing complaints in 2013, according to the latest annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies conducted by Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. CFA and the NACPI surveyed general-purpose consumer protection agencies at the city, county and state level to indentify the top 10 types of complaints, the fastest-growing, and the worst (admittedly a judgment call), as well as consumer agencies’ biggest achievements and challenges.