Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

February 2012 Archives

ATT May Be Throttling You: Judge Awards iPhone User $850

AT&T is throttling its heaviest users, maybe even including you.

Throttling is the practice of slowing down a heavy data user's Internet speed to prevent them from becoming a bigger bandwidth drain. Back in July, AT&T announced its throttling plans, much to the dismay of smart phone users paying for unlimited data.

One such user, Matt Spaccarelli, was mad. In fact, he was so mad, he took AT&T to small claims court. And he won.

Spaccarelli realized AT&T was throttling his phone after he reached 1.5 to 2GB of data during a billing cycle, explains PC World. His Internet became unbearably slow and streaming content was impossible to view. He believes the practice violates his contract -- if you pay for unlimited data, you should get unlimited data.

A California judge agreed, awarding him $850 on Friday.

You may or may not have a similar claim, depending on where you live, what your contract says and when it was signed. Wireless carriers often include terms that permit unilateral contract modifications. And as AT&T has told the Associated Press, its contract permits modifications made for the benefit of the entire network.

If you signed your contract before AT&Ts July throttling announcement, these provisions may be considered unconscionable and thus unenforceable in your state. If you signed your contract afterward, it's likely throttling is part of the carrier's current wireless contract.

It may be a good time to take a look at your bill and see if AT&T is throttling you. If it is, take a closer look at your contract and see what it says.

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Nissan Recall: Infiniti and Juke May Leak Gas

Nissan issued a voluntary recall last week over concerns that 80,000 of its vehicles may leak fuel. Shortly after, the automaker issued a second recall covering an additional 3,000 vehicles that do not meet federal auto safety rules.

The first Nissan recall involves the 2011-12 Infiniti Q56X, Infiniti M sedan and Juke. After conducting an investigation into a consumer complaint, the company believes that the fuel pressure sensor on these vehicles may not have been properly tightened. This could possibly cause "a small amount of fuel to leak."

The possible leak has not yet been connected to any injuries or "thermal events," according to the New York Times. But there have been reports of a gasoline smell within the vehicles.

The second Nissan recall involves the 2012 Murano and Rogue SUVs. The tire pressure monitoring system may not have been activated on approximately 3,000 of these vehicles, explains the Chicago Tribune. This system ensures proper tire pressure and must be activated to comply with federal auto safety rules.

Nissan plans to notify owners of the Infiniti and Juke models starting March 19. Local dealers will fix the pressure sensor free of charge. There are no plans to notify owners of the Murano or Rogue models, as records show they have not yet been sold. Local dealers were instead instructed to activate the system.

If you have any questions about the Nissan recalls, you can call Nissan at (615) 725-1000 or the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration at (888) 327-4246.

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Federal financial aid for college requires an updated FAFSA, as new and continuing students well know. But there are a handful of FAFSA mistakes that many students -- and parents -- make year after year, experts say.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required by most colleges for financial-aid consideration. It's a simple form, but a mistake in calculation could cost a student thousands of dollars in aid, one college-planning accountant told The Oregonian.

"Even lawyers, Ph.D.s, they screw it up," the accountant said. Here are three common FAFSA mistakes to watch out for:

1. Don't lowball your parents' earned income.

You may think that entering a smaller earned income amount will make you appear more needy, but that's not necessarily the case, according to the accountant.

Question 86 on the FAFSA asks, "How much did your (parent) earn from working in 2011?" This figure is used to help calculate an allowance against a student's income, or the amount a student can "shelter" from the calculation of how much aid a student deserves.

Parents should enter the amount from Box 5 of their W-2 forms, while self-employed parents should enter the profits from their business, the accountant advises.

2. Value your assets correctly.

The FAFSA's Question 89 asks, "What is the net worth of your parents' investments, including real estate?"

For real estate, report the net worth, not the fair market value, The Oregonian says. For other "investments," keep in mind what FAFSA considers an "asset": The home you live in doesn't count, and neither do insurance policies or retirement plans.

3. List the correct applicable parent.

For students of divorced parents, the FAFSA only asks for one parent's income and asset information. A student should list whichever parent she lived with the longest over the past year. It doesn't matter which parent claims the student as a dependent for tax purposes.

