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Customer Sues Whole Foods Over Alleged Overcharging In NYC

Fri, 2015-06-26 15:57

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

New York City officials accused Whole Foods of overcharging customers in the “the worst case of mislabeling” investigators have seen, a man filed a lawsuit against the upscale food purveyor. He’s seeking damages because he claims he bought several mispriced packages at the stores over the last three years.

The Bronx man cites the report from the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs that said Whole Foods had a consistent bad habit of overstating the weight of prepackaged foods, resulting in overcharges. He wants to make his suit a class action, reports NBC New York.

In the lawsuit he alleges deceptive practices, false advertising, unjust profits and breach of contract.

The DCA cited overcharges in the report that ranged from $.80 too much for a package of pecan panko to an overcharge of $14.84 for a container of coconut shrimp.

“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers shopping for a summer BBQ or who grab something to eat from the self-service aisles at New York City’s Whole Foods stores have a good chance of being overcharged,” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin said. “As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem.”

Whole Foods said in a statement to NBC New York that it disagrees with the DCA’s “overreaching allegations.” A spokesman added that the chain cooperated fully with the agency until it made “grossly excessive monetary demands” to settle the dispute.

“Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us,” the spokesman said. “Our customers are our number one stakeholder and we highly value their trust in us.”

Man Sues Supermarket Chain Over Mispricing Day After City Probe Finds Routine Overcharging [NBC New York]

Subaru Recalls 72,000 Vehicles Because Automatic Braking Systems Are Supposed To Actually Help Drivers

Fri, 2015-06-26 15:24
(kc2gvx)

(kc2gvx)

The ability to brake may be one of the most essential safety features of a vehicle. But part of that intricate system – specifically the automatic braking component – just isn’t working like it should for tens of thousands of newer Subaru vehicles.

Subaru notified [PDF] the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it will recall about 72,000 model year 2015 Impreza, Crosstrek, Legacy, and Outback vehicles and model year 2016 WRX vehicles equipped with the Eyesight Driver Assist System.

According to the company, if the switch that activates the brake light fails, the automatic pre-collision braking component of the company’s driver-assist system will not function. This can cause the vehicle to not react to an obstacle in its path, increasing the risk of a crash.

The company says the brakes will work when the pedal is depressed and drivers are not affected if they don’t have the automatic system turned on.

Subaru says it is currently unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the issue.

Dealers will notify owners of affected vehicles and reprogram the driver assist system.

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Fri, 2015-06-26 15:10

Here are twelve of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.

(photographynatalia)

(photographynatalia)

(Greg McMullen)

(Greg McMullen)

(Prayitno)

(Prayitno)

(Great Beyond">Great Beyond)

(<a href="Great Beyond“>Great Beyond)

(Brian Rome)

(Brian Rome)

(photographynatalia)

(photographynatalia)

(Basheer Tome)

(Basheer Tome)

(Karen Chappell)

(Karen Chappell)

(Joel Zimmer)

(Joel Zimmer)

(aloucha)

(aloucha)

(Mike Matney)

(Mike Matney)

(photographynatalia)

(photographynatalia)

Want to see your pictures on our site? Our Flickr pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool.

CFPB Publishes More Than 7,700 Detailed Financial Grievances To Public-Facing Database

Thu, 2015-06-25 23:09
(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Sharing your nightmare experience with a financial institution, product or service could help another consumer avoid such dastardly situations. And from the looks of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new public-facing Consumer Complaint Database, people have a lot to share.

Just three months after the CFPB finalized a policy giving consumers the opportunity to share details about their issues with financial companies for public consumption, the Bureau announced it has posted more than 7,700 complaints for others to peruse.

The CFPB accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection and payday loans.

The newly added first-hand consumer narratives are searchable and contain company responses, if available.

“Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone,” Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said in a statement.

While the CFPB’s previous complaint process allowed consumers to fill out a detailed description of their complaint, that information is kept private.

Now, however, those grievances are posted for the whole world to see, as long as the complainant opts to make it public.

Here's snippet of the consumer narrative database.

Here’s snippet of the consumer narrative database.

