Wal-Mart Recalls Dolls Due to Burn Hazard | CPSC.gov

Hazard: The circuit board in the chest of the doll can overheat, causing the surface of the doll to get hot, posing a burn hazard to the consumer.

About 174,000

Description

The My Sweet Love / My Sweet Baby electronic baby doll comes in pink floral clothing and matching knit hat. The 16 inch doll is packaged with a toy medical check-up kit including a stethoscope, feeding spoon, thermometer and syringe. The doll’s electronics cause her to babble when she gets “sick,” her cheeks turn red and she starts coughing. Using the medical kit pieces cause the symptoms to stop. “My Sweet Baby” is printed on the front of the clear plastic and cardboard packaging. The doll is identified by UPC 6-04576-16800-5 and a date code which begins with WM. The date code is printed on the stuffed article label sewn into the bottom of the doll.

Incidents/Injuries

Wal-Mart has received 12 reports of incidents, including two reports of burns or blisters to the thumb.

Remedy

Consumers should immediately take the dolls from children, remove the batteries and return the doll to any Walmart store for a full refund.

Sold exclusively at

Walmart stores nationwide from August 2012 through March 2014 for $20.

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Fraudulent huckster’s reward: 10 easy payments of one year each

 

CONSUMER FORUM

 

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT

 

Posted March 23, 2014, at 12:24 p.m.

 

One of the most familiar faces on American infomercials was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison. Following prior dealings with the legal system, Kevin Trudeau continued to lash out at corporate and government figures he accused of being corrupt.

That changed at last Monday’s sentencing for contempt. According to the Chicago Tribune, Trudeau’s defiant attitude gave way to a more contrite demeanor, a change the convicted fraudster attributed to his first night behind bars.

Kevin Trudeau first came to Northeast CONTACT’s attention through a product called Coral Calcium Supreme. In some of his infomercials Trudeau claimed taking it would cure cancer. Those claims violated an earlier court order banning false health claims by Trudeau, and he was hit with more sanctions as a result.

Trudeau made his name in a series of late-night TV ads, touting sure-fire diets and products that supposedly delivered a number of health benefits. The ads were long on promises and, according to most consumers, short on delivery.

Investigators say Trudeau amassed a fortune through sales of his products and books. His undoing revolved mostly around claims he made in his infomercials about his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

The best-selling author had boasted that his diet plan was easy. But people who suffered through the 500-calorie-a-day regimen said it was anything but easy. Investigators with the Federal Trade Commission agreed and told Trudeau to stop making those claims. He refused, saying he was the target of zealous regulators and prosecutors.

Last August, the FTC hit Trudeau with a $37.6 million fine; the money was supposed to go to the hundreds of thousands of people who had bought his book based on his inflated infomercial claims.

Trudeau dug in, refusing to pay a nickel. His continued refusals resulted in a contempt case, which Trudeau lost.

At his sentencing last week, Judge Ronald Guzman pointed to a career built on fraud and called Trudeau “deceitful to the core.”

Trudeau had served nearly two years in federal prison in the 1990s after being convicted on two fraud charges. Last Monday, prosecutors said his record of fraud goes back to the mid-1980s.

Throughout his career, Kevin Trudeau struck a chord, both with conspiracy theorists and with searchers for miracle cures and other easy answers to life’s complex problems. If 10 years seems like too much for Trudeau to deal with, we offer him a suggestion.

Think of it as 10 easy payments of one year each.

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ALSO IN THE NEWS: Scammers are making hay out of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Phony stories are appearing on Facebook, Twitter and other sites, mostly claiming the plane has turned up, survivors found and so on.

Instructions to “click here” should be ignored; the insensitive crooks are just trying to get you to answer questions that will get your money to them, or to infect your computer with malware.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

 

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What you need to know about electricity pricing

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted March 16, 2014, at 9:13 a.m.

We received questions from a couple of consumers recently regarding electricity prices. Now that companies other than generating utilities can sell electricity, they’re competing for customers.

And while competition is often a good thing, it can create confusion. Here are a few tips from the Maine Public Advocate — the office that represents consumers in utility-related matters — to consider when mulling over competing offers.

Consumers who take no action will continue to pay what’s called the Standard Offer price. This rate is set by competitive auction and changes each year on March 1. Changes in the Standard Offer price are generally announced about three months before the effective date. The Standard Offer price is posted on the website of the Public Utilities Commission,

Other rates are offered by competitive electricity providers, or CEPs. The basic rate — what you pay per kilowatt hour — may be lower than the Standard Offer price. But that may not be the whole story.

A CEP price may be fixed or variable. If it is fixed, find out the term so you’ll know whether it lasts beyond the next Standard Offer price change next March 1.

