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Viewpoint: Improving the marketplace for consumers

This page highlights efforts by Consumers Union and others to improve the marketplace

Published: May 28, 2015 06:00 AM

Actions you can take in July

Photo: Paul Sahre

Protect your nest egg

Some financial advisers profit from steering soon-to-be retirees into questionable and expensive investments, a conflict of interest costing consumers about $17 billion per year. The Department of Labor has proposed new rules requiring retirement advisers to put their clients’ interests before their own profits. Learn more at dol.gov/protectyoursavings.

Tell congress we want meat without drugs

The use of antibiotics in U.S. meat production shot up 20 percent between 2009 and 2013, an increase that has been linked to a rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that can put your health at risk. A new bill would stop antibiotic use in healthy food animals. Ask your representative to support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, at opencongress.org.

Voice your complaint

Ever been ripped off by a bank or a mortgage company? Now you can tell the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—and the world. A new feature on its public database enables consumers to share stories of unfair lending practices, which helps the agency spot marketplace trends and helps you make more informed choices. (Companies can also post responses.) Check it out at consumerfinance.gov.

The end of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger

Comcast’s late-April decision to drop its $45 billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable is great news for consumers. If the sale had gone through, it likely would have meant higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse service for just about everyone.

It was a long road to quashing the merger, and Consumer Reports and its advocacy arm, Consumers Union, were there each step of the way. Our Hear Us Now campaign, launched in February 2014, when the deal was first announced, aimed to thwart a plan that would have given one huge corporation control of 60 percent of the cable TV market and more than half of the nation’s high-speed broadband customers.

All indications were that the resulting behemoth would have been no great gift to consumers: Our most recent telecom survey shows that Comcast and Time Warner earn low marks for value and customer support, a sign of the deep and long-standing problems with cable companies.

As part of our campaign, we conducted a national poll that revealed that a scant 11 percent of Americans supported the merger.

And as members of a coalition opposed to the merger, we helped gather more than 1 million signatures urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to reject the proposal. Our policy advocates met with regulators and our activists placed almost 15,000 calls to the office of the FCC’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, to drive home the message.

“This is a major victory for consumers who stood up against a media Goliath and won,” says Marta L. Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “And a major victory for everyone who wants a fair and competitive marketplace.”

For information on the best telecom services, check our buying guide and Ratings.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the July 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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