Consumer Action INSIDER - April 2017

Table of Contents

 

What people are saying

Thank you for the English and Chinese elder fraud presentations on March 14. Our seniors loved them and think that the information was very helpful. — Ellen Trinh, Woolf House Senior Activity Center, San Francisco, CA

Did you know?

High-fee retirement investment products cost ordinary investors $17 billion each year and cause them to lose significant returns over time. So, what trustworthy options exist for affordable investing? One option is using “robo-advisors,” which are online, automated portfolio management services. They use computer algorithms to manage client investments. NerdWallet’s Best Robo-Advisors: 2017 Top Picks compares services. One caveat: Do not invest with any robo-advisor that is not Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)-insured. (SIPC coverage does not protect against market losses; it protects your account in case the investment firm goes belly up or employees steal funds.) Always check to make sure that the firm is covered.

Aggrieved customers, advocates call out Wells Fargo

We DO Count!, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups that includes Consumer Action, recently submitted a letter to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan at the bank’s San Francisco headquarters calling on the bank to stop forcing its customers and workers to give up their legal rights by submitting to forced arbitration. Consumer Action’s Joe Ridout personally hand-delivered the letter.

Forced arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of many contracts that people sign in order to receive products and services and to obtain employment. These clauses force people to give up their right to go to court, even if a company harms them.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, “Six months after the scandal broke of widespread fraud in its customer sales practices, the bank is still struggling to line up new customers” due to said scandal and its shameful ongoing commitment to denying existing customers’ their right to a day in court.

Wells Fargo continues to resist calls from pro-consumer leaders such as Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Representatives like Maxine Waters (D-CA), to free its customers and employees to pursue their cases before a court of law—a fact that is particularly egregious considering the bank’s pressure on employees resulted in millions of accounts being set up without its customers’ permission (through identity theft, forgery and fraud).

"After six years of banking with Wells Fargo, we're switching to another bank that respects the constitutional rights of its customers and workers," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League (NCL), a member of the We DO Count! coalition. NCL recently and very publicly established a new account at Bank of Labor, which does not impose forced arbitration. In protest of Wells Fargo’s consumer abuses, NCL decided to close its account at Wells Fargo and withdraw its working capital of approximately $1.8 million.

"As long as Wells Fargo requires mandatory arbitration, there is nothing to stop Wells Fargo from violating the privacy rights of its customers and engaging in fraud," said Byron Cooper, who closed his accounts with the big bank as soon as he discovered it had opened two new accounts and shifted $25,000 from his checking account to his savings account (all without his authorization and despite his insistence that he did not want the new accounts). The bank also changed his "free" checking account to one that charged $30 per month and required a minimum balance of $25,000 (also, he said, without his permission).

To mark the protest, Consumer Action provided tips for consumers on how to find a banking institution or credit union that does not impose forced arbitration and on how to transition between banks as seamlessly as possible. “We believe many consumers will be pleasantly surprised to discover the higher interest they earn, and the fewer fees and abusive practices they face, once they switch to a more honest financial institution,” Ridout said.

These types of direct actions may already be having an impact. In February, credit card applications at Wells Fargo were down 55 percent, while checking account applications were down 43 percent, the bank reported.

Consumer bureau resolves one woman’s two-year mortgage nightmare

Like many small business owners over the last decade, Ronda Scott-Marak and her husband found themselves scrambling to make ends meet after the economy took a turn for the worse. After years of struggling, they finally turned to bankruptcy, but made sure to keep their home out of the terms of the agreement. Despite their financial struggles, the couple worked hard to stay current on their monthly mortgage payments.

Unexpectedly and without warning, however, Seterus, Inc. (the couple’s mortgage servicer) coded their mortgage into its database as having been included in the bankruptcy. In doing so, Seterus effectively cut off Ronda’s access to her online account and stopped her from receiving paper billing statements. Seterus’ mistake also caused Ronda’s loan to be reported as “in bankruptcy” to the credit bureaus.

Despite dozens of hours on the phone with Seterus’ customer service representatives, Ronda could not get the company to fix its error.