These are just a few common FAFSA mistakes. You may want to consult an attorney to make sure you're not missing anything in your FAFSA.

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Google's new privacy policy is set to take effect March 1. That means time is ticking for Google users to "delete" their search histories before that data is automatically shared across all of Google's platforms.

Under Google's new policy, user data from all Google-owned sites and products -- including YouTube, Gmail, Google+, Blogger, and Google's search engine -- will be consolidated and shared across those sites.

For example, a Google user's search-engine queries will be used to determine what advertisements appear when a user accesses Gmail. The data will also be used to create customized search results.

The policy change will give Google access to data that some users may consider personal, such as location, age, and interests. Search terms and Internet activity can also reveal a user's religion, health issues, and sexual orientation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out.

But there is a way to "delete" a user's Google web history, according to the EFF. If a user's web history is removed before March 1, that data will not be shared as part of Google's new privacy policy.

Here's how to "delete" your Google web history, according to the EFF:

This must be done to all Google accounts for which a user doesn't want her information shared.

Still, the process doesn't fully "delete" a user's web history. Rather, if a user chooses to "remove" her web history, Google will only use that data for internal purposes; it will not be shared with advertisers or across other Google sites as part of the new Google privacy policy, the EFF says.

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Did you know that some of your favorite mobile apps are accessing your address book -- without your permission? Apparently some of the biggest and most popular mobile apps do this. They use your address book data to help you find friends who also use their program.

But oftentimes they do not explicitly tell consumers that their information is being transmitted. Or, that the information is actually being stored.

Recently, social network app Path received bad publicity. A user discovered that the application was using and transmitting his address book data. This included his contacts' names, emails, and phone numbers.

And the problem isn't just limited to Path. Other big-name apps including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, and Foodspotting all have similar practices according to PC World.

In some cases the apps do not actually store the information they upload. But that may not really matter if the data isn't being transferred properly. Without a secure encryption, it would be easy for someone to hijack the transmission and gain access to the information.

Apple hasn't exactly been silent on the issue. The company does have policies in place for the apps offered in their online store. One requirement is that apps are not supposed to take address book data without the user's express permission. Yet somehow it seems some apps slipped through the company's monitoring cracks.

With the increased scrutiny, it's possible that app developers will soon be tweaking their ways. This means consumers may soon see more requests for mobile apps to access your address book. And ultimately, it will be up to you whether or not you want to download the app and give the program permission to use your address book data.

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Hepatitis C now kills more U.S. adults than HIV, and baby boomers are among the most-affected demographic, a new study shows.

Hepatitis C killed more than 15,000 Americans in 2007 -- surpassing HIV-related deaths, which totaled about 12,700 that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three-fourths of hepatitis deaths, and two-thirds of chronic hepatitis infections, occurred among baby boomers -- those born between 1945 and 1965, the CDC study found.

"One of every 33 baby boomers are living with hepatitis C infection," the CDC's top hepatitis expert told CBS News. "Most people will be surprised, because it's a silent epidemic."

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus that's passed through infected blood. Most infections become chronic, and can lead to cirrhosis or scarring of the liver, as well as liver cancer, Reuters reports.

But initial hepatitis C infections usually don't result in symptoms. Instead, the virus silently damages the liver over a period of years. About 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis infection, but half of them don't know it, the CDC reports.

The high rate of hepatitis infections among baby boomers may be linked to casual drug use as far back as the 1960s, CDC researchers suggest. Sharing tainted needles was, and remains, one of the most common routes of infection.

Hepatitis infections can also be linked to blood transfusions, as blood donors were not routinely tested for hepatitis until 1992.

A renewed push for hepatitis C screenings -- perhaps among all baby boomers -- could help save lives, the CDC study suggests. The findings appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Is AeroShot Safe? Inhalable Caffeine Will be Tested by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration plans to investigate whether AeroShot, an inhalable caffeine sold in small canisters, is safe for consumer use. The agency will also decide whether the product is properly branded as a dietary supplement.

