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September 16, 2019

Dog Walking Company Sued Over Fine Print

Filed under: Business,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

This summer, three New Yorkers sued a California dog walking service, Wag!, for various alleged misleading representations.

Wag! maintains a website and app to allow dog owners to schedule local dog walkers and dog sitters on demand. Thnk of it as an Uber service for pets. The company says walkers go through an extensive vetting process and that each walk is insured and bonded, and they guarantee home insurance of $1,000,000 for “extra peace of mind.” Their website emphasizes “trust and safety” — “we treat your dog just like we’d want ours to be treated.”

Wag insurance
Composite Illustration

The lawsuit, however, points out that contrary to the great care promised, the company’s terms and conditions tries to absolve itself of most responsibility.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The Services includes a marketplace technology platform that connects Pet Care Providers with Pet Owners. We do not provide any pet care services and [we] make no representations or warranties about the quality of dog walking, boarding, sitting, … Wag! does not employ, recommend or endorse Pet Owners or Pet Care Providers, and we are not responsible or liable for the performance or conduct of Pet Owners or Pet Care Providers, whether online or offline. Wag! provides Pet Care Providers with access to third-party vendors that perform background checks and verifications. Wag! itself does not conduct background checks and does not independently verify information in the background checks. Wag! is not responsible or liable in any manner for the background checks. [Emphasis added]

These provisions and others were added recently to the company’s terms and condition statement after the lawsuit was filed.

Despite promises of a million dollars in insurance being provided, in Wag’s prior terms and conditions the company attempted to cap its liability at a mere $500:

*MOUSE PRINT:

IN NO EVENT SHALL WAG!’S TOTAL LIABILITY TO YOU IN CONNECTION WITH THE SERVICES FOR ALL DAMAGES, LOSSES AND CAUSES OF ACTION EXCEED FIVE HUNDRED U.S. DOLLARS (US $500).

A spokeperson for Wag! released the following statement:

“While we don’t comment on pending litigation, ensuring the safety and security of all those who use the Wag! platform is of utmost importance to us. Every day, thousands of pets are cared for using the Wag! platform. Accidents and incidents are rare, but we know the impact even one can have on the family involved. We are committed to the safety and security of our platform…”

Various media outlets around the country, but particularly in the New York area, have reported unfortunate incidents that have befallen dogs under Wag’s care, including some deaths.




 

 

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September 9, 2019

NBC TODAY Show Caught Up in Diet Pill Scam

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

NBC’s TODAY Show has innocently gotten caught up in a diet pill scam that Consumer World discovered.

I was recently on a local television station’s website (CBS 19) and saw what might be an interesting story about Kelly Clarkson losing 105 pounds.

CBS 19 ad

Upon clicking the box, you are taken to what looks like the TODAY Show website where the story becomes even more intriguing because of the headline — “Kelly Clarkson Forced to Lose 105 Pounds by NBC Producers.” According to the story, producers of “The Voice” were requiring Clarkson to lose at least 50 pounds and if she did not she would lose her role as head coach on that program per the terms of her contract. Her lawyer was unable to negotiate a compromise.


View full size

Ellen DeGeneres apparently caught wind of the controversy and recommended a particular product to Clarkson to help her lose weight.

The TODAY Show writer of this story then describes her own test of that product. And with that, MrConsumer realized he had been duped. This whole story was really an advertisement for Keto 101 weight loss pills. But why had the TODAY Show become involved with something shady like this?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The answer is, they didn’t. The promoters of these diet pills apparently hijacked the format of the TODAY Show website and created their own phony story using the TODAY logo. The URL (Internet address) of the web page was diet.healthy-service.com rather than today.com. In fact, they even changed all the TODAY menu links to their own ordering page.