“No matter how I tried to resolve the situation, including involving my bankruptcy attorney, my efforts fell on deaf ears,” said the distraught homeowner. “It was very frustrating, because while I had discussions with sympathetic representatives who made promises to help, I also had a number of encounters with rude, nasty representatives who outright refused to do anything!”

One of those representatives mistakenly told Ronda that the due date of her monthly mortgage payment had changed. Since Ronda couldn’t review her due date (as access to her own loan terms had been revoked), she took the representative at his word—a mistake that would cost her more than $300 in late fees over six months, despite the fact that she always over-paid her monthly payments.

Ronda was also expecting an impending increase in the cost of her variable mortgage (based on how her loan was structured). Without access to any of her loan information, however, she didn’t know when to expect the increase and how much to pay moving forward.

“In desperation to resolve the issue and to restore my credit, I reached out to (then) Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s office (D-IL). The office relayed all my emails, letters and documents to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was the best action they could have taken,” Ronda said.

The CFPB intervened on Ronda’s behalf. Bureau staffers also counseled Ronda on strategies she should take when speaking to Seterus’ sometimes-difficult customer service representatives.

“The CFPB sent all of my complaints and documentation to Seterus, demanding a resolution. It took the CFPB and me filing three separate complaints over six months’ time to get Seterus to respond with any useful action!” Ronda proclaimed.

After nearly two years, Seterus corrected their mistake. In the end, Ronda received a $5,000 mortgage credit, a 100-point increase in her credit score and (due to her corrected credit report) a $400 deposit she was owed from a secured Bank of America credit card that she had opened in an effort to rebuild her credit during the ordeal. (After a year of making on-time payments, Bank of America had failed to return her secured credit card deposit, citing a low credit score.)

“Thanks to the kind and dedicated people at the CFPB, I finally got my $5,000 credit on my pending mortgage modification (the erroneous bankruptcy status had made me previously ineligible) and I started receiving monthly paper statements again,” Ronda said. “Ultimately, because Seterus removed the bankruptcy code from my file, reversed all the late charges that should not have been applied and corrected the error with the credit bureaus, my credit score was restored and I was able to finally receive financial restitution.”

Although Ronda is satisfied with the results so far, she’s still locked out from her online account, meaning she is unable to conveniently access her loan terms and is forced instead to wait for monthly paper statements. She is also still waiting for her loan to be re-amortized after the $5,000 credit was applied—something her case manager promised to do once the error Seterus made was fixed.

“Seterus still claims they can’t figure out how to resolve the online access issue,” said an exasperated Ronda, “and after another half a dozen calls to customer service, and empty promises that my case manager would get back to me, I’ve gone ahead and filed another complaint with the CFPB about the company’s failure to re-amortize my loan.”

If you have a problem with your mortgage lender or servicer, you can file an online complaint with the CFPB here, or call (855) 411-2372.

Have a CFPB success story you want to share with us? Connect with us via social media like Ronda did or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Hotline Chronicles: Used car problems

In the last few months, Consumer Action’s hotline has heard from a number of people complaining about used car purchases gone wrong. One thing that’s clear from these complaints: It’s easier to avoid problems with research and due diligence than it is to resolve them after you’ve driven the car home.

Only a handful of states have lemon laws that protect used car buyers from issues arising from defective vehicles (known as “lemons”). This page at Autopedia.com is a good source for researching your state’s laws.

Even if you bought the car “as is,” start by going back to the seller and trying to negotiate the cost of repair or come to some other mutually agreed upon resolution, as you would do with any other type of complaint. If the seller won’t budge and you feel you have a good case against them, consider seeking advice from an experienced lemon law attorney. A good place to start is with the National Association of Consumer Advocates’ “Find an Attorney” feature. Choose “Automobiles” and your state from the pull-down menus to locate an attorney near you. You may need to call several law firms. When you call, ask if you may have a free consultation to discuss the viability of your case and what it might cost to enlist the lawyer’s assistance.