Unlike medications, supplements are not subject to FDA review before being placed on the market.

For the uninitiated, AeroShot allows consumers to breathe in a fine caffeine powder that then dissolves in the mouth. Each canister contains 100 milligrams of caffeine, which the Associated Press reports is equivalent to a large cup of coffee. There are no other energy additives, such as taurine or guarana.

The main concern is that kids, teens and younger adults will use the inhalable caffeine in conjunction with alcohol. Such concerns are what ultimately forced the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko off the market.

Even when not combined with alcohol, caffeine consumption can lead to serious side effects. High levels of caffeine can cause an increase in heart rate, anxiety, tremors and headaches. An overdose can lead to breathing trouble, convulsions and hallucinations.

While AeroShot should not be used more than 2 times a day, the product's small size makes it easy for consumers to imbibe more frequently and in dangerous situations. It's also attractive because it does not contain the sugar found in energy and soft drinks.

As the FDA investigates AeroShot and the safety of inhalable caffeine, it's important that you continue to exercise caution during use. If you have teens that might be drawn to the product, have a conversation about caffeine safety.

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Angry Chicken? Whatever happened to Angry Birds?

It still exists, but some Android phone users may have mistaken the first app for a second edition. It, and a dozen or so other fake Android apps, have made their way into the official Android store.

Instead of providing access to endless fun, these apps collect personal information, spam inboxes, and install other apps without permission.

Jetpack Joyride, Madden NFL 12 and Pinterest are also amongst the fake Android apps, reports Gizmodo. Most of them list Rovio Mobile as the developer -- a name incredibly similar to Rovio Entertainment, the real creator of Angry Birds.

Google works hard to keep dangerous apps from its Android Market, but it's difficult to catch them all. Earlier this month, the company unveiled Bouncer, software designed to scan the Market for malware. It is responsible for a 40% decrease in malicious downloads, reports MSNBC.

However, there are some security flaws. Trusted developers may be hacked, and apps can collect data in ways that don't require actual malware. Such apps are likely to evade Bouncer.

Though Google has removed the offending apps, Android users should exercise caution when downloading apps from the Android Market or anywhere else. Cross-check the name of an app's developer (or the app itself) and don't input any personal information if requested.

Some experts also suggest Android users purchase phone security software that protects against all types of malware.

(For the curious, Android Police is maintaining a list of the fake Android apps on Google+.)

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Maybelline, L’Oreal Lipsticks Have the Most Lead in Them

Guess what may be lurking in your favorite tube of lipstick? Lead. Apparently, there is lead in lipstick. And the FDA knows about it.

The FDA recently conducted an analysis on about 400 of the nation's most popular lipsticks. Their results showed that many of them contained levels of lead.

And it's not exactly news. The FDA has known about lead in lipstick for years. Lab tests in the 1990s and another report in 2007 showed that some lipstick brands had lead.

"Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipstick to be a safety concern," the FDA said.

The highest concentration was found in Maybelline's Pink Petal lipstick and L'Oréal's Colour Riche lipstick.

The FDA does not have a set limit or requirement for lead in cosmetics. There are certain rules with regards to lead in color additives used in makeup. The agency is now considering whether or not to implement new standards. Perhaps this recent move was spurred by the increased negative publicity.

But just because there is no specific lead requirement does not mean it is okay for cosmetic companies to add whatever they want to their products. Cosmetics are still subject to regulation under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. All cosmetic products must be safe, according to WebMD.

Will there be more cosmetic regulation underway? There could be, if the FDA institutes new regulations and limits for lead in lipstick. A detailed list of the agency's analysis can be found on their website.

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Door Fires in Chevrolet SUVs Being Investigated by Feds

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating reports of driver's side door fires in the 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV. The safety agency has received 12 consumer complaints and a number of field reports about the General Motors vehicle.

Investigators believe the driver's side power window switch is responsible for the door fires, according to Reuters. There are reports of the switch melting and burning just before many of the incidents.

