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September 7, 2015

Where’s the Political Disclaimer?

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:31 am

  When we see political commercials, most of us are used to hearing or seeing a disclaimer at the end of the ad indicating who paid for the advertisement and the name of the candidate who approved the message and is responsible for its content.

So how is it that online at sites like Instagram, where candidates sometimes post these same ads, that the familiar disclaimers are often missing? See for example:

Who do you want negotiating for us? #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Click Video to Start and STOP it.

The answer can be found in the rules of the Federal Election Commission.


The law requires:

Title 11 – Federal Elections § 110.11 Communications; advertising; disclaimers (2 U.S.C 441d).

(a) Scope. The following communications must include disclaimers, as specified in this section:

(2) All public communications, as defined in 11 CFR 100.26, by any person that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.

However, the definition of “public communications” has an exception:

General public political advertising does not include Internet ads, except for communications placed for a fee on another person’s web site.

So, since Instagram for example does not charge people who post pictures and short videos on its website, any ads that appear there fall outside the requirement of having a disclaimer.


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August 31, 2015 Rewards Readers of Fine Print

Filed under: Humor,Internet,Sweepstakes — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:19 am

  In a twist, an Internet company is rewarding TV viewers who take the time to read the fine print in one of its commercials.

Last month, decided it has high time that TV viewers stopped fast forwarding their DVRs through their commercials. So it created a sweepstakes that required people to pause the recorded program so they could read the rules of the contest including how to enter.


The commercial only ran for a week. During that time, how many people do you think paused the commercial and actually entered the sweepstakes for a free trip?



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August 3, 2015

Muscling In on Your Pocketbook

Filed under: Health,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:24 am

  PRNewswire, a respected firm that companies hire to disseminate their press releases, published an unusual one last year with the headline: “ScamOrNotReviews Announces Muscle Xlerator Review for 2014.” The release purportedly was announcing the publication of test results by this consumer group of a pill to help build muscles.

The summary of the release reads as follows:

ScamOrNotReviews, a consumer advocacy group, has announced the release of their 2014 Muscle Xlerator review. The company examines claims made by product manufacturers to ensure their validity, and in the case of Muscle Xlerator, they have found that the manufacturer’s claims are accurate.

ScamOrNotReviews? A consumer advocacy group? Gee, MrConsumer never heard of them. Who are they?

The answer, according to a press release about a different product published the same day, is this:

ScamOrNotReviews is a consumer advocacy group with the goal of testing products for consumers, preventing companies from successfully misleading them with regard to products or services that may be offered. For several years, the review company has helped consumers sift through the many accurate and inaccurate claims made by companies in order to sell a product or service.

Wow, Consumer Reports has competition.


Googling ScamOrNotReviews did not turn up a functioning website for this consumer group, nor any of their reviews. Links in the press releases purportedly to the reviews themselves went to what looked like advertisements for the products. In the case of Muscle Xlerator, it showed a young woman speaking in a heavy Russian (?) accent saying that the product will help build muscle mass. And beneath the videos were links to the websites that sell these products.

The press releases came from a company called AfterHim Media, LLC, a web design and search engine optimization company. Who do they really represent here? The illusive consumer group or the sellers of these products?

As to the product itself, Muscle Xlerator, the website claims that these capsules will “build muscle mass and get ripped quickly.” They offer a $5.95 trial, but in virtually unreadable type in a footnote it says:


If you are satisfied, do nothing and you agree to be charged $89.95. Plus you agree to be enrolled in our Auto-Ship Membership Program and 45 days from your initial order date and every 30 days thereafter, you will be shipped a fresh supply of MuscleXLerator for $89.95, plus $5.95 shipping and handling.


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July 6, 2015

Sprint’s New Pitch: (Not Quite) All-In Pricing Plan

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

  Could it be that some of the top executives at the cell and cable companies have been reading our latest rants in Mouse Print* about deceptive low-ball pricing and unexpected additional charges and terms. Probably not. But, as if to say “we can hear you now,” Sprint started a big promotional campaign last week touting its new “all-in” pricing plan.