Before you buy a used vehicle:

  • Use a reputable source to research the reliability and safety of the vehicle model and year you want. This will give you information about specific trouble items that other owners have reported. Consumer Reports magazine—available at many libraries and via paid subscription online—is a good place to start. Also check Edmunds and U.S. News & World Report.
  • Open the hood. We know you’re not a mechanic, but you should see a relatively clean engine without corrosion, greasy parts or shot belts. Inside the car, operate the windows and lift the mats to check for signs of rust or deterioration.
  • Drive the car. Listen for unusual sounds from the engine and body. Take the car around some corners to check how the steering handles.
  • Ask the seller or the dealership for repair records to make sure the vehicle has had its recommended checkups (scheduled vehicle maintenance).
  • Have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic. Even if the car is being sold as “certified,” you should have it checked out by an independent diagnostician. Get a price from the mechanic beforehand so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Check the vehicle’s past ownership. Use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to order a vehicle history report for about $15-$20 from CARFAX or Experian AutoCheck. (If you’re buying from a dealer, you might get a free report.)
  • Check for open recalls using the VIN through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ask the owner or dealer to take care of any recall issues before you buy the car. While it may give you peace of mind to buy a “pre-owned, certified vehicle” from a dealership, be aware that even certified cars can have outstanding recalls and other mechanical problems.
  • Ask about any existing warranties. Before you buy an extended warranty, carefully weigh the cost versus the benefits.
  • If you are buying from a private individual, make sure the name on the vehicle history report matches the seller’s name and address. And be careful: Even contacting “sellers” about used cars listed on websites like Craigslist.org or in local newspaper classified ads can make you the target of scams.

Edmunds.com offers a free questionnaire for used car shoppers to gather crucial information about any car they are considering.

Before you purchase your car, check with your motor vehicle registration agency to make sure there are no outstanding past-due registration fees or fines. Before you hand over any money, work with the seller to make sure you provide the correct information on the title (pink slip) so that the transfer will be trouble-free. Don’t drive the vehicle until you have temporary tags and insurance.

While there is plenty to be cautious about, there is good news: If you purchase a late-model used car in top condition with low mileage, you automatically will have saved a substantial sum. It’s estimated that new cars depreciate about 20 percent as soon as buyers drive them off the lot. Many car models lose another 10 percent of their value during the first year. Purchasing a one-to-three-year-old car can save you at least 30 percent off the new car price.

Finally, before you borrow to buy a car (new or used), get a copy of your credit report to check for errors that could affect your credit score, and compare auto loans from banks, credit unions and dealerships. If possible, get pre-authorized for a loan before making a final car-buying decision.

For more information, read the Federal Trade Commission’s “Buying a Used Car.”

EARN helps families save using technology

EARN, a long-term partner of Consumer Action, is a San Francisco-based non-profit that designs and launches online savings tools to create financial stability for America’s most economically vulnerable populations. EARN’s ultimate vision is that well-informed American households will achieve financial success through proven strategies, fair public policy and their own hard work.

In 2001, EARN began offering its clients financial education services and individual development accounts (IDAs), special savings accounts that give low-income savers small monetary incentives as they save their own money. In order to help themselves help the consumers they serve, EARN staff has attended Consumer Action’s train-the-trainer events and used many of our publications, including Saving Your Home from Foreclosure, Internet Safety, Credit Cards: What you need to know, Teens & Money, You Can Buy a Home, Keeping Your Home, Credit Reports and Credit Scores, Staying on Track with Credit, and Keeping Your Bank and Credit Card Accounts Safe from Fraud.

EARN staffers also began aiding Consumer Action’s Audrey Perrott in providing technical assistance to community agencies interested in starting IDA programs in their region. Over the years, EARN had grown to become one of the largest IDA providers in the country, helping over 6,000 consumers save over $7 million of their own money. Like many in Consumer Action’s network, EARN demonstrated that low-income families can and will save when given the right opportunities and incentives. EARN’s average saver had a household income of less than $25,000 per year.

Although proud of its history offering IDA accounts in the Bay Area, one of EARN’s core values has always been to serve a wider audience. In 2014, EARN made a big shift from traditional in-person financial education and IDA programs to an online matched savings product that could serve households anywhere in the United States.

At 2016’s EMERGE Financial Health Forum, it was announced that EARN was selected as the only non-profit to participate in the second cohort of what is known as the Financial Solutions Lab: a community of innovators building solutions to improve consumers’ financial lives. (The Financial Solutions Lab is managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co.) EARN was chosen in part due to its long history of serving low-to-moderate-income families, coupled with its promising savings technology. Since launching its program last October, EARN has registered over 25,000 members to its online savings platform.

