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August 26, 2019

Otter Pops: 100% Fruit Juice, or Are They?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

Rachel K. recently bought her kids some Otter Pops as a summer treat. The variety she purchased, being a health conscious mother, was labeled “100% fruit juice.” For those unfamiliar with this item, they are plastic sleeves filled with juice that you serve frozen.

Otter Pops box

Looking at the ingredients statement, this sharp consumer noticed something completely unexpected.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Otter Pops ingredients

That’s right. Sugar! She rightfully asks how can this product advertise that it is 100% fruit juice when it has added sugar. In fact, the nutrition facts statement says it has three grams of added sugars. That means these pops have almost 50% more sugar than regular apple juice.

FDA regulations seems to require manufacturers to add a statement after a 100% juice claim if it contains non-juice ingredients. In the case of added sugar, it might have to be labeled “100% juice with added sweetener.”

21 CFR 101.30 (3) If the beverage contains 100 percent juice and also contains non-juice ingredients that do not result in a diminution of the juice soluble solids or, in the case of expressed juice, in a change in the volume, when the 100 percent juice declaration appears on a panel of the label that does not also bear the ingredient statement, it must be accompanied by the phrase “with added ___,” the blank filled in with a term such as “ingredient(s),” “preservative,” or “sweetener,” as appropriate (e.g., “100% juice with added sweetener”), except that when the presence of the non-juice ingredient(s) is declared as a part of the statement of identity of the product, this phrase need not accompany the 100 percent juice declaration.

When we questioned the FDA directly about products like Otter Pops, they indicated that this regulation is not applicable because this product is not represented as a beverage, but rather is a frozen treat. In that case, less specific regulations apply, and the FDA spokesperson said the agency would likely accept the labeling as it currently appears.

However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in comments to the FDA about a related regulation that “One hundred percent juice must be precisely that – 100% juice product from the fruit(s), exclusive of any other non-fruit juice ingredient, like added sugar.” And if does have added sugar, that fact must be clearly stated upfront.

We asked the company if they could understand how consumers are being misled by their front label and inquired on what basis they believed they were in compliance with FDA rules. A public relations spokesperson for Jel Sert, the manufacturer, responded:

“The Otter Pops label complies with the regulations promulgated under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the label stating “with other ingredients added.” We are confident that our packaging is accurate and does not contain misleading information.”

In our mind, stating on the front label in small type that the product contains “other added ingredients” is insufficient to overcome the impression created by the phrase “100% fruit juice” in much larger letters. Most consumers would understand “100% fruit juice” as a product having no added sugar.

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August 19, 2019

You Can’t Even Peruse This Sale Without Signing Your Rights Away

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

Last week, All-Clad ran a big factory seconds sale on its expensive cookware promising discounts of up to 84-percent off.

Before you could even view the items and prices, you had to agree to a full page of terms and conditions.

*Mouse Print:

All-Clad sale

Scroll down the page.

Among the requirements were providing your email address, agreeing that the merchandise may have scratches or dents, that the pictures may not accurately represent the item they actually send you, and that you agree to arbitration to resolve any disputes.

While most of these are not uncommon terms, how unusual it is to make retail customers formally agree to all these terms before even being admitted to the sale website to check items and prices. One good thing: according to the actual product page listings, each item came with All-Clad’s regular limited lifetime warranty.

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August 12, 2019

Peek at the Fine Print in CBS’ Big Brother Contract With Houseguests

Filed under: Business,Humor — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:32 am

Big BrotherFor the past 21 years, CBS has aired the reality show Big Brother during the summer months. In the program, 16 contestants called “houseguests” are secluded from the outside world in a TV-set house for about 100 days with all their activities recorded 24/7. The last houseguest remaining after a series of evictions wins the game.

As you might imagine, with millions of dollars of advertising revenue on the line for CBS and high production costs, they have to ensure that all the contestants follow a strict set of rules and waive most of their rights. To that end, when those who apply to be on the program enter the finalist stage of casting, they are required to sign a 39-page, one-sided agreement designed to protect the network and the producers and to warn the would-be participant what they have in store.

Here are some of the more unusual provisions of the “applicant agreement“:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Contestants first have to agree to be recorded 24 hours a day, with or without clothing.



filmed naked


 
*MOUSE PRINT:

The producers control all the utilities in the Big Brother house, including water.



we control water


 
*MOUSE PRINT:

Contestants have to understand that they could be publicly humiliated and scorned.



humiliation is possible


 
*MOUSE PRINT:

And besides waiving their rights to sue CBS and the producers, and releasing the show from all liability of any kind, contestants have to keep their mouth shut about what happens in the program. This is how CBS ensures that compliance:



Millions in damages


And since “showmances” inevitably flourish during their three months in seclusion, all houseguests have to submit to testing for STDs.