Pill URL

As with many of these product promotions, there was a long list of phony consumer testimonials near the end followed by a free trial offer of a 30-day supply of these pills. Just pay $4.95 for shipping, they claimed. But the ordering page had its own hidden gotchas.

order form

*MOUSE PRINT:

terms expanded

Only when you expand the offer terms section do you learn you will be charged $89.99 for pills if you don’t cancel during the trial period because you have been enrolled in a membership plan with automatic shipment of refills every month.

As if that is not bad enough, if one looks at the complete terms and conditions section, you learn that although they are sending you 30 days worth of pills, the free trial is only 14 days. And the free trial period begins on the day you place your order and not when you receive it. So it is possible that your free trial period could expire before you even get the product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

terms highlighted

We notified the folks at the TODAY Show about their website being appropriated by these pill pushers. They responded that “the problem is they are very hard to track down… [I’ll] send them to our legal department, so they could get some type of cease and desist action going.”

It should be noted that the above fake TODAY Show web page was just one of four variants that we found, all using similar tactics and slightly different pill names. What’s particularly bold about these fake sites is that they are using the real names and look and feel of actual TV news sites as noted in our main story, rather than made-up names like “Health News Today” as they used to.

Reader beware!

If you have been a victim of one of these look-alike major media sites, please tell us in detail what happened in the comments.




 

 

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September 2, 2019

Some Coupons Have Secret “Start” Dates

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:41 am

Hellmann's $1 couponOn Saturday, August 24, MrConsumer went to Price Rite supermarket because they had Hellmann’s mayonnaise on sale for $2.49 with a store-issued coupon.

But MrConsumer also had a $1 off manufacturer’s coupon that had just come that week in the coupon inserts. So that 30-ounce jar of mayonnaise would only cost $1.49.

When checking out, the $1 store coupon was deducted without a problem. But the manufacturer’s coupon would not deduct. A store clerk (erroneously) argued that one cannot use two coupons on the same item. As most veteran shoppers know, virtually all supermarkets will accept both a store-issued coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item.

When I pressed the issue a bit more, the coupon was rescanned and an odd error message came up on the screen… words to the effect that the start date was not met. No one knew what that meant, and store personnel went back to the line “you can only use one coupon per item.”

Dissatisfied and disappointed, I wrote to the supermarket’s customer relations department and asked (in all caps) that someone from upper management contact me about this issue. To my surprise and delight a district manager called me and was puzzled by what had happened, suggesting that it was only reasonable for them to accept the manufacturer’s coupon since the supermarket would be reimbursed for it. I photographed the coupon and emailed it to him so he could experiment with it if necessary.

A couple of days later, he emailed back the surprising results of his inquiry.

Secret *MOUSE PRINT:

Previously unbeknownst to him and the rest of the shopping world including me is that some manufacturers code a hidden “start date” of sorts into the barcode. Presumably, this is to limit the effective period of the coupon and also to try to prevent fraudulent redemptions.

This coupon was slated to be in the RetailMeNot coupon insert in Sunday’s paper, August 25th — the day after I tried to redeem it. It appears that Unilever put a start date of August 25th on the coupon to coincide with the newspaper’s publication date. What this multi-billion dollar corporation didn’t realize is that Sunday newspapers and the inserts in them are often available the day before on Saturday. And what they further were oblivious to was the practice of coupon inserts being delivered to homes in bags along with the upcoming week’s supermarket circulars days in advance. For example, I normally receive my bag of ads on Tuesday or Wednesday for supermarket sales that begin on the coming Friday or Sunday.

The Price Rite manager shared these findings with me, and instructed store personnel in his district to always accept a valid store coupon plus a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item, and to accept manufacturer’s coupons that are redeemed prior to their hidden start date. Kudos to him.

Consumer World then wrote to Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s, to ask why they use hidden start dates. We explained to them that coupon inserts are often received by shoppers a day or days in advance, and asked what were they going to do to remedy the coupon rejection problem they unwittingly created?

We’ll post their answers as soon as they respond.




 

 

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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 only applies to beverages and thus is not applicable because this product 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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