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September 26, 2016

Non-HP Ink Cartridges Suddenly Stop Working in Some HP Printers

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:10 am

Hewlett Packard inkjet printer users often buy generic printer cartridges to save money compared to the HP branded ones. Earlier this month however, those no-name cartridges mysteriously stopped working in some HP printers giving users error messages like this:

HP error

What’s going on? Users have said that they had made no changes to their computer or to the printer at the time the problem started.

*MOUSE PRINT:

HP update

According to published reports, a firmware update from March 2016 had a hidden time bomb set to disable non-HP cartridges being used starting on September 13!

When asked by a Dutch broadcaster why HP did this, the company said in a statement:

“This is to protect innovation and intellectual property, but also to improve the safety of products for customers.”

The changes are made according to HP, “to protect the printers and to protect the communication between the cartridge and the printer.”

“Affected printers will continue to work with refilled cartridges if they contain the original HP security chip. Other cartridges possibly don’t work”, HP added.

We all know the real answer is “money.”

The affected printers seem to be OfficeJet Pro models 8610, 8615, 8620, 8625, 8630, 8640, 8660 and others.

If you are facing this problem, experts say you can try to rollback the firmware to an earlier version (not easy) or wait for no-name cartridges to update their chips to work again. To prevent the problem from spreading to other HP printers, experts suggest that you turn off firmware updates.

UPDATE: A few days ago, an Alabama consumer filed a class action lawsuit against HP for planting a “ticking time bomb” and trying to monopolize the printer ink market. And a day later, HP relented. Come back on Monday for a full follow-up story of these late-breaking events.




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September 19, 2016

Fake News Websites with Fake Celebrity Endorsements Begin Scamming Again

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:32 am

They’re back! Websites that impersonate TV news stations, popular magazines, or entertainment sites that disappeared about five years ago after being sued by the FTC are making a comeback.

For example, some websites suggest that Joy Behar is leaving ABC’s “The View” to devote more time to a new skincare line of cosmetics.

Here is one of them that is dressed up to look like an entertainment news site:

Juvalux website

Use scrollbar above on right to view.

 
There are many celebrity and non-celebrity endorsements on the website as well, such as this one from Rosie O’Donnell.

Rosie and Joy

There is only one problem. Rosie knows nothing about it. From her blog:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Rosie's blog

And worse, Joy does not have a skincare line of products, as she explains in the video below. She also reassures the audience that she is not leaving the program.

*MOUSE PRINT:



The website with her purported line of cosmetics is completely fake. It is not an entertainment news site. And it’s only purpose is to sell Juvalux face cream.

How do we know it’s fake? Here is their legal disclaimer — one of the most outrageous we have ever seen — which says in part:

*MOUSE PRINT:

This website is not a source of facts or real information. All the content featured on our website is artificial and falls under the umbrella of fiction. …

EntertainmentToday.Co is a fabricated web publication, which uses real names in a fictitious way. All news articles contained within EntertainmentToday.Co are fictional and should be presumed as fake news. Any mention of celebrities and public figures are used to pepper our stories, grab your attention and sensationalize our content. They are entirely inaccurate and should not be believed as fact.

And it goes on and on.

Sites like this are reminiscent of the fake sites that were designed to look like a TV station’s website reporting exciting news about Dr. Oz endorsing acai berry supplements for weight loss. The FTC went after nearly a dozen of these sites in 2011 asking a judge to shut them down.

While the endorsements on the face cream site are fake, sales of Juvalux cream on it are real. They offer a “free sample” for which you only pay $4.95 for shipping. However, buried in the “terms and conditions” is this:

*MOUSE PRINT:

If you do not cancel within 14 Days of your intial [sic] trial purchase, we will charge the same card you provided the full product cost of $89.95 and enroll you in our auto ship program, which will ship you a fresh monthly supply of the product, and charge your card $94.90[emphasis added] (including S&H) every 30 days.

You have been warned.

Incidentally, it is not just wrinkle cream being promoted this way, but sites pretending to be CNN, TMZ, and Vogue, for example, are pitching weight loss pills too.




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September 12, 2016

Amazon’s Pooled Inventory Increases Chances for Fraud and Altered Seller Ratings

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

AmazonNot everything sold on Amazon comes from Amazon. It has “marketplace” sellers too. These are independent third party companies that contract with Amazon to include their offerings in Amazon’s product listings and pay them after they are sold. Some of the marketplace sellers will ship goods directly to shoppers from their own warehouse. Others will use a service provided by Amazon called “fulfillment by Amazon.” In those cases, the outside sellers send their inventory of the item to Amazon to be warehoused by the Internet giant. Amazon then apparently pools or commingles those goods, if the seller so chooses, with its own inventory of that item and with the same item sent in by other sellers too.

So, when you buy an item from Amazon, you may never know the actual source of it. Items with the same UPC code are generally warehoused together but may well have come from different places.

In an ideal world, this is would probably be considered good inventory management. In the real world which is inhabited by some number of crooks, this can be problematic.

Some categories of goods are more likely to be counterfeit (designer handbags) or be bogus (prepaid telephone cards), for example. When these items are stored in a pooled inventory, you the consumer have no way of knowing who actually provided that item to Amazon.

Now how is this a problem for shoppers? If you wind up with worthless goods, as our reader David B. did, you may have a fight on your hands with the marketplace seller who claims to only sell legitimate goods or with Amazon itself. And the problem may also manifest itself in a different way for shoppers.