Several of these fires happened while the Trailblazer was moving, while others occurred while the car was off and unattended, explains the Associated Press. While affected vehicles suffered some interior damage, no injuries or accidents have been reported.

The 2007 Toyota Camry sedan and RAV4 SUV are also under investigation for reported door fires. The NHTSA has received at least 6 consumer complaints, some of which have been preliminary linked to the driver's side power window switch.

Officials are trying to determine if the two manufacturers got their window switches from the same parts maker, further notes the Associated Press. They will also be investigating whether other vehicles have used the part.

If the switch is to blame, potentially 309,000 Trailblazers and 830,000 Toyota vehicles will be affected.

At the moment, neither manufacturer has issued a recall. They have instead urged consumers to contact their local dealer and the NHTSA if they experience, or have experienced, a door fire or similar incident. Consumers are also asked to immediately leave a vehicle if they suspect something is wrong.

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Several national publishers are being sued for violating California's "shine the light law." The companies in question run high-traffic websites such as RunnersWorld.com and Wired.com.

The privacy law regulates the sale of customer data. The law mandates that businesses that deal with California residents need to make certain information available.

Specifically, they need to tell customers ways to opt out of information sharing. Either that or they need to provide an explanation of how customer data was used.

Businesses that operate physical storefronts in the state can tell customers the necessary information in person. Those that operate websites -- like publishers Time, Inc., Hearst Communications, and Conde Nast, cannot. They are supposed to include a link to a privacy policy on their website that contains all the necessary information.

It's something that many of the websites in question did not have. Eleven lawsuits have been filed against the websites and their parent companies. Businesses that violate the California statute are on the hook for damages of up to $3,000 per consumer, according to Media Post.

But there is no guarantee the plaintiffs will be able to recover. In other cases, Media Post reports that judges have ruled that Internet users need to prove they actually suffered an injury before they can have their day in court. This requirement is typical of all cases. Individuals need to have "standing" in order to sue. This means they need to be harmed or threatened in some way.

Other lawsuits may soon follow. The magazines were sued, but they are likely not the only ones breaking the "shine the light" law.

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Amish Farmer Banned from Selling Raw Milk, Judge Rules

Is raw milk safe?

The federal government doesn't think so, which is why the Food and Drug Administration spent the last two years investigating Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer. Allgyer runs Rainbow Acres Farm in Lancaster, Pa. and sells unpasteurized, or raw, milk.

Though Pennsylvania permits intrastate sales of raw milk, federal law prohibits interstate sales. Allgyer delivers raw milk to customers in Maryland.

Or better put, he did. A federal judge has ordered Daniel Allgyer to stop selling raw milk across state lines, reports the Washington Times. If he doesn't comply, his farm will be shut down and he will be ordered to reimburse the FDA for the cost of his prosecution.

The FDA sent Allgyer a warning letter before taking him to court, explains the Lancaster New Era. But he ignored its requests to cease all interstate sales. Instead, he had customers "lease" cows so he could claim he was merely delivering their rightful property.

The judge called this "subterfuge."

The consumption of raw milk has been part of an ongoing debate about food autonomy. The FDA believes raw milk is not safe because it does not undergo sterilization. As a result, there have been a number of bacterial outbreaks connected to the product.

Fans believe raw milk has higher levels of vitamins and folic acids, and can help the body fight cancer. Pasteurization arguably deflates, or destroys, milk's health benefits.

A compromise between federal regulations and raw milk supporters doesn't yet seem probable. The two sides will likely have to figure out how to make raw milk safe before we see any regulatory changes.

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Does Diabetes Drug Actos Cause Bladder Cancer?

Diabetes drug Actos is supposed to help patients manage high blood sugar, but could it also cause bladder cancer? The rising number of Actos lawsuits say "yes."

Manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceutical was forced to pull the drug from the French market in June 2011, reports Reuters. Responding to growing concerns about the drug, regulators conducted a study and found a slight increase in the risk of bladder cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet issued its own recall, but it did release a safety announcement soon after it learned about the French study. However, Takeda and its parent company, Eli Lilly, continue to refute the evidence.

