Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

February 2007 Archives

The newly created Antitrust Task Force of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday 2/28 at 3:00 pm Eastern time entitled, "Competition and the Future of Digital Music."  This hearing will focus on the proposed merger between the two satellite radio companies, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio.

Volkswagen (VW) Recalls 790,000 Vehicles Due to Brake Lights

Volkswagen of America has announced a recall of 790,000 vehicles due to problems with a brake light switch.  The vehicles effected by this recall are:

  • VOLKSWAGEN / GOLF (1999-2006)
  • VOLKSWAGEN / GTI  (1999-2006)
  • VOLKSWAGEN / JETTA (2001-2005)
  • VOLKSWAGEN / NEW BEETLE (2001-2007)
  • VOLKSWAGEN / R32 (2004)

Dealers will install a newly designed brake light switch free of charge. Owners may contact VW at 1-800-822-8987.  For more information, search the NHTSA recall database for NHTSA Campaign ID# 07V063000 and see an AP article on the recall (via USAToday.com).

Today the Postal Regulatory Commission released a report recommending U.S. Postal Service rate increases which could go into effect as early as May 2007.  Some highlights from the Commission report include:

  • An increase in the price of a first-class stamp by two cents - from 39 cents to 41cents
  • An increase in the price of mailing postcards by two cents - from 24 cents to 26 cents
  • The creation of a new "Forever Stamp."  Forever Stamps would be sold in limited quantities for the price of a first-class one-ounce letter, and would continue to be worth the price of a first-class one-ounce letter even if that price changes.

For more information:

Tests Confirm Peanut Butter Contamination; Lawsuits Filed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that salmonella has been found in jars of peanut butter, according to the Associated Press: Tests Find Salmonella in Peanut Butter.

On Tuesday, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington state, on behalf of people who became ill after eating Salmonella-tainted Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter. More information from the Seattle Times: Class-Action Peanut Butter Suit Filed in Seattle

On Wednesday, an Associated Press article reported that a Pennsylvania family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ConAgra Foods, manufacturer of Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter, alleging that 76 year-old Roberta Barkay died as a result of eating peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella.

FDA Orders Increased Warnings for ADHD Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is directing the manufacturers of all approved Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drugs to alert patients to possible cardiovascular risks and risks of adverse psychiatric symptoms associated with the medicines, and to advise them of precautions that can be taken. The FDA has received reports of sudden death in ADHD patients with underlying serious heart problems or defects, and reports of stroke and heart attack in adults with certain risk factors. The medicines that are the focus of this FDA action include Adderall, Concerta, Methyline, and Ritalin. Read the FDA Press Release.

In the wake of recent weather-related flight cancellations and delays, JetBlue Airlines has introduced a new "Bill of Rights" for its customers, detailing its passengers' rights in situations including flight cancellations, delays, and diversions. Learn more about JetBlue's Customer Bill of Rights.

Also this week, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have introduced the "Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Act of 2007," which would require airlines to allow passengers to safely exit a plane once it has been on the ground three hours (in most instances), and to provide passengers with necessary food, water and restroom facilities while the plane is delayed. See a Press Release announcing the new legislation.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Philip Morris USA v. Williams (case number 05-1256).  In its 5 - 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon Supreme Court ruling and dismissed a $79.5 million punitive damages award to Mayola Williams, the widow of Jesse Williams, a heavy cigarette smoker.  To learn more:

For information on some other tobacco litigation see the Light Cigarettes section.

The Nstional Coalition for the Homeless has released a report today entitled "Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes And Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness, 2006."  This report documents incidents of hate crimes and violent acts against people experiencing homelessness, including 20 fatal attacks.

The report also contains recommendations for action and model state legislation to respond to the issue of hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness.  Thusfar the states of California and Maine have approved some legislation to respond to this issue.

For additional information see this article on CNN.com.

Health Warning on Recalled Baby Food

Consumers should not use certain jars of Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food, because of the risk of contamination with a bacterium which can cause botulism, a life-threatening illness or death, according to a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hain Celestial Group, manufacturer of the affected baby food, initiated a recall of the affected products on February 9, 2007, and the recall is still in effect.

No illnesses have been reported to FDA or the manufacturer to date in connection with this problem. Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, usually causes illness within 18-36 hours of exposure. Caregivers or people observing any unusual health problems in babies or others who have come into contact with the affected baby food should seek immediate medical attention for those affected.

Consumers are warned not to use the affected jars of baby food, even if the food does not look or smell spoiled. If consumers have any of the specified jars in their home, they should not use it and destroy it immediately.

U.S. Senator Calls for Air Passenger Bill of Rights

Recent weather delays at U.S. airports have forced passengers to remain on grounded planes for up to 10 hours, and have prompted U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to announce a plan for a "Passengers' Bill of Rights." According to a press release from Senator Boxer, the legislation "would require air carriers to ensure passengers access to necessary services such as food, water, and adequate restroom facilities. The legislation would also give passengers the right to safely deplane if the aircraft has remained on the ground for more than three hours past its scheduled departure time." Read the Press Release. More information:

Salmonella Linked to Peter Pan/Great Value Peanut Butter

Certain jars of Peter Pan brand and Great Value brand peanut butter may be contaminated with Salmonella, according to a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ConAgra Foods has recalled all Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Great Value peanut butter beginning with product code 2111 (the product code is located on the lid of the jar).

