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Consumer Affairs

FCC considers taking first step towards scrapping old telephone lines

The "regulated monopoly" model is broken; the question is how to replace it

One way or another, the old copper-based telephone networks will be going away. Critics say it's already happening, as telephone carriers fail to maintain the networks and fail to adequately repair damage caused by storms and accidents.

Missouri consumers to get refunds in car-service contract settlement

State reaches agreement with Certus, Dealer Warranty Services

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says his office has reached a settlement with the owners of a former vehicle extended-service-contract seller, Dealer Warranty Services, LLC, which also did business nationwide under the name "Certus" and "Certus Assurance Group."

Bad buzzword classics: hunks of rock verified GMO-free

Himalania pink salt designated GMO-free since last May

In the world of buzzword marketing, sometimes “cynical genius” and “jaw-dropping stupidity” look exactly alike. And we have wasted the better part of an afternoon trying and failing to figure out which description applies to whoever decided to slap the “verified non-GMO” label on jars of their Himalania brand pink salt.

"Blood type diet" debunked

Blood type had "absolutely nothing" to do with how test subjects responded to the diet

There are lots of fad diets, and one of the most popular at the moment is the "blood type diet," promoted by Peter J. D'Adamo, a naturopath who claims that an individual's nutritional needs vary by blood type. But researchers from the University of Toronto have found that the theory behind the diet is not valid.

AAA lists consumer rights for owners of 'connected cars'

Drivers will be giving up lots of sensitive data, AAA tells the Federal Trade Commission

Noting that about one in five new cars sold this year will collect and transmit data outside the vehicle, AAA is urging companies to protect drivers by adopting its new “Consumer Rights for Car Data.”

Masschusetts children suffocate inside antique hope chest

Not until 1987 were hope chests made that open from inside

When you're browsing in a secondhand shop or antique store, or brushing dust off the heirlooms in Grandma's attic, chances are you'd never think to ask yourself, “Has there been a safety recall on this lovely vintage pre-World War Two antique?”

The Grandma Scam: not just for grandmothers anymore

Do email scammers think you're stupid? They sure hope so

Despite the name “Grandma scam,” these would-be scammers don't limit themselves to grandparents. Indeed, this week we were the attempted targets of what we'll dub the “Real estate agent with whom you have an extremely slight acquaintance scam,” even though we know that label doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Class-action lawsuit alleges email harvesting at LinkedIn

The latest social-media site to face similar claims

Facebook has recently been subjected to various lawsuits from users who allege that Facebook falsely claimed they “like” various products or pages, for advertising purposes. Meanwhile, LinkedIn has faced a similar class-action suit since at least last September.

Facebook users sue over scanning of "private" messages

Suit claims the messages are treated as though they had been posted publicly

Two Facebook users are suing, claiming that "private" messages are being scanned and used to profile the sender's activities.

Study: Bacteria survive longer on cribs, toys, books than previously thought

Findings mean more precautions are needed in schools, daycare centers and hospitals

A new study by University at Buffalo researchers published in Infection and Immunity shows that dangerous strep bacteria linger on surfaces for far longer than expected.

How a secret eBay watch monopoly ruined Christmas

This story would make a terrible holiday TV special, and wasn't much better in real life

I spent the week trying and failing to buy my niece a Christmas present from a recalcitrant Chinese watch-seller on eBay.

Hulu faces charges it illegally disclosed viewer data to Facebook

Class action suit could be settled quickly at an upcoming hearing

A federal magistrate has cleared the way for a class action lawsuit against Hulu on grounds that it violated consumers' privacy by releasing movie-viewing information to Facebook and a market analysis service.

Homeowners' associations often spell bad news

There's never a shortage of HOAs-behaving-badly stories

Topping the list of this week’s horror stories is the case of 75-year-old Ingrid Boak, whose mortgage-free, paid-for home in the Masterson Station Neighborhood Association of Lexington, Kentucky, was confiscated and sold over less than $250 in unpaid HOA fees -- $48 per year for six years.

Uninsured face daunting challenge in selecting a health plan

Problems with the sign-up website may be the least of it

The problems with the government's roll-out of the Affordable Care Act have been well-documented. The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) national sign-up website, Healthcare.gov, has been a disaster. Some state sites have also had issues.

AOL, Roku launch news channel

More than 1,000 publishers will be contributing content

Now Roku -- one of the early players in the streaming-video business -- is teaming up with AOL to produce a news channel that will be distributed through Roku's set-top boxes.