Actos users who have developed bladder cancer are fighting back. Three Illinois couples have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer and its parent company, accusing them of concealing information. They believe Takeda and Eli Lilly knew of the increased risk of bladder cancer, but did not disclose the information to the FDA and public.

Drug companies have a legal duty to disclose side effect data to the FDA during the approval process. They must also warn consumers about potential harms.

Actos lawsuits are popping up over the country. About 100 of these suits have already been consolidated in a federal court in Louisiana. The number is expected to go.

If you or a loved one is a current or former Actos user, consider talking to an attorney about joining a current action or filing an Actos lawsuit of your own. Bladder cancer is serious, and if Takeda and Eli Lilly did hide evidence, you may receive compensation for your injuries.

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Top 3 Tips to Protect Yourself from Smartphone from Malware

Mobile malware is becoming a bigger problem every day. Especially now, considering some Americans use their phones more than their computers. Putting a stop to mobile malware isn't that easy.

What is malware? It's essentially viruses or programs that can wreak havoc on your phone . Malware can cause lags and system errors, and can introduce worms and trojans to your system. In short: you don't want malware on your phone.

Here are some simple tips and tricks to help you fight malware problems.

Malware Tip #1: Check app reviews before you download.

If you're an Android user, you should be cautious. There seems to be a growing number of malware targeted toward Android devices. That means you should be wary about downloading or installing applications that you've never heard of, or that don't have good reviews. See what other customers are saying about the app before you download. It can help you avoid a virus.

Also try to avoid clicking on suspicious links when browsing the web.

Malware Tip #2: Disable Bluetooth when you're not using it.

Be careful if you use Bluetooth on your phone. If you're walking around with Bluetooth enabled, your phone could be ripe for a hacker to swoop in. In some cases, individuals can find all the information on their phone stolen due to an open Bluetooth connection. So it may be prudent to simply remember to turn your Bluetooth off when you're not using it.

Malware Tip # 3: Update your phone's OS.

Sometimes updating your phone's OS can help you combat malware. This is because developers are often trying to upgrade features with new releases. They are also probably trying to work on fixing any security loopholes.

Knowing that mobile malware exists is an essential first step. The next step is to take preventative measures to stop mobile malware from infiltrating your phone. With these steps in mind, hopefully your phone will remain virus-free.

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Online Dating Scams Target Single Women

Officials are warning consumers to be on the lookout for online dating scams. Scammers commonly target single women over the age of 40, wooing them with practiced words. They then ask the target to wire them money.

The federal government receives thousands of these complaints each month, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellyn Lindsay. Unfortunately, most of these online dating scams originate in Asia or Africa, making prosecution unlikely.

It's not that difficult to be duped by a scammer, explains Business Insider. Many of them use real names and photos. Some even pose as members of the U.S. Armed Forces, giving the impression of safety.

The U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Department fields many of these complaints, according to the site. Names and ranks are real, but the perpetrators are usually from Ghana, Angola and Nigeria.

The Better Business Bureau has taken a keen interest in online dating scams. It suggests men and women of all ages be on the lookout for the following things:

  • Daters who say they are constantly traveling and are never in the U.S;
  • People who claim to be in sudden financial trouble;
  • Suitors who ask you to wire them money through a service like Western Union; and
  • Online daters who want to talk outside of the dating site after having just met.

The group also makes clear that a little Google never hurt -- and neither does checking sex offender databases. It may be overly cautious, but online dating scams can really hurt.

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Tassimo and Bosch single-serve coffee makers can spray scalding-hot liquid and cause severe burns, a federal agency warned in announcing an international recall.

In a related action, single-serve coffee "T-discs" sold under the brands Gevalia, Maxwell House, and Nabob are also being recalled.

The coffee maker recall affects more than 1.7 million units sold in the United States and Canada. More than three dozen people, including a 10-year-old Minnesota girl, suffered second-degree burns linked to the coffee makers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The problem lies in a plastic disc, called a T-disc, that holds the single serving of coffee or tea. The disc "can burst and spray hot liquid and coffee grounds or tea leaves onto consumers" and bystanders, the Commission warned.

