This page highlights efforts of Consumers Union to improve the marketplace
Published: August 2013
Where we stand: A better cable TV bill
The issue: To get your favorite channels, you may have to pay for dozens or even hundreds of others that you never watch.
Our take: Consumers should have more options and flexibility in paying for cable TV. The average amount of a typical monthly cable television bill rose by about $12 between 2008 and 2012. Prices shot up almost 5 percent in 2012 alone.
There is a new bill in Congress that would let consumers buy cable channels individually, or “à la carte,” so you could pick the channels you want and possibly lower your monthly bill. The Television Consumer Freedom Act, now in the Senate, would encourage cable companies to unbundle their channels and offer à la carte programming. It would also eliminate the TV blackout rule for sports events that are held in publicly financed stadiums. We believe this bill would help deliver greater choices for consumers who have grown weary of cable price hikes.
The Federal Trade Commission recently updated the rules for protecting children’s online privacy. The revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) seek to keep pace with technology as more children use mobile apps and social media at earlier ages. Under the rules, a website must get verified consent from a child’s parent before collecting personal information from anyone under the age of 13. The FTC has a website devoted to kids’ online safety, covering everything from parental rights under the new rules to cyberbullying. Get more details from the FTC.
What’s in it for you: The CFPB is an independent watchdog that polices banks, lenders, and other financial service providers and products and cracks down on rip-offs such as shady loans and hidden credit-card fees.
The CFPB was created in 2010 as part of a Wall Street reform law. But in an attempt to muzzle this watchdog, some senators refused to allow a vote on a director unless the bureau’s authority was drastically weakened. Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, was appointed interim director in 2011, and he helped refund $425 million to 6 million consumers hit by deceptive financial practices.
But the clock was ticking on Cordray’s temporary term, and the CFPB itself was at risk. Consumers Union generated about 180,000 signatures, e-mails, and phone calls in support of Cordray. In July, senators from both parties agreed to allow a vote with no changes to the bureau’s powers.
Come to our annual meeting
Please join us on Saturday Oct. 19, at our national headquarters, 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, N.Y. Doors open at 9:45 a.m. and the meeting begins at 10 a.m. An expo and a select lab visit will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For details, go to consumerreports.org/cro/annualmeeting.
Editor's Note: This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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