So, why would anyone subject themselves to all this? Perhaps it is the lure of the $500,000 prize for the winner.

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• • •

August 5, 2019

Get 3% on Savings and 3% Cash Back on Purchases… BUT

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

The TV airwaves have been flooded by a new advertising campaign from Green Dot. Mostly known for their prepaid cards, Green Dot is branching out into bank accounts with an almost too-good-to-be-true offer.

They are offering a 3-percent interest rate on your savings account, and 3-percent cash back when you make purchases with the debit card that comes with that account. Unheard of benefits on both scores.

Don’t get too excited however. Their fine print is sure to put a damper on your enthusiasm.

The deposit agreement for the Unlimited Cash Back account is full of goodies.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The offer promises 3-percent interest on your savings up to $10,000. Well, how much is the interest rate on amounts over $10,000?

Answer:

Green Dot interest

So, you get no interest on larger deposits, and it is possible that the 3-percent interest rate could change.

That possible change in interest rate is an important disclosure because of the following additional disclosure:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Interest is only credited once a year, and at the rate in effect at that time!

Green Dot once a year

And the bank has fees for this account. If you make a deposit in cash at a retailer, you can be charged up $5.95. Here are two more fees.

*MOUSE PRINT:

fees

You have to pay $7.95 a month unless you spend $1,000 using their debit card. That seems pretty steep on both scores.

If you do spend any money with the card, you do get 3-percent cash back, but even that has some key restrictions.

*MOUSE PRINT:

in-app purchases

Only purchases made via an app or online qualify for the 3-percent back. And even certain of those purchases don’t count either, like airline tickets, person-to-person payments, bill payments, gift card purchases, etc. And to add insult to injury, the cash back you are entitled to is only credited to your account once a year.

With all these restrictions, you may not become green with envy of anyone using this card.

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• • •

July 29, 2019

Cash Back Credit Card Correction;

Group Asks FTC to Investigate Prime Day Promotions

Filed under: Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:05 am

CORRECTION AND UPDATE:

Before our main story, I wanted to advise readers that the PayPal 2% Cashback credit card mentioned here two weeks ago as a good substitute for the Citi Double Cash card which is dropping almost all benefits soon does NOT have the benefits referred to on its website nor as confirmed by its customer service agents with whom I double-checked. That card only has one benefit – ID theft protection — but not extended warranty, price protection, return protection, CDW coverage, lost luggage coverage, etc. contrary to the link from the benefits section of its website states. I apologize to anyone who applied for this card as a result of the recommendation. I will be cutting up my card shortly. Synchrony Bank, the card’s issuer, just provided us with a response that basically says they are going to correct their link:

…we are taking some action to help further clarify the specific benefits of the PayPal Cashback Mastercard when a consumer is looking on the web. Already consumers can see the two key benefits including ID Theft Protection and Microchip technology. Additionally, we plan to post a specific version of the guide to benefits that you can find here.


Last week, Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest consumer advocacy organization, sent a letter to the FTC asking them to crack down on websites that promote the sale of products from Amazon.com without clearly disclosing when they have a financial incentive to tout those items.

The group pointed out dozens of instances of stories published two weeks ago on popular websites and through social media that spotlighted certain items as great deals during Amazon’s big Prime Day sale. In most cases, the affiliate relationship the publisher had with Amazon was either not disclosed at all or poorly disclosed. (We documented this very issue last December in this story.)

In an affiliate relationship, a publisher or even a person with just a social media presence can earn a small commission on the sale of products if a reader clicks a link from the website or post and actually purchases the item. Under the Federal Trade Commission’s testimonial and endorsement guidelines if there is a financial connection between an endorser and the product being touted, that fact must be clearly disclosed. Similarly under the FTC’s native advertising guidelines when advertising masquerades as editorial content, clear disclosure of a sponsorship relationship must be made.

As one example of what is going on, Public Citizen cited this story from the Today Show website:

Today Show promotion

The story recommended a couple of dozen items as “the best Prime Day deals.” What the reader didn’t know was that NBC had a financial interest in the sale of those items.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Only if the reader clicked the “read more” link (and they would have no particular reason to do so based on the content that was already showing), would they learn NBC’s little secret).

NBC Today Show disclosure

The program makes a small commission if a reader buys any of the items featured through the links provided.

The problem here was that NBC hid that fact instead of openly disclosing it. At least their specific choice of which items to highlight was an independent editorial decision based on merit. This is how Consumer World selects its Bargain of the Week (which very rarely contains an affiliate link).

Last year, we called out ABC and others for an even bigger problem — running entire “deal” segments on their morning shows, where the network was getting a cut of the sale of each item featured, and not clearly disclosing that fact at the beginning of the segment. See our story.

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