Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

November 2007 Archives

FBI Warns of "Botnets" Computer Threat

With millions of Americans doing their holiday shopping online, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning consumers of a cybersecurity threat called "botnets," which the FBI describes as "armies of personal computers taken over by cyber criminals and used on the sly to commit all kinds of mischief, from identity theft to denial of service attacks to massive spam campaigns." An FBI Press Release provides consumers with tips on protecting themselves online, and updates ongoing "botnet" investigations and indictments.

Ford Settles Explorer Rollover Class Action

Ford Motor Company has agreed to settle a four-state class action lawsuit over the safety of its Explorer model and the sport-utility vehicle's decreased value due to its history of rollover accidents. The settlement affects about 1 million owners of model year 1991 to 2001 Ford Explorers in California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Texas. Those Explorer owners will be entitled to a $500 voucher that may be put toward the purchase of a new Explorer, or a $300 voucher that can be used to buy any other Ford vehicle. According to the Associated Press, "if [Sacramento County] Superior Court Judge David De Alba approves the preliminary settlement Monday, the parties will announce a toll-free number and Web site for consumers, followed by the mailed notices. Explorer owners will be able to apply for vouchers through the Web site."

Stronger Warnings Urged for Tamiflu

Manufacturer Roche Laboratories, Inc. should update Tamiflu labeling to include stronger warnings regarding the risk of psychiatric problems in users of the flu medicine, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee. The FDA Pediatric Advisory Committee made its recommendations after evaluating reports of adverse events associated with use of the prescription influenza medication -- including delusions, confusion, and self-injury -- especially in children. The New York Times reports that "nearly 600 cases of psychiatric problems in Tamiflu patients have been reported, with 75 percent of them from Japan."

FDA Seizes "Cosmetic" Eyelash Product

Over $2 million worth of "Age Intervention Eyelash" applicator tubes have been ordered seized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because use of the product may cause decreased vision in persons already using a particular prescription medication. The Age Intervention Eyelash product contains an active ingredient that is also used to treat elevated pressure inside the eye (called "intraocular pressure"), and people who use the product while taking medication for elevated intraocular pressure may suffer damage to the optic nerve, possibly leading to decreased vision, and even blindness. The Age Intervention Eyelash product is sold and distributed by Jan Marini Skin Research, Inc., of San Jose, Calif. According to an FDA Press Release, "FDA considers Age Intervention Eyelash to be an unapproved and misbranded drug because Jan Marini Skin Research has promoted the product to increase eyelash growth." Consumers, beauticians, and dermatologists should discard any unused Age Intervention Eyelash products.

CPSC Highlights Product Safety Efforts in 2007

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has released its 2007 Performance and Accountability Report: Saving Lives and Keeping Families Safe, summarizing the agency's steps to improve consumer product safety in 2007. CPSC reports that in recent years, an average of about 28,200 deaths and 33.6 million injuries have been related to (not necessarily caused by) products under CPSC jurisdiction. These injuries, deaths and related property damage cost the American public over $800 billion annually. The 2007 report highlights CPSC's work with the Chinese government to improve import safety, and its efforts to notify the public on lead in children's toys and kids' jewelry.

"Top Safety Pick" Vehicle Awards for 2008

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given 34 vehicles its "Top Safety Pick" award for 2008. The "Top Safety Pick" award is given to vehicles that earn a "good" rating after front, side, and rear impact crash tests conducted by IIHS. According to an IIHS Press Release, "compared with last year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet criteria for Top Safety Pick." Winners for 2008 include eight vehicles manufactured by Ford and its subsidiaries, and seven Honda (or Honda-subsidiary) vehicles. The Toyota Tundra became the first pickup truck to make the "Top Safety Pick" list.

Appeals Court Rejects "Light Truck" Fuel Standards

Federal fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks were rejected by a federal appeals court yesterday, in a case in which a number of states, cities, and environmental groups challenged a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule setting fuel economy standards. In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that in setting the standards, NHTSA failed to illustrate why light trucks were given more leniency than cars, and did not properly assess the economic effect of carbon emissions on climate change. The New York Times reports that the ruling "represents a major setback for both the auto industry and the White House at a time of growing public concern over the rising price of gasoline and the issue of climate change."

Bush Outlines Plan to Reduce Flight Delays

Saying "we can have an aviation system that is improved," President Bush today announced a plan to reduce air traffic congestion and flight delays for the holiday season and beyond. Bush's plan includes allowing civilian airliners to use East Coast military airspace to ease congestion in the skies, and imposing a moratorium on all non-essential Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects so that the agency can focus all of its efforts on keeping flights on schedule. The President also proposed long-term measures such as doubling the amount of compensation passengers receive when they are forced off overbooked flights, and improving real-time updates on flight status.

Heart Attack Risk Added to Avandia Labeling

Labeling on the diabetes drug Avandia will now carry a boxed warning of increased heart attack risk, according to an Announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The warnings will state that studies "have not confirmed or excluded" the risk of heart attack and chest pain associated with Avandia use, because data evaluated by the FDA shows that "there isn't enough evidence to indicate that the risks of heart attacks or death are different between Avandia and some other oral type 2 diabetes treatments." In August 2007, FDA ordered that Avandia and other diabetes drugs carry "black box" warnings on the risk of heart failure associated with use of the drugs. Avandia is used by more than 2 million people to treat "type-2" or "adult-onset" diabetes, and is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

With millions of Americans taking to the nation's highways to visit family and friends this holiday season, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers its Checklist and Tips for Safe Winter Driving, with information and instructions on safety precautions such as checking your battery and anitfreeze level, inspecting windshield wipers and tires, stocking your vehicle, and surviving a winter emergency on the road.

$4.85 Billion Settlement for Vioxx Claims

Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc. announced today that it will pay $4.85 billion into a fund to settle most lawsuits filed over injuries or deaths allegedly caused by the once-popular painkiller medication. The agreement is not a class action settlement, as Merck will still consider claims individually before making any payments from the settlement fund. A Merck Press Release contains detailed information about the agreement and conditions for qualifying claims. The New York Times reports that the settlement impacts about 27,000 Vioxx lawsuits consisting of about 47,000 plaintiffs, and "the average plaintiff will receive just more than $100,000 before legal fees and expenses." Vioxx was withdrawn from the marketplace in September 2004, due to increased risks of cardiovascular problems (including heart attack and stroke) in users of the drug.

4 Million "Aqua Dots" Toy Sets Recalled

Over 4 million "Aqua Dots" craft kits are being recalled because colored beads in the sets are coated with a chemical that can turn toxic if ingested, causing children who swallow the beads to possibly become comatose, develop respiratory depression, or have seizures. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received two reports of children swallowing the beads before vomiting, becoming comatose, and requiring hospitalization. Both children have since recovered. The Aqua Dots craft kits let children create artistic designs using the small colored beads, which fuse together when sprayed with water. According to Reuters, the Aqua Dots sets can be found on Wal-Mart Stores Inc's list of its top 12 Christmas toys. The sets are manufactured in China and distributed throughout the U.S. by Spin Master Ltd. of Toronto, Canada. CPSC and Spin Master Ltd. are advising consumers to immediately take Aqua Dots kits away from children and contact Spin Master Ltd. for free replacement beads or a toy of equal value.

Fisher-Price Kitchen Toys Recalled

Mattel, Inc. and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have announced the recall of 155,000 Fisher-Price "Laugh & Learn" kitchen toys in the U.S., because pieces of the toy kitchen faucet and toy clock can detach and cause a choking hazard for children. The "Laugh & Learn Learning Kitchen" is a play kitchen containing a toy refrigerator, range and sink. The item number L5067 is stamped on the toy itself, and can be found on the toy's packaging above the UPC bar code. CPSC is instructing consumers to immediately take the recalled toys away from children, and contact Mattel/Fisher-Price for more information on the recall and obtaining a free repair kit.

"Fee-Harvester" Credit Card Warning

Consumers with poor credit and/or lower incomes are being targeted with offers for low-limit credit cards which reduce consumer buying power while running up debt in the form of excessive fees attached to the cards, according to a report titled "Fee Harvesters: Low-Credit, High-Cost Cards Bleed Consumers", released by the non-profit National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). The report illustrates the case of one consumer who signed up for a card with a $250 credit limit, only to incur a $95 program fee, $29 account set-up fee, $6 monthly participation fee, and a $48 annual fee, which the report calls "an instant debt of $178 and buying power of only $72."

Trasylol Sales Suspended Worldwide

Bayer AG announced today that it is suspending worldwide sale of the anti-bleeding drug Trasylol (also called aprotonin), until results of a recent drug trial can be properly evaluated. In October 2007, a Canada-based drug study of cardiac surgery patients was halted because Trasylol appeared to increase the risk for death compared to other anti-bleeding drugs used in the study. In a Company Press Release, Bayer AG stated that the decision to pull Trasylol from the market was made "following consultation with the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and other health authorities." Trasylol is a blood-clotting medication given to patients during certain types of heart bypass surgery, to reduce bleeding and the need for blood transfusions. A number of studies have linked Trasylol use to serious side effects including kidney damage, heart attack, and stroke.

Frozen Pizzas Recalled Over E. Coli Link

Totino's and Jeno's brand frozen pizzas containing pepperoni have been recalled by General Mills, because the pepperoni may be tainted with e. Coli. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received 21 reports of persons infected with E. coli from 10 states (Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin). These people became ill between July 20 and October 10, 2007, and CDC investigation has shown that "eating a Totino's or Jeno's brand frozen pizza containing pepperoni was significantly associated with illness." At least 8 people have been hospitalized, and 4 have developed kidney failure. The recall affects approximately 414,000 cases of frozen pizza. Consumers should discard any Totino's or Jeno's brand frozen pizzas containing pepperoni, and should contact General Mills (toll free) at 1-800-949-9055 for information about the recall and instructions on obtaining a refund.

FTC Looks at Online Privacy and Behavioral Ads

On November 1st and 2nd, the Federal Trade Commission will hold a Town Hall meeting to examine consumer protection issues raised by the tracking of internet users' activities online, and online behavioral advertising. The Town Hall is available as a Webcast from the FTC. The New York Times reports that "in advance of the F.T.C. meetings, a coalition of consumer groups called [Wednesday] for a do-not-track list that would permit people to opt out of so-called behavioral tracking programs, which use data about a consumer's Web travels to deliver relevant ads."