Under the policy, the CFPB doesn’t publish the complaint narrative unless the consumer provides informed consent. This means that when consumers submit a complaint through consumerfinance.gov, they would have to affirmatively check a consent box to give the Bureau permission to publish their narrative. Consumers would also be able to withdraw their consent to publish the narrative at any time.

Of course, any complaints shared on the public-facing side of things go through specific safeguards to ensure consumers’ sensitive information isn’t put at risk. Before the narrative is published, the Bureau will take steps to remove personal information from the complaint including names, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and other identifiers.

By furnishing these first-person narratives, consumers can provide context to the issue and help the public detect specific trends in the market, while also aiding consumer decision-making and driving improved customer service, the CFPB says.

Work to create the public-facing database began back in December 2014 when the Bureau first proposed allowing consumers to air their grievances publicly.

In addition to making consumer narratives publicly available on Thursday, the CFPB also issued a request for information [PDF] seeking public input on ways to make such data more useful to the public.

Specifically, the Bureau is looking for ideas to enable the public to more easily understand information in the database and make comparisons of the complaints by normalizing, or adding additional context to, the complaint data.

Individuals wanting to provide feedback on the system can do so within 60 days.

CFPB Publishes Over 7,700 Consumer Complaint Narratives About Financial Companies [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Find Shipping Container Full Of Cocaine-Stuffed Shrimp

Thu, 2015-06-25 23:02

(Photos in the Sunset)

(Photos in the Sunset)

We are fairly certain that cocaine-stuffed shrimp is not a Guyanese delicacy. That’s how 268 kilograms of cocaine arrived in a shipping container at a port in Brooklyn, though. Law enforcement followed the delivery to a warehouse in Queens and arrested a man in the seafood business, who claims that he had nothing to do with the shipment.

The stuffed-shrimp scheme was revealed thanks to the hard-working noses of drug-sniffing dogs. Federal agents confiscated the shrimp but had the container delivered to its real destination, a warehouse in Brooklyn, where it was addressed to a man who doesn’t exist.

According to the New York Daily News, Homeland Security agents followed the container to the warehouse to see who claimed it. They observed the man who they arrested as part of a group “organizing and supervising the unloading” of the container.

An employee of the seafood shipping business told federal agents that the shipment was addressed to a fake name that is an alias that the business owner uses. The complaint did not specify who owns or rents the warehouse where the container was delivered.

The seafood business owner, for his part, claims that he just happened to be standing there, and was curious about what was inside the container.

Federal agents find $12 million worth of cocaine inside shrimp at Red Hook Terminal [Daily News]

BaubleBar Latest E-Commerce Retailer To Open A Real-Life Store

Thu, 2015-06-25 22:38

(Facebook)

(Facebook)

If you’re worried that online shopping is killing off real-life commerce, don’t fret just yet. A popular online jewelry seller, BaubleBar, is bringing its brand to Roosevelt Mall on Long Island. Yes, they’re moving from online to real life, opening a physical store where loyal customers and new ones can touch and try on their jewelry before buying.

You can find the brand’s costume jewelry in other stores at your average high-end mall, including Nordstrom and Anthropologie, and they’ve also experimented with pop-up stores. While the brand has grown and is successful, costume jewelry is more of an impulse purchase, which is why the brand hopes to move into the malls where impulse shopping happens.

“Our product is small and impulsive,” cofounder Amy Jain told Forbes. “We want to be wherever our girl is, whenever she wants to buy the product.” Of course, selling online means that the company has four years’ worth of data about exactly where their customers live, and that’s how they chose the Roosevelt Mall location.

Some other big online retailers have started in this very old-fashioned business, with stores mostly in the New York City area. Birchbox has real-life beauty products stores now, and eyeglass and sunglass seller Warby Parker has showrooms in a few large cities where people can try on glasses and make purchases.

Online Jewelry Startup BaubleBar To Open Retail Stores [Forbes]

App Loops 30-Second Spotify Snippets To Support Your Favorite Artist

Thu, 2015-06-25 22:06

eternifyDo you want to support your favorite musicians, but do so without spending any money and without actually listening to their songs? A band came up with a brilliant scheme to extract as much royalty cash from Spotify for your favorite musicians in the shortest amount of time. It’s called Eternify, and it renders your favorite songs unlistenable.