That's why 4 million packages of Tassimo espresso T-discs are also being recalled. The discs can become clogged and cause coffee makers to spray hot liquids and grounds; 21 people have been burned, including a 2-year-old girl in Canada, the agency said.

No lawsuits have yet been filed, but burn victims may be able to seek damages from the allegedly defective products' manufacturers. The victims may try to sue for negligence, or for breach of an implied warranty of merchantability -- that the product sold is in good working order.

Possible defenses to liability may include unforeseeable user error, or even assumption of risk associated with a hot-beverage dispenser.

The Tassimo espresso T-discs are made by Illinois-based Kraft Foods Global Inc., but are sold under the brands Gevalia, Maxwell House, and Nabob.

The coffeemakers are made by California-based BSH Home Appliances Corp., but are sold under the brand names Bosch, Tassimo, and Tassimo Professional.

The affected coffee makers, and the recalled T-discs, are listed at the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website.

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A million hard boiled eggs have been recalled over Listeria fears. The egg recall comes after tests showed that some eggs, produced by Minnesota company Michael Foods, could be contaminated.

The eggs were distributed to around 34 states. The eggs were sold in brine. They were mostly for institutional use and were purchased by food distributors and manufacturers. The products were not directly sold to retailers.

The company has traced the problem back to a packaging room, according to the AP.

So far no illnesses have been reported. But the eggs could be in a number of your favorite products. After all, hard boiled eggs are used in numerous recipes.

The eggs in question were sold under six different brand names. The names include Columbia Valley Farms and Wholesome Farms. The eggs can last up to 45 days if the package is unopened.

This could be a problem. Listeria grows well in cold temperatures. Recipes calling for hard boiled eggs, such as egg salads, are often refrigerated. This means the problem could easily become worse, said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, to NPR.

Individuals sickened with listeria can end up suffering a variety of different symptoms. These can include fever and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Pregnant women and the elderly are more likely to come down with the disease.

The hard boiled egg recall extends to packages that have lot codes starting with a "1" and ending with a "W." The company can be reached at 877-367-3447 by those who have questions about the egg recall.

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Window or aisle? Your seat preference on an airplane could land you in a higher-risk category for a potentially deadly blood clot, a new study finds.

The risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is notably higher for passengers in window seats, according to a study in the medical journal Chest. Other factors such as a passenger's age, obesity, and the duration of the flight also play a role, the study found.

"Long-distance travelers sitting in a window seat tend to have limited mobility, which increases their risk for DVT," one of the study's authors told Fox News. The risk is highest on flights longer than eight hours, he said.

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in a person's lower leg or thigh, according to the National Institutes of Health. The clot can impede blood flow, causing painful swelling; the clot can also break off and travel through the bloodstream, damaging vital organs like the brain, lungs, or heart.

Remaining in a prolonged, seated position can raise the risk of blood clots. That makes window-seat passengers more at risk than others, because they're less likely to get up and walk around, according to the study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada.

Passengers affected by DVT have sued airlines for negligence. Airlines knew about the risk of DVT, but failed to warn passengers to get up and move around to reduce the risk of blood clots, the lawsuits generally claim.

In legal circles, the condition is sometimes called "economy class syndrome," ABC News reports. Lawsuits usually point to cramped coach-class seats and limited leg room.

But the Chest study debunked "economy class syndrome" as a myth. There is no difference between economy and first-class passengers' risk of DVT -- rather, remaining seated on a long flight is a more critical factor, the study found.

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Annoyed at Credit Card Minimum Charges? Too Bad

Do you love going to that cute little diner for lunch but absolutely hate having to pay cash? There are drawbacks to carrying a lot of bills. Maybe you don't want to get mugged. Or, maybe you're just busy and can't make pit stops at the ATM before going out for a meal or a snack.

You might wonder if it's legal for stores to impose a credit card minimum charge before they'll swipe your plastic. You're not alone.

It seems some consumers think that it's against the law. Except, those consumers are wrong. It's perfectly legal to impose a minimum charge. Well, most of the time at least.

Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010. The legislation paved the way for new rules that affect cardholders nationwide.

It specifically allows merchants to set minimum credit card charges. But the cap can only be set at $10 or less.

Before the Dodd-Frank Act, such minimum charges typically violated service agreements with Visa and MasterCard. Meaning, merchants weren't allowed to set those limits. But the Act made it so that payment card networks like Visa can no longer have these types of regulations.

This means that most of the time, if you see a store posting a credit card minimum of $10 or less, that's perfectly legal. But if you see a store advertising a minimum purchase of $20, they are violating the law.

It certainly can be annoying. Some people genuinely dislike walking around with a wad of cash in their back pocket. But at the same time, if you want to enjoy a meal or buy something a small store, chances are they might not accept your card if you're only purchasing a few small items.

For consumers, this now means you might need to trudge around with some green in your wallet.

That is, unless you only plan on frequenting establishments that have no credit card minimum charges. But keep in mind: these rules don't apply to debit cards.

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Some Taco Bell customers had to make a run for the doctor's office after a Salmonella outbreak that infected dozens of people in ten states last fall.

But the outbreak also affected other unidentified restaurants, not just Taco Bell, the fast-food company points out.

A Salmonella outbreak in October and November 2011 infected 68 people, 20 of whom had to be treated at hospitals, the Centers for Disease Control reports, according to ABC News. No one died from the infections.

Salmonella are bacteria that cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection. Infection may not require treatment, unless a person becomes dehydrated or the infection spreads.

A CDC report in January described the Salmonella outbreak and linked most of the infections to "Restaurant Chain A." Food Safety News identified "Chain A" as Taco Bell on Wednesday, ABC reports.

The CDC's report did not name Taco Bell because of a long-standing policy, according to ABC. The CDC does not identify restaurants under investigation if there is "not a public health threat."

"By the time we posted information about this outbreak, it was over," a CDC spokeswoman told ABC. "If it was over, there would have been no public need to disclose it."

A Taco Bell statement emphasized that "some people who were ill ate at Taco Bell, while others did not," ABC reports. The problem may be tied to a supplier, the company suggested.

The source of the Taco Bell Salmonella outbreak remains a mystery. Multiple infections were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, while Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Tennessee each saw one case of Salmonella infection, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Debt Collection Company Must Pay $2.5M Settlement

Asset Acceptance, one of the country's largest debt collection companies, has agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $2.5 million in civil fines. The FTC had accused the company of deceiving debtors and failing to inform them of their rights under a debt's statute of limitations.

The company is known for buying "charged-off" debt, explains MSNBC. For just pennies, it acquires the right to collect old debts that creditors no longer want to pursue.

But many states have a statute of limitations -- normally between 3 and 6 years -- that bars creditors from suing over an unpaid debt. At that point, it is up to the debtor to make voluntary payments.

However, those voluntary payments may revive what is called a "time-barred debt." A partial payment resets the statute of limitations, again giving the creditor a right to sue.

Federal law requires collectors to explain a debt's statute of limitations and revival when trying to collect a time-barred debt. Asset Acceptance failed to do so.

You should be aware of this issue if a collector is trying to collect an old debt. In fact, you should ask whether he is calling about a time-barred debt.

The collector must answer truthfully, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But if he declines to respond, you should ask for the date of your last payment. Once you find your state's debt statute of limitations, you will be able to determine whether your debt is time-barred.

At this point, you will need to decide what to do. A partial payment may make you liable, but an unpaid debt will continue to adorn your credit report. If you have enough money, you could call the company and make a deal.

The decision is yours, but be sure to make an informed one.

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About 1 million packets of Pfizer birth control pills are being recalled because of a mix-up that could lead to unintended pregnancies.

Pfizer announced Tuesday that about 1 million packages of two birth-control products -- Lo/Ovral-28 and generic Norgestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol -- may not contain enough contraceptive to prevent pregnancy, MSNBC reports.

Pfizer manufactures the pills, but they are marketed under the Akrimax Pharmaceuticals brand, the Associated Press reports. The recalled pill packets have expiration dates between July 31, 2013 and March 31, 2014; the affected lot numbers are listed on the FDA's website.