Sprint’s CEO put it this way:

“If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99-cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled. Yet, that’s what the industry has been doing with its wireless plans. Why can’t everyone just advertise the full price of both the plan and the smartphone – an All-In plan? That was the idea behind what we’ve created.”

As part of the campaign, Sprint produced this extended commercial that pokes fun at its competitors who double-talk customers about all the extra charges they impose.

Wow. One monthly price for service and the phone.

Not so fast.


Sprint $80 a month

The $80 price you see is not the price you pay. Taxes, surcharges [including USF charges of up to 17.40%(varies quarterly), up to $2.50 Admin. & 40¢ Reg. /line/mo. & fees by area (approx. 5-20%)], roaming fees are still extra, and there is a $36 activation fee. Although this screen doesn’t say it (a prior one does in small print), this is for the lease of a phone. So you don’t own the phone, and will have to pay $200 at the end of two years if you want to keep it.

And here’s a new one: apparently Sprint is capping/throttling the speed of streaming videos to just 600Kbps — more like the 3G speeds that it uses on its prepaid service for videos.

So much for advertising a price that is “all-in.” Thanks, Sprint.

UPDATE: This video streaming restriction caused outrage among Sprint users and watchers, and within 24 hours Sprint backtracked removing that throttling of video speeds.


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June 15, 2015

PayPal Gets Its Wrist Slapped by FCC for Violations

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

  In May, PayPal sent its customers an email notifying them of forthcoming changes to the PayPal User Agreement because eBay and PayPal are becoming separate companies.

One section of that revised agreement announces changes to how the company can contact you.

In short, it provides that you automatically give permission to PayPal to call or text you, via autodialed or prerecorded call, on any telephone number (cell or landline) you have given them or that they can find for you, for almost any purpose including to sell you stuff and to collect debts.


1.10 Calls to You; Mobile Telephone Numbers. You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained. We may place such calls or texts to (i) notify you regarding your account; (ii) troubleshoot problems with your account (iii) resolve a dispute; (iv) collect a debt; (v) poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, (vii) contact you with offers and promotions; or (viii) as otherwise necessary to service your account or enforce this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. The ways in which you provide us a telephone number include, but are not limited to, providing a telephone number at Account opening, adding a telephone number to your Account at a later time, providing it to one of our employees, or by contacting us from that phone number. If a telephone number provided to us is a mobile telephone number, you consent to receive SMS or text messages at that number. We won’t share your phone number with third parties for their purposes without your consent, but may share your phone numbers with our Affiliates or with our service providers, such as billing or collections companies, who we have contracted with to assist us in pursuing our rights or performing our obligations under this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. You agree these service providers may also contact you using autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages, as authorized by us to carry out the purposes we have identified above, and not for their own purposes. Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.

It also provides that if you don’t like it, you can cancel your account:



There is just one small problem with all of this. It is illegal. PayPal cannot just impose all these terms. With respect to robocalling, for example, they have to get your express written permission to allow it. They also have to tell you that you are not required to agree to these terms and they cannot deny you services or terminate your account if you opt-out. Oops.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is the much too polite letter that the FCC sent to PayPal last week:

Click top right corner to enlarge.

Because of the uproar created about the calling changes even before the FCC letter was sent to PayPal, the company posted a link in their blog to opt-out of being called. In relevant part, the post says this:

You can choose not to receive autodialed or prerecorded message calls by clicking here and contacting customer support.

MrConsumer clicked that link and only found the means to contact PayPal by phone or email message. There was no specific opt-out choice. So he filled out their form, using the closest relevant topic (changing/updating account information) and said that he wanted “to opt-out of all calls and texts from PayPal.”

What did he get back from them? An automated, non-responsive answer, that in essence says to write again. Great work, Paypal.

PayPal answer


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