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Consumer Reports magazine: March 2013

The win: Broadcast TV, cable, and satellite providers are now required to keep the volume of commercials at a level that matches the programming’s.


What’s in it for you: No more diving for the remote to save your ears from obnoxiously loud commercials, thanks to the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM Act), which took effect at the end of 2012.


The law requires that commercials have the same average volume as the show they accompany. Consumers Union has long supported the bill and testified in its favor before Congress in 2009.


The Federal Communications Commission receives about 100 complaints each month about loud commercials; before the law took effect, the only advice the FCC could give consumers was to use the mute button. Think a broadcaster is violating the new law? Report commercials that seem louder than the programming to the FCC by going to or calling 888-225-5322.

'Reducing particle pollution will prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and will keep children out of the emergency room and hospitals.'—Norman Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Lung Association on new standards to limit particle pollution (soot), which has been linked to lung and heart disease, acute asthma, and premature deaths. Thousands of Consumers Union activists wrote the federal government in support of new standards.

That’s the small number of people who obtain their free credit report each year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Only 44 million consumers are taking advantage of the easiest way to identify and fix errors on credit reports before they apply for credit. You can get a free credit report every year from each of the three national credit reporting companies at

You need to know about supplement dangers


The issue: The government doesn’t enable consumers to learn of the reported dangers of dietary supplements in a timely way.


Our take: In late November, the makers of the popular weight-loss supplement Hydroxycut agreed to a $25.3 million settlement to resolve claims that its diet pills were deceptively advertised as safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration recalled Hydroxycut and issued a warning in 2009, after dozens of reports of serious adverse events, including liver toxicity and at least one death. Prior to that, the only danger signs the public got were case reports in medical journals.


Most dietary supplements are relatively safe, but those peddled for weight loss, sexual enhancement, or bodybuilding may be spiked with questionable ingredients. Supplements don’t have to be tested for safety before they’re sold, so problems often appear only after they hit the marketplace.


Since 2007 supplement makers have been required to report serious adverse events to the FDA. More than 6,300 reports have been filed, but the FDA doesn’t routinely post summaries on its website, shrouding serious hazards for months or even years. Consumers Union believes the public should get that information immediately. There’s clear interest: The FDA’s eventual warning about Hydroxycut was the fourth most clicked-on health update on the agency’s website in 2012.

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