The musicians who came up with this evil plan, Ohm & Sport, obviously know how Spotify works quite well. They know that the artist gets a royalty payment after you play a song for 30 seconds, so what the Eternify app does is play 30-second sections over and over. If a song is 4 minutes long, you can rack up eight plays in the same amount of time that it would have taken you to actually listen to the song.

While finishing this post, I’ve let the program run in a different tab while it plays the same 30-second section of “Code Monkey” by Jonathan Coulton over and over.

earnings

The secret of Eternify seems to be that you are not supposed to actually listen to the music, just run them over and over in a background tab with your computer’s sound turned off. Otherwise you will grow to hate your favorite artists and songs. Very quickly.

This app hasn’t been shut down by Spotify yet, but we do wonder how long it will last. Last year, the band Vulfpeck released an entire album intended for fans to stream on Spotify while they slept or at any other time of day. The tracks were silent. Spotify appreciated the band’s ingenuity, but took the track down.

In a statement about Eternify, Spotify told Business Insider that they want to get in touch with the band to discuss the app.

We welcome any legitimate means to help artists get their music discovered in Spotify and to be fairly compensated. With this in mind, we’re currently trying to contact Eternify to check that their app follows Spotify’s terms of use.

Another musician, Disparition, begs fans not to use Eternify. While you might feel helpful, you are not really helping your favorite artists. There’s only a limited pool for royalties every month that comes from advertising and subscription revenue, and it’s divided among artists according to how often their songs have ben played that month.

“When you use an app like this, it has zero affect on the amount of money Spotify makes,” he explains. “[Y]ou are just diluting the pool of money that goes to all of the other artists in the system.

There are, of course, other ways to support your favorite musicians without leaving your couch. You could, for example, check whether your favorite independent artist has a page on Bandcamp, which lets you name your own price or pay extra for an album or single if you want to. That does involve putting up money and not just leaving a browser window open.

Eternify [Official Site]
This band’s website loops Spotify songs to rack up payments for musicians [Business Insider]
ETERNIFY [Tumblr]

Takata CEO Says Company Will Consider A Victim Compensation Fund

Thu, 2015-06-25 21:56

takataJust days after Honda confirmed the eighth death linked to the ongoing recall of defective Takata airbags in millions of vehicles from nearly a dozen manufactures, the Japanese parts maker says it is considering the possibility of creating a victim compensation fund.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada revealed that the creation of a fund was just one of several options the company was looking at to compensate victims of the safety devices that have been found to spew pieces of shrapnel with enough force to injure or kill occupants.

Shigehisa’s remarks came during his first news conference addressing the massive airbag defect in Tokyo on Thursday.

Recalls of vehicles with Takata-produced airbags began slowly in 2008, but gained traction over the last year, culminating in the recall of 33.8 million vehicles last month.

For much of the last seven years, Takada has remained mum about the airbag issues, only giving apologies for the defect in statements.

“I felt that the priority of my job is to ensure our products are safe,” he explained on Thursday. “I regret that I haven’t offered enough explanations.”

News that the parts maker would consider a compensation fund comes two days after Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called on the company to establish a program during a congressional hearing on the defect.

At that time, Takata’s North American executive vice president, Kevin Kennedy, said he couldn’t commit to creating the fund, the WSJ reports.

While there are no details on what a possible victims compensation fund might look like for Takata, it’s possible it could be modeled after a similar program currently used by General Motors to provide compensation for victims of its massive ignition switch recall.

So far, that fund has approved claims for 117 deaths and 237 injuries. The company estimated at the time the fund was set up in August 2014 that it could spend between $400-$600 billion compensating victims.

Takada offered few other details regarding the airbag defect on Thursday. Neither he nor other executives addressed whether or not the company was any closer to determining what has caused the airbags to explode with such force.

At an earlier congressional hearing, Takata announced it would change its use of the often volatile chemical ammonium nitrate in its safety devices and replace its batwing driver inflators.

The company also plans to re-recall about 400,000 vehicles that have already been repaired.