If it’s variable, be aware that what appears to be a savings today may turn into higher prices in a few months. One of our consumers found that a “bundled” rate, while representing a saving initially, reflected nearly a doubling of the basic rate a few months into the contract.

There’s a five-day “buyer’s remorse” period mandated on all these contracts. Should you change your mind after that period, you may be hit with an early termination fee. Find out before signing up what the terms of the contract are and how large a fee is involved if you terminate early.

The public advocate lists the basics of each CEP’s offer on its website . While that’s a good reference, you should know that a CEP’s rates can change at any time. If you’re shopping around, call the provider to make sure you’re aware of the current terms.

You have a number of consumer rights in dealing with CEPs, in addition to the five-day void provision mentioned above. A CEP must:

— Offer at least 30 days of service.

— Have a customer’s authorization for service (no “slamming”).

— Give at least 30 days’ notice before terminating service.

— Not use unfair or deceptive business practices.

— Not release a customer’s information, unless allowed by law or with a customer’s consent.

If a CEP drops a customer and the customer doesn’t make another choice, the customer goes back on the Standard Offer service. If a consumer feels the CEP has used “slamming” practices to obtain customers, the consumer may file a complaint with the PUC.

Finally, we heartily concur with the public advocate’s advice that consumers know and understand all terms and conditions before signing up for any plan. You can call the PUC’s Customer Assistance line toll-free, 800-452-4699 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with questions about CEPs.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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WABI-TV appearance

Using common sense when you buy will keep your home from plunging ‘under water’

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted March 09, 2014, at 8:50 a.m.

DowneastGuide-to...yourMainehomeWe’ve all heard the ads urging us to buy, since “interest rates are near historically low levels.” With spring approaching (at least on the calendar) and those low rates expected to hold for a while, many renters are thinking about buying a home.

Many may think twice, wondering if all those horror stories about houses going “under water,” or costing more than they’re worth, might come back to bite them. Those with second thoughts might want to spend some time with a new publication from the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection.

It’s called The Downeaster Common Sense Guide to Finding, Buying and Keeping Your Maine Home. The 32-page guide was written by the bureau’s principal examiner, David Leach, and senior consumer credit examiner, Edward Myslik.

It starts in exactly the right place: asking if you should buy a home or continue to rent. Once you’ve determined that your best bet is to buy, the real work begins.

The best piece of advice in the guide is not to buy more home than you can afford. You figure affordability through a debt-to-income ratio. The “front-end ratio” is figured by dividing the monthly mortgage payment (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) by the borrower’s total monthly income. The ratio should not be more than 28 percent.

What’s termed the “back-end ratio” is a measure of income against the mortgage cost plus the cost of all other loans.

The guide cautions against allowing this ratio to go higher than 43 percent.

New federal lending rules are aimed at ensuring that borrowers will be able to make payments on schedule; those rules make it unlikely that a loan will be approved if the back-end ratio exceeds 43 percent.

Once you’ve ordered an up-to-date credit report ( www.AnnualCreditReport.com, 877-322-8228) you’ll have an idea what your credit score will be. The score is not part of the report; it’s a number generated by Fair Issue Corporation, also known as FICO.

The scores provided to each of the three credit reporting bureaus may be different, and lenders will use the lowest number when offering an annual percentage rate, also known as APR, on a loan.

When shopping for a mortgage, you need to decide between conventional loans and Federal Housing Authority, also known as FHA, backed loans. Under the latter type, the FHA provides a guarantee to investors should a borrower default. The guide advises that, while FHA loans are priced about the same as conventional loans, the mortgage insurance costs more (meaning higher APRs).

The guide has lots of nuts-and-bolts info on shopping for mortgages. Note rate vs. APR, mortgage points, disclosure, home inspections and other concerns are all covered. The authors also caution against falling for three advance payments that guarantee a low APR. Advance fee loans are always scams and are illegal in the U.S. and Canada.

Read the guide online at www.Credit.Maine.gov and go to “Consumer Guides.”

Maine residents can also request a free printed copy by calling 800-332-8529. For a real estate professional’s take on home mortgages, visit www.realtor.com/home-finance/mortgages/how-to-get-best-interest-rate.aspx?source=web.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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Work-at-home scams — WABI-TV

Video Link

Russ and Joy discuss work-at-home scams.
The State of Wisconsin published a guide detailing work-at-home scams. You can find this guide online at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WorkAtHome189.pdf

Be wary of promises that you can get rich by working at home

CONSUMER FORUM

By  Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted March 02, 2014, at 9:50 a.m.