Perrott recently caught up with EARN CEO Leigh Phillips and Director of Strategic Initiatives Megan Wong to discuss EARN’s fintech innovation. Fintech involves the use of computer programs, mobile apps and other technology to enable financial services online or by phone. Perrott asked Wong several in-depth questions to help network partners better understand the burgeoning industry.

When did you recognize the need to change your IDA model and integrate more technology into your program?

EARN has always placed a strong emphasis on quantitative data and qualitative feedback from our savers. This means that we are always conducting rigorous research on the impact of our programs and services in order to influence and shape our offerings.

In ongoing surveys and interviews with EARN IDA savers, staff learned that although these savers valued the assets they had purchased (for instance, a home, an education or an investment in a business), the biggest impact of EARN’s program was the positive change in our clients’ behaviors and attitudes about finances.

EARN staff also recognized that while they had delivered a significant impact to over 6,000 consumers in our more than ten years providing IDAs, it still represented only a small portion of people in the United States who could benefit from saving.

The Federal Reserve Bank recently released a study finding that a whopping 47 percent of Americans cannot pay for an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt or selling something! Yet even small amounts of savings can have a large impact on people’s lives. The Urban Institute found that families with as little as $250 to $749 on hand are less likely to miss housing or utility payments or to be evicted after an income disruption. Families with as little as $1 to $249 are significantly less likely to receive public benefits than families with no savings.

Because of facts like these, EARN decided to focus our efforts on expanding our program to help more people start saving and developing a habit of saving that will enable them to be more financially secure throughout their lives. The use of technology has allowed our agency to reach these additional people and deliver services where they spend much of their time—on their phones and computers. Technology has also enabled EARN to grow its impact sustainably, serving many more low-income families without having to grow our team at the same rate.

What prompted EARN to submit an application to the Financial Solutions Lab? Can you tell us about this competitive process? What support have you received being a member of the Financial Solutions Lab cohort?

We saw that the Financial Solutions Lab Challenge was focused on helping families manage financial shocks. EARN decided to apply because we fully believe that non-profit organizations have an essential role to play in developing technologies that ensure all Americans are included in our financial system. EARN’s Starter Savings Program does this particularly well by helping people develop the savings and behavior changes to manage shocks. We are proud to be one of nine winners (and the only non-profit) to be selected, out of over 300 applicants!

In addition to the monetary support from the Lab, EARN has received invaluable mentoring services and connections with an array of individuals and institutions across the country. By working with for-profit startups, for example, our team has been exposed to alternative methods of doing business while gaining a better appreciation for how EARN’s mission, long history and focus on low- and moderate-income communities makes us uniquely qualified to offer the services and programs that we do.

How can Consumer Action and our network of community partners support your work?

Consider partnering with us! EARN’s Starter Savings Program empowers anyone, anywhere to start saving and also enables any organization to easily offer savings to their clients. Our savings platform overcomes traditional barriers to savings that have severely limited the number and scope of organizations that provide savings assistance to their populations. For example, our technology connects to over 15 financial institutions and does not depend on a single banking partner.

Fifty organizations have already integrated the Starter Savings Program into their work and we are looking to expand our network of partners. We encourage community partners to attend one of our webinars to explore opportunities to offer the EARN Starter Savings Program to their communities.

What best practices are you able to share with agencies that are considering integrating more technology into their counseling, coaching and savings programs?

At EARN, we believe in “user-centered design,” which means that you have to start with your clients. Think about their experience at your organization, from the time they first hear about a program to the time they successfully complete it. What in that experience could be improved? What could be facilitated by technology?

As you go through this thought process, you’ll realize that technology is really helpful for certain things. It’s great for reaching more people because it automates processes that may otherwise be tedious. For instance, the EARN Starter Savings Program automatically tracks savers’ account activity for six months and automatically transfers rewards ($10 for each month the accountholder saves $20) into their accounts. Because of this, staff members who had to read bank statements, calculate savings rewards and write checks for your program are now freed up to do something else.

