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November 14, 2016

Is It a Story or Is It an Ad in the LA Times?

Filed under: Business — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Every week, MrConsumer searches through thousands of consumer stories trying to find the most interesting and useful ones to present to Consumer World readers.

In a Google news search last week, this story about store brands came up and I thought it might be a candidate as a “Consumer Quickie.”

Google story

Clicking through, here is the story that came up.

LA Times "story"

Use scrollbar above on right to view.

The L.A. Times story was actually kind of boring and was not put in Consumer World. But, upon closer inspection, another reason for rejecting it became apparent (yellow highlighting below added).

*MOUSE PRINT:

LA Times disclosures


This is not a real story but rather an advertisement made to look like a news story. It is called “native advertising.” Under the recently adopted Native Advertising Guidelines of the FTC, this content had to be clearly labeled as a “paid advertisement” or “sponsor paid content” or similar wording. Indeed, it is so marked but is it really conspicuous enough? The “story” is so designed to look exactly like an LA Times story that one has to wonder whether two small disclosures can overcome the overall impression created by the webpage.

And why is Google indexing advertising and listing it as a news story?

We raised this exact issue two years ago with the LA Times (see original story), which at the time said:

“…the advertisement in question is clearly labeled as such and the only path for readers to find that content was intended to be via an latimes.com panel that is also clearly labeled as advertising. However, your inquiry brought our attention to the fact that although this ad and others of the same ilk is not included in our News SiteMap and the page has “noindex nofollow”ť directives, there appears to be a technical glitch with Google News. We are working with Google to find out why the content is indexed incorrectly and have the issue fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have removed the advertisement from our site to eradicate potential for further confusion.” — V.P. Communications, Los Angeles Times

We did not recontact the LA Times, but clearly, two years later the problem still exists.




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September 5, 2016

“This is Not a Bill”

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Most people have no idea when their newspaper or magazine subscription is set to run out. So when you get a bill in the mail like this, it must be time to renew, right?

People around the country have been receiving bills like this:

Invoice frontClick to enlarge

Not so fast. The back of the invoice says the following.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“This is a magazine subscription offer, not a bill or invoice. You are under no obligation to either buy a magazine or renew at this time.”

And despite the appearance of this “bill,” the front bottom left hand corner says in small letters “RENEWAL OFFER – NOT A BILL.”

If it looks like a duck, it’s a duck, no matter what the fine print says. That’s the opinion of the Federal Trade Commission which recently filed a lawsuit against a web of companies for sending out these notices to subscribers of newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Seattle Times, The Denver Post, and over 350 others.

The notices claim that that the price is one of the lowest available rates and is authorized by the publisher. In fact, the FTC alleges the defendants do not have the publishers’ authorization and they charge up to 40 percent more than the newspapers typically charge. Purchasers often overpaid, got the wrong publication, and had difficulty getting refunds.

We say: go get’m!




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June 27, 2016

Ticketmaster Settlement Fine Print Trips Up Many

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

TicketmasterLast week, Ticketmaster began issuing $386 million in vouchers to some 50 million previous ticket buyers as part of a class action settlement. The company had allegedly failed to disclose all the details of the order processing and UPS fees they charged at Ticketmaster.com between 1999 and 2013.

Everyone who bought tickets during this period is being given a $2.25 credit per ticket (for up to 17 tickets) that can be used toward a future show. They are also being given a $5 UPS voucher for each time they used UPS for ticket delivery. The big thing that caught everyone’s attention, however, was receiving a voucher good for two free general admission tickets (up to 17 such vouchers) for certain Live Nation concert events “subject to availability.”

Beneficiaries of the settlement soon began complaining loudly that all the concerts that were being offered where they could redeem their vouchers for free tickets were sold out quickly. And the concerts being offered free were often second-rate, and with none available in 24 states.

How could this happen? Ticketmaster initially only made available $5 million worth of tickets available. Assuming each one had a normal selling price of a mere $25 (a very conservative price), that means only 200,000 tickets were available. And since each person could get a minimum of two free tickets, only 100,000 of the 50 million class members could be satisfied. Ticketmaster quickly added another $5 million worth of tickets to the pool (200,000 free tickets in our example), but those have been all but snapped already too. Now they are promising a new infusion of free tickets.

*MOUSE PRINT:

In fact, according to the actual settlement agreement, after the initial $5 million in free tickets, Ticketmaster only has to provide comparatively few tickets and only for the events of its own choosing.

Live Nation will arrange for at least 100 tickets at each event to be made available to the Class Members free of charge for at least 60% of the events that take place at Live Nation owned or operated amphitheaters.

There is overall only a $42 million minimum expenditure that Ticketmaster has to make during the years of the settlement, and if not enough vouchers are redeemed in any year, they have to pony up more free tickets to make up the difference.

From a practical standpoint, class members should not expect to receive any free tickets to shows, and no more than a couple of bucks off any ticket they actually purchase.




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May 23, 2016

Is LinkedIn Telling it Straight?

Filed under: Business,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

Last week, LinkedIn, a site where professionals network with each other, sent some users this less-than-urgent email:

LinkedIn email

However, at the same time, LinkedIn’s chief technology officer posted this more dire warning on the company’s official blog:

*MOUSE PRINT:

In 2012, LinkedIn was the victim of an unauthorized access and disclosure of some members’ passwords. At the time, our immediate response included a mandatory password reset for all accounts we believed were compromised as a result of the unauthorized disclosure. Additionally, we advised all members of LinkedIn to change their passwords as a matter of best practice.

Yesterday, we became aware of an additional set of data that had just been released that claims to be email and hashed password combinations of more than 100 million LinkedIn members from that same theft in 2012. We are taking immediate steps to invalidate the passwords of the accounts impacted, and we will contact those members to reset their passwords. We have no indication that this is as a result of a new security breach.

UPDATE: May 18, 5:30 p.m. PT

We’re moving swiftly to address the release of additional data from a 2012 breach, specifically:

We have begun to invalidate passwords for all accounts created prior to the 2012 breach​ that haven’t update​d​ their password since that breach. We will be letting individual members know​ ​if they need to reset their password.

So he’s saying that maybe over 100 million emails addresses and passwords (actually 117 million according to news reports) were stolen previously and are now for sale, and not just the 6.5 million originally believed.

It seems that their casual email to members seriously underplays the seriousness of the situation. And as we’ve said before, the worst mouse print is the disclosure that is not made.

UPDATE MAY 25:

LinkedIn just sent a “Notice of Data Breach” to registrants outlining in more detail what happened. (They must have read Mouse Print* this week. )




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March 28, 2016

“Use Only in the Case of an Apocalypse”

Filed under: Business,Computers,Humor,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Just in time for April Fool’s Day…

Amazon recently released a software gaming platform for developers called Lumberyard. Buried in its terms and conditions is this unexpected little ditty:

*MOUSE PRINT:

57.10 Acceptable Use; Safety-Critical Systems. Your use of the Lumberyard Materials must comply with the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization. [emphasis added]

So only if science fiction zombies come to life, then and only then, can this software be used to save lives.

The world can rest easy now. Thanks, Amazon.




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