Takata Studying Possibility of Victims’ Compensation Fund: CEO [The Wall Street Journal]

Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift Of Scratch-Off Ticket Reaps $1 Million Payout

Thu, 2015-06-25 21:34

lottery money jar

(Lisa Brewster)

While it might seem like picking up Pop a lottery ticket for Father’s Day is the kind of thing you do last-minute, well, it might be. But even last-minute selections can reap big rewards: A dad in Pennsylvania received $1 million in a Father’s Day card from his daughter, after her gift of a scratch-off ticket turned out to be a winner.

Though she always buys her dad a sentimental card for Father’s Day, this year the lucky winner’s daughter grabbed a lottery ticket to go along with her loving sentiments, reports the Tribune-Review. Her mom says she’d forgotten to get a gift and felt bad, so she told her daughter to buy a ticket along with the card.

He scratched his ticket and uncovered a space reading “payout.” Okay, dad thought. But what does that mean? His daughter knew.

“She starts screaming her head off,” he told the Tribune-Review. “ ‘You’re a millionaire!’ ”

“Everybody on both sides of the street heard my scream,” she added.

Pennsylvania Lottery authorities confirmed the win yesterday, after the story about his reward on Tuesday.

The 61-year-old truck driver says he’d been counting down the days until he could retire after 31 years, and now that day will come early. He’s planning on buying another muscle car to join his 1960s Chevrolet Bel Air.

“It still hasn’t settled in. When I see the check in my hand, then I’ll believe it,” he said.

Jeannette man wins $1M prize from Father’s Day gift of lottery ticket [The Tribune-Review]

Upgrade Your Smartphone At Any Time With T-Mobile: With A Few Catches

Thu, 2015-06-25 21:10

(Patrick)

(Patrick)

Early upgrade programs have been the hot trend in the phone business in the last few years: while carriers want to get out of the subsidized handset business, they realize that customers want a way to get the shiniest new handsets without paying the hundreds of dollars that those handsets cost at retail. T-Mobile now wants to put even newer and shinier handsets in customers hands through a change to their Jump program.

We’ve questioned whether early upgrade plans are a good deal for consumers, and the answer is that it depends on how often you like to upgrade your phone, and what kind of voice and data plan you have.

T-Mobile’s plan, called Jump, disconnects the handset purchase from your rate plan entirely, which was revolutionary two years ago. Now all of the major carriers have followed T-Mobile’s lead. The new variation, called Jump on Demand, is a slightly better deal… as long as you wanted to buy one of a few higher-end smartphones in the first place.

First, you have to buy one of those flagship phones mentioned above: as of this writing, eligible devices are the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the LG G4. Customers on this plan have to make monthly payments for 18 months, then can trade in their phones.

After the 18 months, customers can walk away from T-Mobile as long as they pay off the remaining balance. Otherwise, they have to upgrade to a new phone using the Jump or Jump On Demand program. If they upgraded before the 18 months were up, the clock would have started all over again.

The On Demand version eliminates the thing that we didn’t like about the original Jump program: the extra $10 monthly fee that includes phone insurance. If you prefer to have insurance, you can get it by paying extra, but it’s not a mandatory part of the early upgrade program.

T-Mobile will let you upgrade your smartphone anytime you want [CNET]

Apple Pulls Civil War Games From App Store For Images Of Confederate Battle Flag Used In “Offensive” Ways

Thu, 2015-06-25 20:30

(dlayphoto.com)

(dlayphoto.com)

Joining retailers like Walmart and Amazon who pulled merchandise with images of the Confederate battle flag earlier this week and the country’s largest flagmaker, which has stopped selling the flag, Apple has reportedly yanked several Civil War games that include the rebel banner from its iTunes App Store.

CNN reports (warning: link contains video that autoplays) that the games started disappearing from the App Store early Thursday morning, with affected game developers getting a notice that their products were getting the boot.

The move comes after a 21-year-old man was accused last week of killing nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. He was seen in online posts brandishing the battle flag, which, while revered by some in the South, to many others is seen as a symbol of hatred.

It is not in dispute that the Confederate battle flag — which was never the official flag of the Confederacy, but a flag flown in battle by General Robert E. Lee — was involved in the Civil War.