288 reports of foodborne illness in 39 states have been linked to the consumption of varying types of Peter Pan peanut butter, based on studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health agencies. The first consumer may have become ill in August 2006.

Individuals who have recently eaten Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter beginning with product code 2111 and have experienced any unusual health symptoms should contact their doctor or health care provider immediately. Consumers who have any of the affected peanut butter in their home should discard the jars immediately.

Warning on New Counterfeit Check Scam

A new scam is swindling consumers: counterfeit checks that seem legitimate to both bank employees and consumers, but that leave unsuspecting consumers footing the bill, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC advises consumers not to rely on funds from checks unless they know and trust the person who gave them the check or, better yet, until the bank confirms that the check has cleared. Learn more about the scam, and how to protect yourself, from the FTC: Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams.

Food Poisoning Information and Resources

The new "Food Poisoning" section of FindLaw's Accident & Injury Center provides information on different sources and types of food poisoning (or "foodborne illness"), tips on preventing food poisoning, updates on cases of food poisoning in the news, federal government resources on food safety, and much more.

FDA Warns on Ketek Use Risks

The antibiotic Ketek should no longer be used for the treatment of sinusitis and bronchitis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning patients and health care providers. The new warnings came as part of an FDA announcement of changes to Ketek's label, including stonger warnings regarding the drug's side effects, and the addition of a "black box" warning stating that Ketek should not be used to treat patients who have myasthenia gravis, a condition that causes muscle weakness. The FDA continues to approve the use of Ketek in treatment of patients with pneumonia. Ketek is manufactured by Sanofi Aventis, and was originally approved by the FDA in 2004.

The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is calling on manufacturers, retailers, researchers and consumer groups to help improve the use and safety of child car seats and the special anchors used to attach them to vehicles – especially in light of new evidence indicating parents are often unsure of the best way to install the life-saving devices. National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Nicole R. Nason issued the challenge at the opening of a day-long summit with industry leaders and consumer advocates aimed at improving child car seat safety.

IRS Offers Tips on Earned Income Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising taxpayers that it is now easier than ever to find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. You can find out whether you qualify for the EITC by providing basic income information using the IRS's EITC Assistant, available in English and Spanish.

Wal-Mart Sex Bias Class Action Goes Forward

A federal appeals court has ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to face a class action lawsuit that accuses the company of engaging in a pattern of discrimination against female employees in terms of pay rates and promotions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court's finding that a class action was appropriate for the case, which could affect as many as 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees. In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit states that evidence in the case shows "significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination" against female employees.

With headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. currently employees about 1.3 million workers in over 3,400 stores nationwide, making it the world's largest private employer.

Easy-Bake Ovens Recalled

About 950,000 Easy-Bake Ovens have been recalled nationwide due to injury risk, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Young children can insert their hands into the oven’s opening and get their hands or fingers caught, posing an entrapment and burn hazard, according to CPSC. 29 cases of injury have been reported in connection with the Easy-Bake Oven. Consumers are advised to contact Easy-Bake to receive a free retrofit kit with consumer warning. The Easy Bake Oven should be kept away from children under eight years of age.

U.S. Has Negative Savings Rate for 2006

The U.S Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced last week that Americans had a negative savings rate for 2006. The annual savings rate was negative 1 percent, which was the lowest since 1933.

The savings rate from this BEA report is a calculation that takes total disposal income (after taxes) and deducts total spending. Note that this calculation doesn’t include all types of savings (e.g. pensions, 401(k) plans) and doesn't account for changes in household wealth (e.g. increasing value of real estate or other investments).

For more information:

February 4 - 10 is National Consumer Protection Week 2007

National Consumer Protection Week (February 4 - 10, 2007) highlights consumer protection and education efforts around the country. The theme for this year is "Be an Informed Consumer: Reach Up and Reach Out," encouraging consumers to take advantage of information to enhance confidence in the marketplace, and to take steps to protect themselves from rip-offs, scams, or frauds.

Learn more in the National Consumer Protection Week page in FindLaw for the Public.

President Bush Submits $2.9 Trillion Budget

President Bush has submitted a proposed budget to Congress, detailing the nation's planned spending for fiscal year 2008 (which begins on October 1, 2007). The proposed budget totals $2.9 trillion, includes a plan for increased military spending, and implies a strategy to eliminate the national deficit by 2012.

2.3 Million Dishwashers Recalled

About 2.3 million Maytag and Jenn-Air brand dishwashers are being recalled nationwide due to a fire hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC announced that Maytag has received 135 reports of dishwasher fires, resulting in product and/or property damage. Four injuries have been reported, including three cases of smoke inhalation. CPSC advises consumers to contact Maytag to determine if their dishwasher is included in this recall.

This afternoon the U.S. Senate passed The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 by a vote of 94 - 3.  This legislation would increase the federal minimum wage from the current $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour in three steps over two years.  This legislation also includes additional provisions including tax benefits for small businesses.  This bill will now be need to be reconciled with a different minimum wage bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed in January.

Learn more: