Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

January 2011 Archives

A California iPhone owner has filing a class action lawsuit against Apple over the smartphones cracked glass screen. Donald LeBuhn claims the glass on the Apple iPhone 4 is defective, in that the glass housing can break in the course of "reasonable use," the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the lawsuit, LeBuhn's daughter dropped his phone from a height of 3 feet, which allegedly caused the glass to crack the screen which completely shattered. This despite the fact that LeBuhn says he had a protective bumper case on it.

The lawsuit contends that Apple has made persistent claims in its advertising that the phone was strong and durable. Specifically, Apple called the iPhone 4, "ultradurable," "30 times harder than plastic," and "the same kind used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Blogs and other online communities have been discussing problems with the iPhone 4 since its release. The first buzz was created by problems with the antenna, dubbed "Antennagate" by the local tech geek community.

The glass issue has now been dubbed "Glassgate." (Seriously, must we end the name of ever minor conflict "gate?" When will it eventually end?) The glass issue seemed to draw less attention than the antenna, but has received plenty of discussion online as well.

You can read the iPhone 4 lawsuit yourself. It will certainly be an interesting case to watch. Apple is likely to claim that its phone is durable but that it is obvious that a glass item can break if dropped. However, LeBuhn will likely argue that a mobile phone, by nature, is likely to experience at least small drops and bumps. If the iPhone 4 cannot handle such normal wear and tear, then it is not living up to the legally required warranty.

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Cancelled Flights and Stranded Passenger Rights

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Like it or not, cancelled flights are part of the airport experience. The gate agent gets on the microphone and announces:

"We're sorry but your flight has been cancelled. We value your business and appreciate your understanding and cooperation. We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting an airline and we thank you for choosing us. Please have a nice day."

Such words offer little comfort to the passenger stranded at an airport all day long due to a canceled flight. Winter storms have caused a rash of grounded planes in New York's JFK and cancelled flights in Chicago's O'Hare airport. Fortunately the good folks here at FindLaw have put together three tactics that stranded passengers can use regarding cancellations. 

1) Call the airlines 1-800 number instead of waiting in line

Once a flight is cancelled, there is usually a mad dash of stranded passengers who line up in front of the counter, where overworked agents have little to no information of use for frustrated customers. Instead, walk to a nearby bar or cafe, and use your smartphone to get a real person on the line. Often times, the person on the phone will be more knowledgeable and less stressed than anyone at the gate or ticket counter. 

2) Use social media

Increasingly airlines are not only posting on sites like Twitter, they also have specialists responding to tweets. Delta airlines made headlines by assigning Twitter monitors earlier this month. It might sound crazy, but a well timed tweet such as, "@Delta: Stuck at JFK, going to miss my sister's wedding if I don't get on a flight in the next hour," might actually get you a positive result. It doesn't cost anything, and certainly beats waiting in line. 

3) Read the fine print

Many travelers incorrectly assume that the Department of Transportation has specific compensation requirements for when flights are canceled. However, in fact, each carrier has a “contract of carriage,” that governs such situations.  Either print this out or save it to your mobile device. That way, if and when a dispute over the procedures arises, you will have the contract right in front of you. 

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Breast implants are popular these days. We've written about them on a number of occasions. But a new investigation by the Food and Drug Administration may give pause to those considering implants.

The FDA is investigating a link between breast implants and lymphoma cancer, Fox News reports. The investigation covers both saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants.

As many as 10 million women worldwide have opted for breast implant surgery. It has become quite mainstream, but a number of studies reported to the FDA are cause for concern. 60 cases that have been reported to the FDA over the course of more than a decade show a potential link between implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

The disease is very rare. ALCL is diagnosed in only one out of every 500,000 women.

The cancer attacks lymph nodes and is very serious. In breast implant cases of lymphoma, or cases involving breast implants, the cancer shows up in the area surrounding the implants. Patients often visited doctors after complaining of pain, swelling, sensitivity and lumps. 

U.S. breast implants are marketed by Allergan Inc. and Johnson & Johnson's Mentor Corp, Fox News reports. The companies must now update their product labeling to detail the possible cancer links. 

"Women should monitor their breast implants and contact their doctor if they notice any changes ... Women who are considering breast implant surgery should discuss the risks and benefits with their health care provider," the FDA said in a statement regarding ALCL.

Silicone implants were pulled by the FDA in 1992, however they were reauthorized in 2006 after studies failed to prove a danger due to silicone breast implants.

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Lexus Recall: GS, IS Models Part of Latest Toyota Recall

If you like recalls, then Toyota is your company. It's been one Toyota recall after the next of late. This week Toyota issued a massive recall including Lexus IS and GS models

Since 2009, 12 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled. The Toyota and Lexus recall spree first started with a host of issues involving sudden acceleration problems.

This time it is for 1.7 million cars due to fuel leak problems. Some have issues with improper installation of a fuel pressure sensor that could cause a fuel leak. Others have an issue with a fuel deliver pipe and high pressure fuel pump. Finally, some have leak problems involving a bad fuel pipe that can crack.

The U.S. vehicles are: 

  • 2006-07 Lexus GS300/350 sedans
  • 2006-09 Lexus IS250 sedans
  • 2006-early 2008 Lexus IS350 sedans

Toyota said that it is not aware of any reports of accidents or injuries due to the Toyota and Lexus recall problems. However the automaker has received over 215 complaints from owners regarding the fuel issues. "These are  not problems that are noticeable to a driver," Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said to ABC News. "As far as performance, there's no immediate effect."

The cost of the recall is expected to be about $240 million, which is actually small considering the scope, auto analyst Koji Endo of Advanced Research Japan Co. told the Associated Press.  

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Hey, Where's the Beef? Wendy's once asked the question in a famous television commercial. The ads made the claim that while their burgers featured a generous helping of real ground beef, their competitors tried to hide their beef with big buns.

For years, it has been a running gag to question what really goes into a "ground beef" Taco Bell taco. Now a lawsuit may finally help us find the answer, and it doesn't look pretty. According to the lawsuit, Taco Bells beef is mostly fillers. The fast-food company has been sued for alleged "false advertising."

The lawsuit, filed by Alabama consumer law firm Beasley Allen, says Taco Bell doesn't actually use ground beef, defined by the USDA as "flesh of cattle," and instead uses what should be classified as "taco meat filling."

So what goes into taco meat filling? "Isolated Oat Product:" wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings. Add it all up and Beasley Allen contends it equals only 36% beef. The USDA requires food labeled as "taco filling"to be at least 40% meat.

Taco Bell, responded to the lawsuit after being contacted by WSFA 12 News: "Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican-inspired food with great value.  We're happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit," said spokesman Rob Poetsch in a statement.

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Consumer advocates everywhere are cheering because the CPSC will now have a product safety database with consumer complaint reports available to the public, Reuters reports. It will allow consumers the chance to know about harmful or potentially harmful products before they get recalled.

Slated to launch on March 11, the online product safety database by the CPSC will contain reports of unsafe or potentially unsafe products by consumers, according to the Sacramento Bee. It will not contain consumer complaint reports about product reliability or quality. It will only contain reports with regards to product safety.

The easily-searchable database will be launched on the CPSC site http://www.saferproducts.gov/. Currently, all consumer complaint reports that the CPSC receives are used by the agency in order to assess the safety of products; none of these complaints were accessible to the public, SCPR reports. Consumer advocates say that the product safety database will allow consumers, healthcare providers, and government regulators to file incident reports easily. Consumers looking to make an informed decision about their purchases can quickly search the database about a specific product's safety before they purchase it.

While the main use of the database is not yet known, some consumer advocates say that they hope that it will lead to stricter safety standards for consumers. "I believe in public shaming. But I want the bureau to help consumers and to use consumer complaints, and have the ability to add them up, and calculate who are the bad guys, so they can do law enforcement," said Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group.

While this product safety database is not a "free for all" forum for consumers to air gripes, it still provides valuable safety information. Consumers are still welcome to vent their frustrations over product quality on third party sites such as RipOffReport.com, Complaint.com, and My3Cents.com; they are all recommended by the Consumer Federation of America.

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Toy Cell Phones Recall: Discovery Toys Cites Choking Risk

There is a voluntary recall of toy cell phones made by Discovery Toys because of a possible choking hazard from the plastic antenna breaking off, Bloomberg reports. In one incident, a child was found with the antenna in his mouth, but it was removed safely by his mother. There have been a total of three incidents reported where the antenna has broken off the toy.

The toy cell phones recall includes 2,900 toys in the U.S. and 700 toys in Canada.

The name of the toy cell phones is Toddler Talk Toy Mobile Phones and it is a "red and blue plastic battery-operated toy mobile phone with a small, clear antenna, buttons numbered "1, 2, 3, 4 and Play," a screen with a boy's face and the words "hello! hola! bonjour!" Only model number 1231 is involved in this recall. The model number is printed on the toy's packaging," says a press release on the toy cell phones recall by the CPSC. The phones were sold through Discovery Toys Educational Consultants from September 2010 through November 2010 for a retail price of $18, according to Wallet Pop Blog.

Consumers are advised to keep the toys away from young children and to contact Discovery Toys in order to receive instructions on how to return the recalled toy for a replacement. Affected consumers can call Discovery Toys at (800) 426-4777 anytime, or visit the firm's website at www.discoverytoysinc.com for more information.

For more information about toy recalls or possible product liability information, please visit our Related Resources links.

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Jimmy John's Salmonella Cases Caused by Alfalfa Sprouts?

Jimmy John's restaurant patrons in Illinois may have noticed that an alarming number of them came down with salmonella food poisoning. There are at least 46 individuals in the nine Illinois counties who have fallen ill from salmonella, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Many of the infected individuals have said that they ate Jimmy John's sprouts.

Results of the investigation by the FDA and CDC indicate a link to eating Tiny Greens Alfalfa Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets, the CDC reports. The salmonella outbreak was linked to consumption of Tiny Greens Alfalfa Sprouts and Spicy Sprouts which were sold to a variety of customers; including restaurants chains like Jimmy John's. As a result, Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Illinois, announced a recall of specific batches of Alfalfa Sprouts and Spicy Sprouts. Consumers are now advised to avoid eating recalled Tiny Greens brand Alfalfa Sprouts or Spicy Sprouts.

The chain has stopped serving Jimmy John's sprouts in its sandwiches at all Illinois locations, according to the FDA. Sprouts are a known source of food-borne illness. There have been known outbreaks of food-borne illness from raw or slightly cooked sprouts since 1996. Consumers such as the elderly, young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system are advised to avoid raw sprouts.

Salmonellosis is an infection caused by the salmonella bacteria. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or stomach cramps. The infection typically goes away in healthy patients after 3 to 7 days, but some patients may need to be hospitalized for severe diarrhea. The infection can be fatal in immune compromised patients.

There is currently a lawsuit filed against Jimmy John's and Tiny Greens in Illinois, according to the Marler Blog. Typically, in a food poisoning lawsuit, victims request compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and in some situations also seek compensation related to emotional distress. In order for such plaintiffs to be successful, connecting the sickness to the source is key. For more general information on salmonella and food poisoning, please visit our Related Resources links.

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What's the price to pay for posting photos of museum art on your Flickr account? The World Erotic Art Museum wants $2 million.

They sued Thomas Hawk after he allegedly posted photos on Flickr that he snapped during his trip to the erotic museum, which prohibits photography. According to a response from the WEAM, Hawk falsely claimed to be a member of the media in order to obtain permission to take the photos. Of course what makes a person a member of the media is always a difficult question.

The World Erotic Art Museum filed suit in federal district court in the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit accuses Thomas Hawk of infringing on their copyright and unfair competition. The unfair competition cause of action is alleged despite the fact that Hawk says he isn't selling the pictures, the Daily Examiner reports. The museum is concerned that visitors to Hawk's Flickr account will somehow assume that he and his page are officially affiliated with the museum.

According the lawsuit, as soon as Hawk snapped the photos, he committing trespassing by "acting outside the terms of the license for admission," the Daily Examiner reports.

However, Hawk gave his side of the story in a blog post. Hawk says that the museum knew he was taking photos, and that a museum guard gave him permission after inquiring about what he planned to do with the photos. The blog post has now been taken down, probably upon the advice of Hawk's attorney.

The museum has also complained to Flickr, which has removed the photos from Hawk's account due to notice of copyright infringement. It is a strange case because under federal copyright law, taking a photo of a work of art does not infringe on copyright. However, the museum is making the claim under common law, partially on the argument that Hawk broke the law by ignoring the sign.

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Verizon iPhone Spells End of Free Verizon Upgrades

The Wall Street Journal said it best, "Hello iPhone, Goodbye Upgrade." While many people are extremely excited about being able to get the Verizon iPhone on the Verizon network, it wasn't all good news. What goes up must come down. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And so on...

Verizon announced that it is ending its "New Every Two" discount program on January 16th. In the past, subscribers received Verizon upgrades up to $100 towards a new phone every two years. Now, just as the Verizon iPhone is about to arrive, they are ending the deal. However, current subscribers can still get in on the Verizon upgrades.

Current subscribers can still take advantage of "New Every Two." That means that a Verizon subscriber that has had the same phone for two years will be eligible to upgrade to a 16 GB iPhone for $99. But it seems that will be the last time they will have such an option.

Why would Verizon want to get rid of such a popular program? Money. iPhones reportedly cost the carriers $400, so if Verizon is expected to sell 1 million units in the first month, they stand to make a great deal more money than if they offered every customer a $100 discount. "The longer you can get customers to go between upgrading their phones, the stronger the profitability for the carrier," says Michael Hodel, an equity analyst covering Verizon for Morningstar, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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Drop-Side Cribs Banned in U.S.

Drop-Side Cribs will be banned effective June 2011, federal regulators have announced. The cribs have reportedly caused more than 30 infant deaths in 10 years, USA Today reports. Three cribs make it easier to get babies in and out, but have trapped and caused serious injury and death to infants, particularly, when the cribs have broken pieces.

Under the mandatory crib standards, federal regulators will: (1) stop the manufacture and sale of dangerous, traditional drop-side cribs; (2) make mattress supports stronger; (3) make crib hardware more durable; and (4) make safety testing more rigorous, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a press release. Effective June 2011, cribs manufactured, sold, or leased in the United States must comply with the new federal standards.

Drop side cribs can detach when their hardware breaks, creating a space into which a young child can become entrapped or possibly suffocated. Drop side incidents often occur due to improper assembly or wear and tear. In addition to at least 32 deaths in drop-side cribs, there were 14 deaths because of entrapment that could have been caused by a drop-side, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which issued the new crib standards.

More than 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled since 2007, CPSC says, USA Today reports. The CPSC has repeatedly instructed parents not to use cribs with broken, loose or missing parts and to check to insure the drop side of the crib functions smoothly. You should never attempt to repair any part of a crib with wire, string, duct tape or rope.

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Consumer Product Safety: US Opens Safety Office in China

With all of the dangerous products entering the United States from China, what is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to do? How about setting up an office in China?

The CPSC plans to do just that in an attempt to reduce the flow of dangerous products into the American market, the Associated Press reports. "By having a proactive preventative posture, we can reduce the number of recalls and keep our consumers safe and also prevent the loss of revenue and damage to a manufacturer's brand," Commission head Inez Tenenbaum said. Tenenbaum called the new office "history-making."

China was selected specifically for the new office because 45% of US consumer products and 90% of all toys sold in the U.S. come from China and Hong Kong. The CPSC was created to help protect the public from unreasonable risks from consumer products, such as vehicles, cribs, tools and chemicals.

China has reportedly been making changes to its consumer product safety review process, in light of food and product safety scandals, including tainted fish and lead scares.

Over the past five years, there have a number of Chinese recalls in US, BBC reports. Mattel announced in 2007 it was recalling over 18 million Chinese-made toys due to a serious safety risk. However, well some might take the move of setting up a consumer product safety commission office in China as a sign of increasing danger, Tenebaum said that was not the case."We're seeing an improvement in terms of the quality of products coming out of China," said Tenenbaum, BBC reports.

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The next time you get an astronomical cell phone bill, look it over carefully. You may be surprised to find unexpected premium text message fees. What exactly is premium text messaging? Premium text messaging is the option given to cell phone users to buy or subscribe to third-party content providers, according to Verizon Wireless.

Ignore this new cell phone trend at your peril. Just ask Dr. Dan Stambor; he was charged for premium text messaging even though he doesn't know how to send a text message, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. "I don't know how to do text messaging. I don't know where (the charge) came from," he said. Luckily for him, he was able to explain that to his carrier Verizon Wireless and get the charge reversed. They also offered to disable his text messaging so that it would not happen in the future.

Others were not so lucky. Sean Clark was stunned when he opened his cell phone bill and saw almost $10,000 in premium text message fees, according to MSNBC.com. When he realized it was his developmentally-disabled daughter opting in for premium text messaging, it was hard for him to contest his bill to Sprint. Sprint offered to cut his bill by 50% which still left him with a $5,000 tab.

So what are consumers to do to protect themselves from premium text messaging that they don't want?

Here are some quick tips on how to stop and block premium text messaging:

  • Scan your bill for monthly services charges since these text messages are typically a monthly subscription.
  • Stay vigilant where you give out your cell phone number. A lot of these third party carriers get your number from entries for prizes or even Facebook.
  • Ask your carrier to block your phone from receiving premium text messages.
  • Unsubscribe to any services that you are inadvertently enrolled in. There should be a 5 digit number to unsubscribe. Text the word STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE to this number. Make sure you get a confirmation that you have stopped service.

For more information, please visit our Related Resources links.

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Verizon iPhone: Plan to Break Your ATT Wireless Contract?

Could Tuesday be the day? The day when all of the disgruntled AT&T customers can finally ditch the pathetic AT&T network and get a Verizon iPhone? It looks that way. Verizon has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday that has the tech world buzzing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that an unnamed source confirmed that the press conference is about the Verizon iPhone. As if that wasn't enough, All Things Digital claims to have a source that said that that Steve Jobs will make an appearance at the press conference. 

So if you love your iPhone but you're sick of the constant dropped calls and slow network, how do you get out of your AT&T contract and move to Verizon. After all, there is an early termination fee, right? Let's dig into that. From the AT&T website

 "In the event you wish to cancel service before your two-year agreement expires, you agree to pay a prorated early termination fee (ETF) as an alternative way to complete your agreement... For customers who enter into new two-year service agreements in connection with the purchase of our more advanced, higher end devices, including netbooks and smartphones, the ETF will increase to $325, and be reduced by $10 for each month that you remain with us as a customer during the balance of your two-year service agreement. After that, the ETF will no longer apply." 

In other words, if you've already had you iPhone for a year, you're looking at an ETF of about $200. Plus, when you buy your new Verizon iPhone, you're looking at spending about $250 with tax. That's $450, oh no! 

But wait, all is certainly not lost. In fact, the solution is quite simple. A quick browse of eBay reveals that even a used iPhone 4 fetches over $500. That means that it is very likely that you can either break even, or possibly profit by switching over to Verizon. Sweet!

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The controversial autism study done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield hasn't just been discredited, but it is being called a "fraud" by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in a series of articles and a lengthy editorial. BMJ alleges after a lengthy investigation by a journalist that Mr. Wakefield misrepresented or altered the medical histories of the 12 patients he used in his study. The autism study in question concluded that there was a link between autism and the measles mumps vaccine known as MMR, CNN reports.

As a result of the study, many parents were afraid to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine because of fears their children may develop autism. An overall increase in measles and mumps cases may be linked to parents bypassing vaccination altogether, Reuters reports. Vaccination rates in Britain dropped dramatically after the results of the autism study were released. Vaccination rates fell as low as 80% in Britain, according to CNN. In the U.S. the CDC reported more cases of measles than any other year since 1997.

Parents of children with autism filed a lawsuit where they claimed that their children developed autism because of early childhood vaccinations, we wrote previously in FindLaw's Common Law Blog. The decision for this lawsuit in Feb. 2009 deemed that plaintiffs failed to show that the vaccines "played any role at all" in causing autism.

Currently, parents should vaccinate their children with the measles mumps vaccine. Since it is alleged that this autism study "was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud," it may help allay the fears of parents worldwide about the MMR vaccine. "Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare," is what the BMJ concluded.

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More cell phone users may want to put a lock on their phones to prevent the dreaded social faux pas of "butt dialing." For those of you who don't know, a butt dial is when you accidentally dial the person you spoke to last from a cell phone that is in your pocket.

While it may be considered a harmless faux pas, albeit embarrassing, for one Illinois man it brought a whole SWAT team in for a false alarm. MSNBC.com reports that a wife who was accidentally butt dialed by her husband overheard a hip hop song that he was listening to and called 911 when he failed to respond.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the butt dial worried the wife to the point that she thought that her husband was being held hostage. "The conversation led her to believe there was someone holding him hostage," Winnetka Police Chief Joseph De Lopez told the Chicago Tribune

As a result of the frantic 911 call placed by the wife, SWAT team members circled the school that the man worked in around 5 pm to search for an alleged gunman holding him hostage. It was only after three hours of searching that the all clear signal was called after authorities found the man safe at home.

While there is no exact estimate on the resources that were spent on this particular wild goose chase, Winnetka Police Chief De Lopez said that there will be no charges since the married couple did not intend to deceive police. While the couple in this instance is lucky to escape charges, individuals should be aware that other municipalities such as New York City will start to charge for certain 911 calls such as a car fire or accident on July 1, 2011.

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With the New Year many people are trying to stay on top of their resolutions. A common one is to get in shape or lose weight. Enter Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig.

Both companies claim that those who sign up with them can lose weight and keep it off. However, their weight loss contract terms have been called deceptive, so you'll definitely want to take a close look at what you're signing.

Another downside to the programs: if they work, it's largely for two reasons: 1) because the portions are small and controlled, and 2) the food doesn't taste very good. According to Consumer Reports, you spend weeks eating food that doesn't always taste good. Naturally many people get fed up with eating food they don't like and go back to their regular diets.

Overall, Consumer Reports said the plans are best for "people who have trouble with meal planning, have limited time and skill for cooking at home, struggle with portion control, or feel they might benefit from community support and counseling," though "you can achieve the same portion control with diet meals and entrées from the supermarket freezer that may be tastier."

That's not to say that the programs don't work for some people. But if you are thinking about signing up for Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, or another diet program here are a few things to consider:

  • Forget any verbal promises, make sure all promises are written down
  • You may be asked to sign a contract and/or pay a membership fee
  • They will keep sending you food until you cancel
  • Make sure you confirm cancellation policy and get it in writing
  • The diet won't work long term unless you permanently change your eating style

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Laptop Stolen: How to Protect Your Identity After Theft

Laptops, loved for their portable nature, are also a popular item to steal for that very reason. One study reports that a laptop is stolen every 12 seconds. Knowing this, there are steps that should be taken before and after the theft has occurred in order to protect your identity.

Once it is determined that your laptop is stolen you should begin taking proactive steps to protect your identity and the potentially confidential information that was contained on your device. This includes changing passwords and usernames as soon as possible. Doing so will hopefully allow you to protect the information before the thief gets to it. In reality, the majority of laptop theft has to do with re-selling the laptop rather than getting at sensitive information. However, the potential is there, the effects of which can be very damaging.

Unfortunately, a stolen laptop may make for awkward but necessary conversation with your boss and employees as well as clients. Notifying anyone and everyone of the theft will not only serve to expedite the process of retrieving and saving information but a client has a right to know that their confidential information may be seen by those outside the circle of trust and also give them a chance to engage in protective measures such as changing passwords if necessary.

Finally, backing up data on a regular basis as well as purchasing a computer tracking system are both excellent options that will help lessen the blow of a stolen laptop as well as help to potentially find the item.

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How to Negotiate a Gym Membership Contract: Top 5 Tips

Got joining a gym on your list of New Year's resolutions? Getting in shape is certainly a good idea, but you should know that consumers often regret the gym contracts that they sign.

When you visit the gym, you should not sign up for a gym membership on the spot. Instead, take the gym membership contract home with you to carefully review in peace. In fact, by not signing up on the spot, you may even get the gym to make you a better offer. Never underestimate the power of the walkout.

Here are our top five tips to making good on your New Year's resolutions while avoiding getting screwed on your gym membership:

1. Get any verbal promises from salesman in writing

Most contracts will have a clause that says that any oral promises are specifically excluded. In other words, if the salesman told you that you were getting a month free and five free personal training sessions, make sure it's in the contract. If it's not in there, you're probably not getting it.

2. Check contract for limitations: i.e. not able to use all locations

Often the contracts will have limitations within them, such as restricting your membership to a specific location.

3. Confirm cancellation policy that allows you to stop paying if you move/are injured

You will want to take a close look at the cancellation policy. You don't want to wind up stuck if you move, are injured or have some other kind of intervening circumstance.

4. Confirm/use cool off period if you're not sold

Check to see if your state has a cooling off period for your contract. If they do, you will have a short period of time to change your mind after you sign the contract. That doesn't mean that you can neglect to read it closely.

5. Don't sign lifetime memberships

Why would you want a lifetime membership? They're so bad for consumers, they're illegal in some states. Best case, you want a month-to-month contract. Don't commit to anything longer than a year.

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Ford Truck Recall: F-Series Trucks Have Fire Hazard

Apparently Ford felt that they couldn't let the end of 2010 pass without one more set of automobile recalls. As we have reported, it has been a very busy year of recalls in the auto industry. Toyota was the front runner with its massive recalls involving the Prius, RAV4, Corolla, Matrix, Camry, Highlander, Tundra and Sequoia vehicles.

Not to be outdone, Ford is recalling 15,000 vehicles because of electrical systems malfunctions that can short and potentially start a fire, Carscoop reports. The Ford truck recall includes certain F series trucks, including the F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, F-550, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles from the 2011 model year. The faulty electrical equipment was produced by a Ford supplier.

If you are injured by a defective vehicle or other product, it is vitally important to tell your lawyer when you were injured. In many cases the day of this event is obvious, but in some cases the answer is very subtle, and it can be a big deal. If your injury cannot be linked to a specific accident on a specific date, this questionnaire will help your lawyer pin down this fact.

Under federal regulations, a carmaker is not allowed to sell a car with known safety defects. The only way that a carmaker can sell a car with a known defect is if it the defect can be fixed. Perhaps it seems altruistic that Ford is offering the recall. But they are legally required by federal regulations to do so.

If you are concerned about the safety of your Ford vehicle, owners can contact Ford regarding the Ford Truck Recall at 1-866-436-7332. Ford customer service will be able to look up your vehicle and see whether you vehicle is included in the recall, which Ford is paying for.

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