If an ad promises that you can earn “thousands in your spare time,” please know that the promise is likely worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

The following quote from the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Law Guide speaks volumes: “While, of course, not all companies advertising work-at-home plans are dishonest, enough have been the source of problems to warrant special caution on your part.”

Many work-at-home offers hold out what so many unemployed or underemployed people desperately need: hope. That hope can turn to despair when they put money they can’t afford into a scheme that serves only to line its creators’ pockets.

The good news is that complaints nationwide continue to decline. The Consumer Sentinel Network — http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/consumer-sentinel-network — compiles consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. The total of work-at-home and similar fraud complaints dropped from more than 39,000 in 2011 to just under 33,000 last year.

The bad news is that work-at-home schemes continue to hit their victims hard. Losses can run into the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars.

Last Wednesday, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order against perpetrators of what one FTC official termed “a massive scam.” The order froze the assets of defendants operating under a number of names, including Essent Media, LLC, Net Training, LLC, YES International, Coaching Department and Apply Knowledge.

In its complaint, the FTC contends that a three-pronged campaign was waged. Initially hucksters sold fairly inexpensive programs, generally less than $100, through which buyers could “earn hundreds of dollars a day from home.”

Phase two offered — at greater cost —“professional coaching” to “ensure success.” Instead, that coaching generally promoted more spending, on things such as business formation, website design, accounting and tax-filing services, few of which the FTC says proved helpful.

The FTC says the defendants violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting earning potential and the nature of their services. It also alleges they violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting their investment strategies.

Other scammers are out there making similar pitches. Here are some of the come-ons you should avoid:

— Envelope stuffing. Machines do this faster and cheaper than people.
— Craft work or assembly. Once you’ve paid the money, your work is never “up to standards.”
— Medical billing. Doctors either do the billing themselves or use established firms, rather than someone working at home.
— Rebate processing. The badly written materials you get fall short of the big promises, and there are no rebates to process.

Always be wary of “opportunities” that involve a fee right away or handing over your credit card information. Any such offer demands healthy doses of both research and skepticism.

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, the FTC is hosting a Twitter chat about work-at-home schemes and other frauds at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Follow @FTC #NCPW2014. Learn more at www.ftc.gov and search “FTC Twitter chats.”

The state of Wisconsin has published a nifty guide detailing work-at-home scams. See it online athttp://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WorkAtHome189.pdf.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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State’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection Issues Comprehensive Home Mortgage Guide

GARDINER — Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, announces the release of a new, comprehensive mortgage guide, titled The Downeaster Common Sense Guide to Finding, Buying and Keeping Your Maine Home. Free to Maine residents, this 32-page booklet provides information for those contemplating the purchase and financing of a home. Covered topics include:

  • How to evaluate whether renting or buying makes the most sense, given income and future plans;

  • How to use current income, debt load and credit reports to predict if a loan may be approved;
  • How to select a mortgage lender or loan broker;
  • How to choose the type of loan product that best fits your needs; and
  • Understanding your obligations after the loan closes

Governor Paul R. LePage commented on the timeliness of the guide and the information it offers. “With interest rates near historically low levels and the Maine economy improving, this is an excellent time to purchase a home,” Governor LePage said.  “But it’s important to know if you’re in a good position to make a significant purchase of this kind and to fully understand the home-buying process.  This new booklet provides thorough, step-by-step guidance.”

“This publication will help Maine residents to become better-informed mortgage borrowers,” David Leach, principal examiner with the Bureau and one of the booklet’s co-authors, said. “One thing we’ve learned from assisting hundreds of homeowners avoid foreclosure is that some did not know the right questions to ask when they were deciding to get a mortgage.”

An online copy can be found at www.Credit.Maine.gov by clicking “Publications” or “Consumer Guides” (directly at www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit/documents/MortgageGuide_RevisedOnline.pdf). Printed copies are available free of charge by calling the Bureau at 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine).

“With federal regulators setting tougher borrowing standards this year for so-called ‘qualified mortgages’ (QMs), it’s more important than ever that potential borrowers understand how lenders calculate debt-to-income ratios,” Edward Myslik, Bureau senior consumer credit examiner and co-author of the guide, said. “This booklet demystifies the process. Understanding how current debt loads factor into lenders’ decisions will help consumers make prudent decisions, such as avoiding taking on additional financial obligations if they plan to apply for a mortgage.”

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The Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, which is part of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, was established in 1975 to administer the state’s consumer financial services laws.  The agency investigates consumer complaints, conducts compliance examinations, licenses companies that offer financial products to Maine residents, and performs outreach to advise consumers and creditors of their legal rights and responsibilities.

 

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