The recalled Pfizer birth-control pills are supposed to be taken orally each day over a four-week period. Each birth-control package contains 21 active drug tablets to provide contraception and 7 inactive sugar tablets to coincide with the menstrual period, according to MSNBC.

"What has happened is, there has been a mix-up," a physician and contributor to Women's Health magazine explained on NBC's "Today" show. "So some of the inactive pills have been mixed up and placed where the active pills are, or vice-versa, they're not quite sure."

The pills themselves do not pose a health risk, according to Pfizer. But women who use the recalled products "will not be protected against pregnancy for the entire month," the physician said on "Today."

"So stop it immediately and use a form of backup birth control instead," the physician advised. You can watch her interview here:

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The mix-up that led to Pfizer's birth-control recall has been corrected, a company spokeswoman told the Associated Press. She blamed both mechanical and visual-inspection failures at a packaging plant.

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A Frito-Lay lawsuit asserts some of the company's "all-natural" claims are misleading, and the proof is in the genes.

Frito-Lay's so-called "all-natural" Tostitos and SunChips actually contain ingredients made from genetically modified plants, the lawsuit alleges. A New York man filed the suit, which is seeking class-action status and damages estimated to exceed $5 million, Reuters reports.

Frito-Lay, owned by PepsiCo, charges consumers about 10 cents more per ounce for its allegedly "all-natural" Tostitos and SunChips, the lawsuit contends. But scientific tests revealed the "all-natural" chips contained corn and vegetable oils derived from genetically modified plants.

Consumers who were misled by Frito-Lay's labeling deserve compensation, the Frito-Lay lawsuit suggests.

"Since a reasonable consumer assumes that seeds created [by genetic engineering] are not 'all natural,' advertising Tostitos and SunChips as natural is deceptive and likely to mislead a reasonable consumer," the lawsuit asserts, according to Reuters.

The Frito-Lay lawsuit is likely based on a theory of tortious misrepresentation -- when a person is somehow hurt by relying on false or misleading information conveyed by a product's manufacturer. A plaintiff's recovery doesn't depend on a product defect, but rather the manufacturer's allegedly misleading communication.

If the "all-natural" claim is shot down, Frito-Lay still may not be required to disclose the allegedly gene-altered ingredients. Currently, foods containing such ingredients do not have to be labeled, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But the Center for Food Safety has petitioned the FDA to change that rule, The Wall Street Journal reports. The petition is under review.

This week's Frito-Lay lawsuit is the second to accuse the company of deceiving customers by labeling chips as "all natural." A similar suit was filed in federal court in California in December.

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Brazilian Blowout will now be labeled as potentially carcinogenic. The move comes after concerns that the popular Brazilian Blowout treatment may emit formaldehyde gas.

Formaldehyde gas may cause side effects in some consumers and salon workers. It can cause nosebleeds, chest pain, vomiting, eye irritation, and other symptoms. Ultimately, it could even lead to cancer.

Despite the risks, the product was initially labeled "formaldehyde free," according to Time. That is why the California attorney general filed a lawsuit. The state believed Brazilian Blowout was improperly advertised.

California sued the hair product company over violations of state law, including deceptive advertising statutes.

GIB, the company that manufactures Brazilian Blowout products, has settled the case. It will now pay the state $600,000 in penalties and fines. The company has also agreed to warn consumers that chemicals in the product can be dangerous.

The products are popular in salons. Women use the procedure to smooth out their curls and frizz. Brazilian Blowout products temporarily smooth hair. It is sealed in using heat.

Customers sometimes wear some safeguards or protections like masks during the procedure. They also are only exposed to the gas only once every few weeks or however often they go in for the smoothing treatment.

The risk is higher for those who work in beauty parlors. Salon workers may be exposed to the gas on a daily basis.

Should customers refrain from getting a Brazilian Blowout because of formaldehyde? It's ultimately their decision. But hopefully, more salon-goers will now be sufficiently warned. Brazilian Blowout's labeling may give consumers the ability to make an informed decision.