But Apple wrote in an email to game creators that their stuff had been pulled for containing “images of the Confederate Flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways,” according to one of those affected, Andrew Mulholland of HexWar Games.

Apple wrote: “At this time, your app has been removed from the App Store. We encourage you to review your app concept and incorporate different content and features that are in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”

The email cited Apple’s Store review guidelines in the email: “Apps containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected.”

Mulholland told site Pocketgamer that four of his company’s Civil War Games were taken from the App Store, with one other remaining up — Civil War: Bull Run 1861.

“It seems disappointing that they would remove it as they weren’t being used in an offensive way,” he told the site. “They were historical war games and hence it was the flag used at the time…. We’re in no way sympathetic to the use of the flag in an offensive way; we used it purely because historically that was the flag that was used at the time.”

He says HexWar will revise its games to replace those flags identified as offensive, and will use the official flag of the Confederacy used between 1861 and 1862, “as the one that’s considered offensive wasn’t introduced until late 1862.”

It could take a week to implement those changes, and possibly another two weeks before Apple reviews the revised games.

“Until Apple approves them, and hopefully they will, we are missing a significant part of our revenue from people who just want to play a historical strategy game,” he said.

Apple declined to comment to CNN.

Apple pulls Confederate flag-bearing Civil War games from App Store [CNN]
Apple pulls American Civil War games for displaying the Confederate flag in ‘offensive’ ways [Pocketgamer]

Lululemon Recalls Drawstrings From Tops Because No One Wants To Be Hit Repeatedly While Running

Thu, 2015-06-25 20:17
This is just one of the 19 different types of Lululemon tops being recalled.

This is just one of the 19 different types of Lululemon tops being recalled.

The last thing you want to endure after finishing your workout or while enjoying a little down time in your comfy-cozy sweatshirt is for the stings on that thing to attack. But that’s apparently what’s been happening for owners of several Lululemon Althletica apparel items, and now the company has recalled an inordinate amount of women’s tops.

After receiving seven reports of injuries from consumers wearing the apparel items, Lululemon announced it would recall about 318,000 women’s hooded sweatshirts, jackets, pullovers, tunics and other tops that have an elastic draw cord with hard metal tips, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In all, 19 different kinds of tops contain the elastic draw cord with a hard tip in the hood or around the neck area.

The seven reports of incident collected by CPSC resulted in injuries to the eye or face after the top’s cord was pulled or became caught and then snapped back.

“Our main priority is ensuring our product works for our guests, and we believe this is the necessary proactive action,” Vancouver-based Lululemon said in a statement to Bloomberg. “We are committed to making our product right for our guests and regret any inconvenience this may have caused them.”

Lululemon advises consumers to stop wearing the tops or remove the cord. People who contact the company can request a new, non-elastic draw cord.

The tops – of which 133,000 are in the U.S. and 185,000 are in Canada – were sold in Lululemon stores and online, as well as at partner retailers for $75 to $260 from January 2008 to December 2014.

This certainly isn’t the clothing company’s first issue with apparel items that didn’t perform as intended.

Back in 2013, the company found itself in the midst of a massive debacle when its yoga pants turned out to be see-through. Refunds, lawsuits, and resignations ensued, finally coming to an end in April 2014.

Lululemon Recalls Drawstrings From Hoodies After They Lash Faces [Bloomberg]
Tops with Elastic Draw Cords Recalled by lululemon athletica Due to Injury Hazard [CPSC]

FTC Says Some Of Those “Risk-Free Trials” For Skincare Products Are Bogus, Shuts ‘Em Down

Thu, 2015-06-25 19:28
The marketers shut down by the FTC hawked "risk free trials" of a variety of skincare products that weren't actually free.

The marketers shut down by the FTC hawked “risk-free trials” of a variety of skincare products that weren’t actually free.

Sometimes it’s hard to ignore the lure of a “risk-free trial” when it comes with a product that promises to leave your skin youthful, radiant and as soft as a baby’s bottom. But as the Federal Trade Commission once again reminds us, those deals often come with strings attached and hollow promises.

The FTC announced today that at its request a federal district court temporarily shut down a group of marketers using allegedly deceptive online “risk-free trials” for skincare products.

The 15 California-based marketers allegedly use deceptive offers to trick consumers into providing their credit or debit card information to charge them full price for the product and enroll them in recurring programs for additional fees.

According to the FTC complaint [PDF], the marketers, which sell Auravie, Dellure, LéOR Skincare, and Miracle Face Kit brand products, have used such deceptive techniques on a variety of websites since 2010.

Much like the equally deceptive weight loss supplement marketing schemes, these marketers used pop-up advertisements, banner ads, and advertising space on third-party websites – including Amazon.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and Lowes.com – to tout “risk-free trial” offers to direct consumers to their websites.

The sites – aurviefreetrial.com, auraviewtrialkit.com, and mymiraclekit.com, just to name a few – then instruct visitors to provide their credit or debit card information to pay shipping fees of $4.95 to receive the trial offer.

“Defendants also use deceptive pop-up advertisements that discourage consumers from leaving Defendants’ websites without accepting a trial offer,” the complaint states. “When consumers attempt to leave the websites, a text box appears that offers to ship the trial offer at an even lower shipping price.”

Many customers say they were charged far more than the stipulated shipping fees.

The FTC alleges that the companies often charge full price for the product – at times up to $97.88 – thanks in part to terms hidden in the fine print on the websites.

In addition to unknowingly being charged full price, customers are often enrolled without their consent in subscription plans. Such plans ship additional products and charge recurring fees to the provided credit or debit card.

To make matters worse, the FTC alleges that when customers attempt to cancel their trial and unwanted subscription plans, the marketers make it extremely difficult.

For example, the “100% satisfaction guarantee” touted by the companies only allow customers to return opened products within 10 days of the purchase. However, the products generally don’t arrive until after – or nearly after – that 10-day window.

Additionally, the companies failed to disclose that returns of unopened products can only be made within 30 days of purchase.

“Defendants’ marketing practices are materially deceptive and employ tactics including hidden costs, signing up consumers for negative option continuity plans without their consent, and undisclosed and onerous return policies,” the complaint states.

The FTC’s complaint also purports that the marketers misrepresented themselves as being accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an “A-” rating. In reality, the companies are not accredited and have a BBB rating of “F.”

Although, today’s court order is temporary, the FTC is seeking to require the companies to provide refunds to consumers and be permanently barred from continuing the alleged deceptions.

At FTC’s Request, Court Temporarily Stops Online Skincare Marketers Who Deceive Consumers with Bogus “Risk Free Trial” Offers and Recurring Fees [Federal Trade Commission]

SCOTUS: You Can Sue Over Housing Discrimination Even If That Discrimination Wasn’t Intended

Thu, 2015-06-25 19:24

(Jeff Kubina)

(Jeff Kubina)

Housing rights groups and civil advocates were granted a win this morning by the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled in a 5-4 vote that people can pursue lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, that prohibits housing discrimination because of race, even when a housing law or policy isn’t motivated by an intent to discriminate.

In the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project Inc., the issue at hand was whether you could pursue a lawsuit under the FHA by claiming that a policy has a “disparate impact”: in other words, that it has a discriminatory effect even if it wasn’t intended as such.

The Supremes ruled [PDF] that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the opinion for the majority. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts dissenting.

“Recognition of disparate impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment,” Kennedy wrote.

The case started in Texas, where the Department of Housing and Community Affairs distributes the federal government’s low-income housing tax credits to developers by designated state agencies. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., a Texas-based nonprofit corporation that assists low-income families in obtaining affordable housing, brought a disparate-impact under FHA, alleging that the Department and its officers had caused segregated housing patterns to continue in Texas, by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black, inner-city areas and not enough in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods.

ICP sued on the grounds that the outcome of this policy was racially discriminatory, even if the Texas housing agency didn’t intend it to be.

Supporters of disparate impact lawsuits say they’re necessary because it’s not like a landlord or housing group is going to come right out and say, “hey, we’re doing this for racial reasons.” But those opposed to it had argued that disparate impact suits would hit the private sector hard with costly lawsuits where defendants are given a significant burden of proof.

The press secretary for the White House issued a statement on behalf of the administration, commending SCOTUS on the decision.

“The Court’s decision affirms that the Fair Housing Act enables Americans to challenge not only laws, policies, and practices that are intentionally discriminatory, but also those that have an unjustified discriminatory effect,” the statement reads.

“Too many Americans are victims of more subtle forms of discrimination, such as predatory lending, exclusionary zoning, and development policies that limit affordable housing. This decision reflects the reality that discrimination often operates not just out in the open, but in more hidden forms. And, it preserves a longstanding and important method for challenging and eliminating those practices and continuing the work to end discrimination in housing.”

IKEA Will Test Less-Enormous Store Formats In The United Kingdom

Thu, 2015-06-25 18:13

(Steve

(Steve

Last month, we shared the news that IKEA was testing some less-mega store formats in Canada, starting with one in the college city of London, Ontario that’s 20,000 feet: maybe the size of a large H&M instead of the size of a small town. The chain announced this week that they’ll be testing the format in the UK, too.

What we didn’t know is that the company tried this new format before the Canada announcement: there are small-format stores already running in Finland, Norway, and Spain. Mini-IKEAs have all of the important elements: the cafeteria, housewares, the cafeteria, a few full kitchen and bedroom setups, the cafeteria, and a pickup center for items that you’ve ordered online or from the store. Also, they have a cafeteria.

The model is called “click and collect,” a term that we already hate, but not as much as we hate the term “bricks and clicks” used to refer to omnichannel (unified in-store and online) retail here in the US, so it could always be worse.

The first store will open in the city of Norwich. In Europe, the idea behind this format is to expand into areas that are more than a two-hour drive or so from existing stores.

kea: Homeware giant unveil plans to scrap trademark maze-style shop layout for new stores [Daily Record]
Ikea to trial small-format store in Britain [The Guardian]

How Much Is A Company That Knows All About Your Financial Behavior Worth? Turns Out A Lot.

Thu, 2015-06-25 18:07
(Steve Depolo)

(Steve Depolo)

It’s no secret that consumer financial data is valuable: it determines if you get better rates on loans and allows lenders to predict the likelihood you’ll pay back debts. While we can’t necessarily put a price tag on that data (yet), we now know that one of the largest companies to collect that information is worth a bundle – 4 billion bundles, in fact.

TransUnion, one of the big three consumer credit reporting agencies (CRAs), has a reported value of $4 billion at the time of its initial public offering, the New York Times reports.

The figure comes courtesy of TransUnion, as the CRA is expected to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange today.

The company, along with Experian and Equifax, collect and maintain a bevy of very important information related to consumers’ credit experiences.

The wealth of data held by these companies is used to create a credit report (don’t forget you’re entitled to one free report from each agency each year), which reflects how a consumer has repaid any debts they have. That information is then used to generate a credit score, which can be used by lenders and other companies to determine if a person is a good candidate for a loan, a job or even a place to live.

While TransUnion’s IPO doesn’t exactly put a dollar amount on your credit profile, it does give us a little insight into how powerful – and valuable – a company with all our financial secrets is.

TransUnion Valued at $4 Billion in I.P.O. [The New York Times]

A Good Way To Ruin A Roller Coaster Ride For Everyone Else? Pull Out A Selfie Stick

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:54

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

As if selfie sticks aren’t obnoxious enough when they go waving through the air, threatening to smack unsuspecting bystanders in the face, visitors at Disneyland had their roller coaster fun interrupted when their fellow passenger whipped out one of the extension devices in the middle of the ride.

Riders on Disney’s California Adventure’s California Screamin’ were likely in the mood for screaming yesterday, but not because the ride was so thrilling — because a passenger stuck out a selfie stick while the coaster was in progress, reports the OC Register.

Those gadgets are not allowed on attractions, a park spokeswoman said, adding that the ride was back up within an hour.

The OC Register cited passengers who Tweeted that the ride shut down at the top of the drop, and that the ride was evacuated.

Selfie sticks aren’t banned in general at the park, as they are at various museums like the Smithsonian and others around the world due to their propensity to annoy people, but visitors are told to keep them stowed away during rides.

Disney California Adventure roller coaster halted after person pulls out selfie stick [OC Register]

United Flight Delayed In Belfast Because Of Crackers, Could Cost Airline $550,000

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:08
(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

It’s amazing what a craving for a salty snack can do to people, like say, even divert an airplane. Or at least that’s the reason being given for a situation over the weekend in which nearly 300 United Airlines passengers crew members were stuck at a Belfast airport for nearly 24 hours.

Back on Saturday, a United Airlines flight from Rome to Chicago made an emergency landing in Belfast shortly after takeoff because of an unruly passenger.

While details about the actual fracas weren’t readily available, Business Insider now reports that the hassle was allegedly because of a passenger’s desire for more crackers – and it’s reportedly coming at quite a cost to the airline: $550,000.

Trouble with the flight apparently began shortly after the plane left Rome and a 42-year-old man reportedly demanded crackers from flight attendants.

According to the Telegraph the man refused to sit down until he received the snack.

While the crew gave in to his demands the first time around, when he commanded another order, they refused, saying he would get them after the rest of the cabin was served.

As one might expect, this didn’t go over well, with the man yelling that “I can have as much nuts and crackers as I f****** want,” officers tell the Telegraph.

After still declining to give into the man’s demands, the crew became concerned for other travelers’ welfare and the pilot decided to make the unscheduled stop.

However, the long international flight had only been in the air a short amount of time, meaning it still had enough fuel on board to make it to Chicago, and that posed a problem.

To further ensure the safety of passengers, the jet purportedly had to dump some 13,000 gallons of fuel before landing in Northern Ireland.

Once the plane landed, the man was taken into custody, but by then crew members had reached their maximum working hours as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration. And with a lack of local hotel rooms available, the passengers were made to spend the night in the empty terminal.

Although United declined to provide an exact figure for the cost of the disruption, the Telegraph reports that the court in which the disruptive passenger appeared this week put the expense at about $550,000.

‘Cracker rage’ could cost United Airlines $550,000 [Business Insider]
Transatlantic flight diverted ‘after passenger kept demanding nuts’ [The Telegraph]

Airbnb Partners With Realtor.com To Show Potential Homebuyers What A Neighborhood Is Like

Thu, 2015-06-25 16:44

(Dru Bloomfield - At home  in Scottsdale)

(Dru Bloomfield – At home in Scottsdale)

You can try out a mattress before you buy it, test drive a car or ask for a frozen yogurt sample before you buy, so why not a house? That’s the niche Airbnb and Realtor.com are trying to fill with a new partnership that lets potential homebuyers try out a neighborhood before they make the big decision to move there.

The home rental company and the real estate listings site have joined up to give people a “try before you buy” experience, reports USA Today.

People in the market for a home can look through properties on Realtor.com and then book a stay somewhere in the neighborhood on Airbnb so they can see what it feels like to live there before they make a move.

“Our relationship with Airbnb—a company that helps millions of people feel at home in communities around the world—allows us to reduce some of the unknown factors associated with relocating to a new community,” Ryan O’Hara, chief executive officer of Move, Realtor.com’s parent company, said in a written statement.

It’s a win-win for both companies — Realtor.com gets customers using its site and possibly finding a home they like, while Airbnb gets new customers. Heck, once they buy a place they might even opt to rent it out on Airbnb in the future.

Now if only you could try out relationships before you buy into them, am I right?

Airbnb, Realtor.com team up to let you try before you buy [USA Today]

Millions Of Americans To Keep Their Health Insurance With SCOTUS Decision

Thu, 2015-06-25 16:17

frankieleon

frankieleon

Millions of consumers who purchased healthcare through the Affordable Care Act’s national exchange can continue to receive tax subsidies as the Supreme Court of the United States upheld [PDF] a key provision of the Act.

The King v. Burwell case argued that the inclusion of phrase “established by the state” in the Affordable Care Act meant that the federal government is violating the law when it gives subsidies to consumers in 34 states that didn’t create their own health insurance marketplace.

More to come.

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