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October 12, 2015

Kiss Your Written Warranty Goodbye

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

warrantyFor decades, federal law has required manufacturers that guarantee their products to include a written warranty on or in the box containing the product. Retailers have also had to make available a physical copy of all warranties for review by prospective purchasers right in the store.

That is all about to change because of a revision of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 that was just signed into the law on September 24. The amendment, called the E-Warranty Act of 2015 directs the Federal Trade Commission to revise its rules within one year to allow e-distribution of product warranties.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Manufacturers will now be allowed to merely include a link on or in their product packaging directing the purchaser to the warranty on its website. To accommodate those without Internet access, manufacturers must provide a telephone number or physical mailing address to contact the manufacturer to obtain a copy.

Similarly, retailers will no longer have to have physical copies of all warranties in a binder for customers to review before purchase, but can alternatively provide access to them electronically in the store.

Is this good for consumers? MrConsumer says absolutely not! Why should I as a purchaser have to jump through hoops just to get a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty for the product I just purchased? It should be there right in the box. Period. If they don’t provide you with a copy of the warranty in the box, aren’t you less likely to know you even have one and less likely to use it? And who do you think that is going to benefit?

This past June, Consumer World conducted a spot-check of 20 online stores which revealed that they failed to post the warranty electronically on their websites for four-out-of-five items checked. Under current FTC rules, online sellers either had to post the actual warranty on their website or tell customers how to obtain it. So while the idea of making warranties available electronically may be forward thinking, if stores or manufacturers don’t actually do it, thanks for nothing.

If there is any bright side to this new law, it is that the FTC can now fix an oversight in the recent review of its warranties rules, and require online sellers to post the actual product warranty for everything they sell (rather than be able to direct shoppers to the manufacturer).




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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.

*MOUSE PRINT:

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

Hotels.com 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, Hotels.com 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.

*MOUSE PRINT:



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?

350.




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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.

*MOUSE PRINT:

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:

*MOUSE PRINT:

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.

*MOUSE PRINT:

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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