Here is the rating of one marketplace seller on Amazon (Note: this seller is being used as an example and is not to suggest that this company did anything wrong. It may in fact be a victim.):

marketplace seller

With a 100% rating and a good number of reviews, as a shopper you would feel confident in doing business with this marketplace seller. However, if you look at the actual reviews, a different picture is painted.

*MOUSE PRINT:

reviews

There are actually 15 one-star reviews for this seller alleging the receipt of prepaid cards with invalid PINs, broken or missing contents inside the box, etc. Those 15 one-star complaints out of a total of 49 reviews for this seller amount to just over 30%. Yet, Amazon says there are only 34 ratings, thus giving this seller five stars with a 100% rating. What’s going on here?

Each of the one star reviews is crossed out with a notation from Amazon:

Message from Amazon: This item was fulfilled by Amazon, and we take responsibility for this fulfillment experience.

Apparently all the items that this seller was down-rated for came from Amazon’s pooled inventory of goods since the company used “fulfilled by Amazon” to ship out the orders. And Amazon didn’t want to brandish this seller with bad ratings when those goods may actually have come from a source other than this seller. This is completely understandable, but there are some downsides. See Amazon’s strikethrough policy.

We asked Amazon why they eliminate the one-star ratings from the calculation of a seller’s total rating when the seller uses fulfillment by Amazon (“FBA”). An Amazon spokesperson replied:

“For FBA orders, Amazon takes responsibility for fulfilment-related issues. When a customer leaves negative feedback that mentions the fulfilment experience of an FBA order, the Seller can request that feedback be struckthrough. This doesn’t affect the Sellers rating because FBA is a fulfillment service provided and operated by Amazon.”

Huh? This makes it sound like Amazon denies tinkering with sellers’ star ratings.

The company did not reply to other questions about whether they refund complaining consumers in full, and whether they understand that artificially increasing a seller’s rating can potentially mislead shoppers.

Our advice: don’t rely on the summary rating for marketplace sellers. Read reviews in full on their full website (not app) to see if the particular seller deals in items that have a high risk of fraud.




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August 29, 2016

Walmart Drops Price Match Guarantee in 100s of Stores

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

Since May, Walmart has been quietly discontinuing its price match guarantee (“Ad Match”) in hundreds of stores nationwide. This is a marked change from a policy the company promoted for years in TV commercials like this:



When one goes online to Walmart.com these days to read their terms of their policies, this is all they say about matching prices in stores:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Check with your local store for additional details on the price match policy.

Walmart spokesperson John Forrest Ales told us recently that “more than 200 but less than 1000” stores are affected nationwide. He said that in place of the price guarantee, they are instituting “long term rollbacks.” That means that thousands of items, mostly groceries and consumables, are going to have lower everyday prices, with no set expiration date. Large blue signs are being posted in stores where Ad Match is no longer available.

Walmart sign
from WhatsYourDeal

How can you get around the discontinuation of their price match policy? You can still use their Ad Match app to scan your store receipt and automatically be entitled to any lower prices the app can find. Secondly, their price match policy still applies to purchases at Walmart.com and stores not participating in the new lower prices campaign.




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August 22, 2016

Lowe’s Pulls Misleading TV Ad After We Cry Foul

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:41 am

Recently, Lowe’s began advertising what appeared to be a great sale on major appliances — 20% off. Here is the advertisement that ran during the 60 Minutes broadcast last week:


Click play button.

Seems pretty straightforward and unambiguous, right?

Oh, but then there’s some hard to read fine print (and our video quality doesn’t help matters). So, here is a close-up:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Lowe's commercial

And if you still can’t read that, here is what it says:

“Valid 8/10 – 8/23. Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Amana, GE, LG, Samsung, Frigidaire, Electrolux and Bosch brands limited to a maximum 10% discount, unless otherwise shown. See store for more details and more exclusions. US only.”

Huh? First we’re seemingly told that the only restriction on getting 20% off appliances is that they have to sell for over $395. Then we learn that virtually all the most popular appliance brands are excluded from the 20% off sale and are only 10% off?

Incidentally, the online disclaimer lists additional brands that don’t qualify for any discount at all off the regular price:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Online exclusions

So what brands are the full 20% off? For common major appliances, the Lowe’s website for a Massachusetts store only lists these additional brands: Haier, Hotpoint, Premier, Sharp, and Tappan. All of them that displayed the regular Lowe’s price (not MSRP) showed only a 10% off discount. Interestingly, despite the ad’s disclaimer, some models of the excluded brands were indeed at least 20% off.

According to enforcement policy of the Federal Trade Commission it is actually considered an unfair or deceptive practice for the big print to giveth and the little print to taketh away:

Advertisements often contain fine-print footnotes or video superscripts that attempt to disclaim, limit, modify, or explain claims made elsewhere in the ad. Advertisers cannot use fine print to contradict other statements in an ad or to clear up misimpressions the ad would otherwise leave.

Last Monday morning, Consumer World contacted the Lowe’s headquarters about these issues and to also ask if they would pull or revise the advertisement. It was not until Wednesday afternoon that we got the news that the company saw the light and yanked the ad. They said “there was a misstep in the editing process” and would modify it by adding “up to 20% off” in the headline. We suggested that that still would not fully remedy the problem, so some additional suggestions were made.

By Friday, true to their word, Lowe’s added the words “up to” to the commercial but did not take any of the other suggestions offered:

Lowe's revised ad

Consumers watching TV have a right to be told the straight poop about any offer and not have to freeze the picture to read almost unreadable fine print. As noted in the press release we issued last week about this matter, we have filed complaints with the FTC, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

We welcome your thoughts in the comments.




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