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June 4, 2018

Citi Cuts Back on Credit Card Benefits

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

Don’t you hate those credit card notices that announce “important updates” or “changes,” but don’t tell you what the old terms were so you can compare?

Citi sent out an email last week announcing revised terms for many of its credit card benefits starting July 29. But without referring to the old brochure, you would have no idea if the particular benefits were improved or cut back. (Hint: those notices rarely contain good news.)

So Mouse Print* looked up the old benefits to compare them with the new changed ones.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Citi benefit changes

As you can see, some benefits like roadside and travel assistance were eliminated. Other benefits were cut back substantially, but not eliminated (thank goodness).

One of the benefits that has remained the same is Citi’s extended warranty. Unlike any other credit card, Citi (at least on its Double Cash card) will add 24 months of extended warranty coverage free to almost every manufacturer’s warranty. So a one-year warranty becomes a three-year warranty. This benefit is substantially better than other cards that merely promise to double the manufacturer’s warranty for up to an additional (one) year.

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May 28, 2018

Samsung Compares Apple and Oranges

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

A new commercial from Samsung urges viewers to upgrade their iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy 9 because the Apple phone is slow and frustrating.



There’s one big problem with this advertisement, and its secret is buried in virtually unreadable fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

disclaimer

What Samsung has done is compare a 2014 model of the iPhone — the iPhone 6 — with Samsung’s latest and greatest model. Had it compared the current iPhone models, the 8 and the X, the slowness depicted would have magically disappeared.

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May 21, 2018

Is Your Pharmacy Tattling on You to Your Doctor?

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:18 am

This week’s story questions whether a druggist who believes that a patient is not taking their prescription should squeal on them directly to their doctor.

A couple of weeks ago, MrConsumer got an unexpected letter from his primary care physician (PCP). It said:

Letter from doctor


Say what? My mail order pharmacy, CVS/Caremark, wrote to my PCP to tell her I might not be taking my medications properly, urging her to be in touch with me (hence she sent the letter above).

Here is the fax they sent her:

CVS Caremark fax

Apparently, this is what happened. For years, I have been taking simvastatin to help lower cholesterol. I get 90-day prescriptions filled via mail order from Caremark, and the last time I ordered it was January 15th. Sometime shortly after April 15th, when I had not yet reordered it from them, CVS/Caremark took it upon themselves to notify my doctor. In turn, she sent me the above letter expressing concern.

No, MrConsumer is not having a problem taking the drug daily. He simply had several weeks of pills left over since prior prescriptions were received in advance of them actually being needed. We have all experienced the practice of pharmacies telling us way in advance that it is time for a refill when we still have plenty of pills left from the last one.

On one hand, maybe Caremark should be thanked for putting the patient’s health ahead of privacy concerns. But on the other hand, it feels like the company was overreaching, going behind the back of the patient to his PCP to tattle on him, without asking the patient first if he was having a problem. Of course, they did send me refill reminders.

A quick review of CVS/Caremark’s terms and conditions and privacy policy on its website did not reveal any specific disclosure that such contacts would be made. However, in its HIPAA policy, it made this broad disclosure:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Uses and Disclosures of Your PHI for Treatment, Payment and Health Care Operations

We may use and disclose your PHI for treatment, payment and health care operations without your written authorization.

PHI is information about you that we obtain to provide our services to you and that can be used to identify you. It includes your name and contact information, as well as information about your health, medical conditions and prescriptions. It may relate to your past, present or future physical or mental health or condition, the provision or health care products and services to you, or payment for such products or services. [Definition inserted to guide readers.]

The following categories describe and provide some examples of the different ways that may use and disclose your PHI for these purposes:

Treatment: We may use and disclose your PHI to provide and coordinate the treatment, medication and services you receive. For example, we may:

Use and disclose your PHI to provide and coordinate the treatment, medication and services you receive at CVS Health. Disclose your PHI to other third parties, such as pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, or other health care providers to assist them in providing care to you or for care coordination. In some instances, uses and disclosures of your PHI for these purposes may be made through a Health Information Exchange or similar shared system. Contact you to provide treatment-related services, such as refill reminders, adherence communications, or treatment alternatives (e.g., available generic products). [Emphasis added.]

This says that your personal health information, including your prescriptions, can be disclosed to third parties, such as doctors, to assist them in providing care to you. However, it says Caremark may contact YOU, the patient, with “adherence communications.” It doesn’t explicitly say, however, that they can contact your doctor with respect to your staying on your regimen.

Mouse Print* contacted CVS/Caremark to get an explanation of their practice of contacting doctors to report patients who may not be adhering to their prescriptions. Here are excerpts from their response:

Taking medications as prescribed is one of the most important things patients can do to get and stay on their path to better health. Non-adherence to prescribed therapies comes at a significant cost to patients’ health and finances, as well as to the entire health system.

One of the ways we encourage adherence is through our clinical program that reviews members’ prescription refill behavior for maintenance medications, including drugs prescribed to help manage a patient’s cholesterol. Through this program, we send refill reminders and late-to-fill outreach to plan members and engage prescribers when members are past due for refills.

Our adherence outreach program is consistent with HIPAA and our own privacy policy… -Mike DeAngelis, Senior Director, Corporate Communications

I really have mixed feeling about this, as expressed above. What do you think? Do you want your druggist to notify your doctor when you don’t get a timely refill of a maintenance drug?

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May 14, 2018

The String Attached to Discover’s Free FICO Score Offer

Filed under: Finance,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:16 am

This week in Consumer World we featured an offer from Discover to get a free copy of your genuine FICO credit score. Before you sign up, however, you may want to check their privacy policy, which might better be described as their “not much privacy” policy.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Discover privacy

First, hats off to Discover for finding an easy way to convey a complex privacy policy without pages and pages of dense text.

But that is where the good news ends. Discover clearly says that at least for a “short time” they are going to market their services to you. But they are also going to share much of your information, like name, email, and your online activity with both their own affiliates and with companies they are not affiliated with. And they are going to share your birth date and social security number with companies that service or market their products.

This all made MrConsumer a little uneasy — an unusual feeling for someone who is generally privacy insensitive.

You have to decide if the reward of a free FICO score is worth the price of your personal information being shared with others.

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May 7, 2018

Congratulations, You’ve Won (NOTHING) at Car Dealer

Filed under: Autos,Sweepstakes — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

Have you ever noticed the way some car dealers advertise to get you into the showroom? They often promote a variety of sweepstakes with terrific prizes.

One such car dealer in North Carolina recently ran a “$25,000 Monte Carlo Game.” They sent out lottery-like tickets inviting recipients to scratch off the boxes and if they got a match, they would win between $100 and $25,000.

Buick Scratch Off

A consumer who got the mailing scratched off the various boxes as shown above, and the second row matched with three 7’s on both sides. It looked like he won $5,000, so he called the dealer and was told to come right down to the showroom. When he got there, there were a whole lot of other people huddled around a prize table that had been set up. The consumer was then told that he had to check the confirmation code on the board to see if it matched, and of course, it did not. He was then given the bad news that he did not win the $5,000. And they pointed to a small asterisked disclosure that said as much:

*MOUSE PRINT:

asterisk

Our consumer rightly felt that he had been scammed and complained to the state Attoney General and the consumer reporter at the local TV station. WRAL ran a story about the promotion. They spoke to a lawyer representing the car dealer who asserted that the mailing was not misleading, but could have been misunderstood by recipients.

Right now, the North Carolina Attorney General is investigating seven dealerships in the area who are promising everything from cash to new cars.

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