Latest in Consumer News


Bill requiring public access to care facility inspection reports passes

SB 895 would mandate care facilities to fix within 10 days – unless otherwise directed – any deficiencies found during inspections. It’s part of a larger legislative package to force the Department of Social Services to revise several of its practices, prompted in part by the abandonment of 19 residents at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley in late October when the department abruptly shuttered the facility. SB 895 is the first of the package to see any major success. Last week, two of the package’s bills were killed in the state’s senate appropriations committee due to “fiscal reasons.”

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Flame retardant bill wins important industry support

Furniture makers switched sides on SB 1019 after state Sen. Mark Leno agreed to clarify the definition of flame retardants. It’s still bitterly opposed by the chemical industry, whose campaign against regulation and public disclosure of flame-retardant chemicals is reminiscent of Big Tobacco’s fight against government controls. “The fact is that flame retardants have not been found to improve fire safety in our furniture and SB 1019 would provide consumers with truth-in-labeling for the first time,” said Judy Levin, pollution prevention co-director at the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health.

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DOJ finally confirms record-setting $16.65B settlement with BofA

The settlement coming out of BofA’s involvement in the housing market’s collapse exceeds last year’s deal with JPMorgan Chase as the largest in U.S. history. Consumers will see $7 billion in relief, including principal reduction loan modifications; new loans to credit-worthy borrowers struggling to get a loan; assistance to communities recovering from the financial crisis; and financing for affordable rental housing. The settlement also required BofA to concede that it originated risky mortgage loans and made misrepresentations about the quality of those loans.

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Insurance companies give $45 million to fight Proposition 46

Opponents claim Prop 46’s protections for victims of medical negligence will raise malpractice insurance premiums and health care costs. “Preposterous,” said Jamie Court with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “When was the last time insurance companies spent $45 million to make sure their policyholders’ premiums didn’t rise?”

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NHTSA launches online search tool so consumers can find out for themselves if a vehicle has been recalled

A new online search tool from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aims to help consumers determine if their vehicles are among the more than 46 million recalled so far this year. Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, encourages consumers to use the tool before purchasing a vehicle, but she notes the system is only in English and only available online. It’s illegal to sell recalled products like microwaves and blenders, but there’s no similar law for recalled vehicles.