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March 23, 2015

Products Get Downsized in Canada Too

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

  MrConsumer was invited to Canada a couple of weeks ago to talk about product downsizing on CBC’s national consumer TV show called Marketplace. Surprisingly, or maybe not, many of the categories of products that have been downsized in the United States have also shrunk in Canada.

On to the products!

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn

Ultra Dawn is undergoing a size reduction right now in both Canada and the U.S., from 709 ml (24 oz.) to 638 ml (21.6 oz). Curiously, the old bottle claimed to clean 50% more greasy dishes than the non-concentrated Dawn, but the new bottle claims it can clean twice the number.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dawn 2X

There are no claims of “new improved formula” so one has to wonder how the cleaning efficiency magically improved so much. We asked P&G what their basis was for the new claim… and surprise, they didn’t respond.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Head and Shoulders

Head and Shoulders shampoo was also in the process of being downsized, with both these products on the shelf at the same time. The old and new bottles are identical, but with 20 ml less shampoo in the new one. This change is also going on right now in the U.S.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Frosted Flakes

Just as happened in the U.S. with various cereal brands, Kellogg’s applied the shrink ray to Frosted Flakes in Canada reducing packages from 445 grams to 425 grams.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ivory

The Ivory body wash used the old “new and improved” trick to draw your attention away from the net weight statement, showing a drop from 24 ounces to 21 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Huggies

And Huggies Pull-ups are now short two poops.

• • •

March 16, 2015

FTC Sues DirecTV Over Misleading Ads

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:44 am

 Last week, the FTC sued DirecTV for deceptive advertising practices for their digital satellite television services.

In particular, the FTC said that their advertising didn’t make clear a number of key facts:

1. That the low advertised rate, such as $19.99, only applied to the first year of service, and that rates in the second year were typically $25 to $45 higher per month.;

2. That the consumer had to agree to a two year contract, and if they cancelled, they would be charged a $20 cancellation fee for each month remaining on the contract;

3. That the consumer’s silence after three free months of premium TV channels such as HBO or Showtime would be construed as their acceptance of continuing to receive those channels at an average of $48 extra per month — in essence, a negative option plan.

Here is a sample ad from their website as of the day after the lawsuit was filed:

DirecTV adClick ad to see actual size

Even at full size, you might not be able to read the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Near the $19.99 price: with 24-mo agreement Select package plus add’l fees.

Under “view all packages”: All DirecTV offers require 24-month agreement. Requires enrollment in auto bill pay. Select package or above. Additional equipment required & advanced receiver fees apply. Minimum 2-room set up required for free Genie upgrade offer. Select through ultimate packages.

The offer details link discloses that up to a $480 early termination fee applies.

As we have explained many times, it is not enough for advertisers to disclose key facts somehow, somewhere. It has to be “clear and conspicuous” disclosure. In the words of the FTC complaint, the agency contends that “disclosures are inadequate in terms of their content, presentation, proximity, prominence or placement such that consumers are unlikely to see or understand such disclosures.”

The FTC’s lawsuit did not emphasize a key point that consumers complain about online — the total cost of the service. Even in the first year of the contract, it is nowhere near $19.99 a month because of a multitude of added required fees and charges not clearly specified in their ads.

• • •

March 9, 2015

McAfee’s Rebate with Built-in Costly Time Bomb

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:30 am

  Tiger Direct recently advertised an amazing giveaway: a PNY 128 gig USB 3.0 thumb drive and McAfee Multi Access free after rebate. A supposed $149 value for free!?

McAfee

How can they do this? The secret is in the rebate offer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

McAfee-2

You actually have to install the software and sign up with your credit card initially to automatically renew the service after the first year. You are not allowed to cancel the renewal until 10 months of service have elapsed.

Who is going to remember ten months from now to cancel this service?

Incidentally, the annual service sells for between $69.99 to $99.99.

• • •

February 23, 2015

Hey Costco, Where’s the Fine Print?

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

  It may sound odd for a consumer advocate to ask a company to provide more fine print, but that is exactly what MrConsumer had hoped Costco would do.

Costco has had Tempur-pedic memory foam mattresses on sale for the past several weeks, and seemingly only making them available on its website. It is hard enough making the right decision about a mattress when you can actually try out several in the store. Imagine trying to buy one online almost blindly. That’s why having detailed specifications can help the prospective buyer make a more informed decision.

On Costco’s website, there are four different models of Tempur-pedic mattresses ranging in price from $1399 to $1899. MrConsumer wondered what the difference was between them. So might any purchaser, right? So he clicked the “compare” button on each to create a handy chart to find out.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Costco Tempur-pedic

That was helpful, wasn’t it? Every column has the identical description. The product page for each does have more information, but is mostly marketing mumbo jumbo like “TEMPUR® support layer: A thick TEMPUR® support layer provides body aligning support,” and “millions of individually adjusting TEMPUR® cells that adapt and conform to your unique shape and body weight.” And descriptions similar if not identical to this appear for all the mattresses.

Memory foam mattress shoppers should be given easy access to details like the firmness, overall thickness, composition of each layer, and how thick and dense each one is. A memory foam mattress is not all memory foam. The bottom six or seven inches is often a high density foam that does not have the conforming qualities of memory foam. It is simply a base. That’s why knowing how thick the actual memory foam layers are is so important.

Costco has buried some of this information or just not provided it.

And wouldn’t it be nice if the product names could be referenced at the manufacturer’s website and at competitors’ stores. Just to try find the Tempur-Contour-Select at Tempurpedic.com, for example.

Incidentally, if you think that clicking the specifications tab will reveal everything you need to know, think again. All four beds just say this:

Tempur specs

So, Costco, if you are actually interested in selling mattresses, give us some real data to work with and not useless comparison charts.

• • •

February 16, 2015

Shussh, Don’t Say That in Front of the Kids Smart TV

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

Samsung Smart TV Smart TVs are getting smarter. And maybe too smart for our own good.

Originally, smart televisions had the ability to display Internet websites because you could switch to a crude built-in browser. Now they can make recommendations of what you might like to watch, and can even understand voice commands.

But, there is potentially a dark side to this technology. A look at Samsung’s privacy policy supplement for smart televisions contains some unexpected surprises.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition. [color emphasis added]

So if you enable voice commands, what you say is captured and is sent to a processing company on the Internet. Be sure not to discuss how you plan to cheat the IRS or commit murder when the TV is on, lest your plans become evidence that could be subpoenaed.

And if you’re watching some steamy pay-per-view movies, Samsung may be tracking your viewing based on what functions you have enabled on the TV.

*MOUSE PRINT:

…if you enable the collection of information about video streams viewed on your SmartTV, we may collect that information and additional information about the network, channels, and programs that you view through the SmartTV.

This data collection is supposedly only used to provide you with a better viewing experience, but who knows what really happens to all that data. And if you opt into “SyncPlus,” advertisers are told what you are watching so they can target ads and offers specifically to you.

So this is the future of television… the big screen that you’re watching is also watching (and listening) to you.

After last week’s brouhaha, Samsung clarified its Smart TV policy, saying:

If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.

Is that an improvement?

And now Samsung Smart TV owners are complaining that the company is inserting advertisements in the consumer’s own content or content they paid for.

• • •
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