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J.C. Penney, Best Buy Customer Data Collection Stirs Privacy Concerns

WASHINGTON — It's not just the government that might be keeping tabs on you. Many retailers are tracking you, too – or at least your merchandise returns. The companies say it's all in the name of security and fighting fraud. They want to be able to identify chronic returners or gangs of thieves trying to make off with high-end products that are returned later for store credit. [...] "There should be no secret databases. That's a basic rule of privacy practices," says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Rich Cordray of CFPB to testify today on consumer protection

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

The newly Presidentially-confirmed director of the CFPB, the nation's first financial regulator with just one job -- protecting consumers -- goes before a House Oversight and Government Affairs subcommittee today at 1:30 pm (live video).

Today's unanimous Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones (docket 10-1259), read most narrowly, merely says: "We hold that the Government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a “search.” That means the government should be careful to obtain valid warrants and comply with the Constitution's 4th Amendment limits on "unreasonable searches and seizures. But the Court offered tantalizing clues to its thinking that, in the modern electronic age, reasonable expectations of privacy warrant a review of Government -- and even third party -- collection of information.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and powerful music, film and publishing titans have gone too far in demanding that the Internet as we know it -- an engine of innovation, freedom, democracy, commerce, idea-sharing and entrepreneurship -- be throttled down so that their legitimate problems with offshore pirates can supposedly be solved. They think every problem is a nail but their only tool is a hammer, a sledgehammer. Their bills won't hammer the nail, but they will hammer you, me and the Internet.

To lessen online banking risks, lessen consumer liability risks

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

In addition to a story on the Zappos' hack, the New York Times also has an editorial "Convenient, but How Secure?" on the growth of online banking and new regulations being implemented that should lessen fraud loss risk.

FTC settles claim with Rx monopolist CVS Caremark

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced (news release) that CVS Caremark Corporation (pdf of the complaint) will "pay $5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misrepresented the prices of certain Medicare Part D prescription drugs – including drugs used to treat breast cancer symptoms and epilepsy – at CVS and Walgreens pharmacies."

WSJ: Bank of America Ponders Retreat

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today's Wall Street Journal offers the story "Bank of America Ponders Retreat." It discusses a BofA emergency plan for retrenchment that would include further branch shrinkage than currently-expected reductions.

Free tax prep at Walmart? It isn't really free, for some 84% or so of you

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

I've been quoted recently (Reuters via Baltimore Sun)  warning consumers that getting your taxes done for "free" in an HR Block kiosk at Walmart and then getting your tax refund on a Walmart prepaid card comes with pitfalls, including (1) fees and (2) the chance that you'll just dump the money on the card into impulse purchases at Walmart, which "is not your friend."

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