Technology is also great for empowering users to do things on their own. In our program, savers can make deposits into their own savings accounts and access our program online on their phones or computers. This allows them to build a savings habit in a flexible way. They no longer have to bring their bank statements to a program manager or be restricted to making deposits with a particular partner bank that has a relationship with your program in order to be eligible for the monetary incentives.

Lastly, technology is really helpful for understanding research questions that require large amounts of data. In our program, savers must fill out entrance and exit surveys about their financial habits so that we can evaluate the effectiveness of our program. We are able to look at that data to better understand how effective our program is for different groups of people by parsing the data in different ways. Our most successful partners are curious about understanding the impact of their work and finding ways to improve it, given the data that we collect.

At EARN, we’re also the first ones to admit that some things are still best done without technology. Our best partners use technology and in-person contact strategically. Coaches and counselors should continue to build strong and trusted relationships with clients. They should partner with clients to discover and achieve the clients’ goals. They should introduce technology where most applicable and use face-to-face time to go deep with clients: explaining how the technology will be used and facilitating a seamless experience for the client.

One easy best practice is to get to know the technology really well; you can’t tell clients to use it if you don’t understand it yourself! Aside from our program webinar and demo, we often encourage coaches and program staff who don’t meet the income limits for a reward-earning account of their own to set up a test account with our program so that they can experience it firsthand (contact EARN staff for instructions). We also encourage our partners to continue sharing feedback with technology providers like EARN so that we can continue to improve our product.

Is there anything else that you would like to share in terms of ways that advocates can help move the needle for programs like yours?

You can become a partner with EARN by viewing our webinar or getting in touch with our staff at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). As you work with our program, please share your success stories with us! Our partner network would love to better understand best practices in using technology to help build habits of savings in a variety of institutional settings.

Finally, advocates should encourage more families to save! America’s savings crisis is solved one person and one family at a time. With each of you on the ground as experts in your own communities, we hope to empower more and more families to take control of their finances through savings.

Note: The second round application deadline to join the Financial Solutions Lab is April 27, 2017. Click here to find out more about how to apply.

Kicking off Military Saves Week at California’s Camp Pendleton

Military Saves Week was February 27-March 4, and Consumer Action’s community outreach and training manager, Linda Williams, helped kick off the campaign by participating in events at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Southern California.

Military Saves, a component of the non-profit America Saves and a partner in the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign, seeks to motivate, support and encourage servicemembers to save. The campaign also provides an opportunity for organizations like Consumer Action to promote good savings behavior to hundreds of servicemembers at bases like Camp Pendleton by offering them relevant, reader-friendly and timely financial empowerment information.

Williams participated in this year’s program by distributing financial empowerment materials and giving brief presentations on how to avoid falling victim to ID theft; the impact of specialty consumer reports on one’s credit score; and how to complain effectively to regulatory agencies, consumer groups, lawyers and others when one has a problem with the purchase of goods or services.

Visitors to Consumer Action’s exhibit table were provided with publications and advice on establishing and improving credit, keeping their homes, the importance of auto insurance, economic issues specific to servicemembers and veterans, online privacy issues and debtors rights.

While all of Consumer Action’s materials were a big hit, the most popular was our How to Complain booklet, provided to more than 150 Navy servicemembers that day.

In addition to participating in the annual Military Saves event at Camp Pendleton for five years, Williams, for the last two years, has assisted in an ongoing Financial Readiness Campaign by offering monthly trainings and materials on ID theft and debt collection to servicemembers who are peer financial counselors in Camp Pendleton’s Command Financial Specialist (CFS) Program. This key initiative helps boost the financial readiness of servicemembers and their families, including the reduction of debt and saving toward personal and family goals.

Coalition Efforts: Rights to privacy, malpractice suits and trial by jury

Requiring mobile passwords is a direct assault on fundamental rights. A new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal eyes requiring non-citizens to disclose their social media accounts, passwords and frequently visited websites. The proposal would enable border officials to invade people’s privacy by examining years of private emails, texts and messages. It would expose travelers and all others in their social networks (including potentially millions of U.S. citizens) to excessive, unjustified scrutiny. Consumer and privacy advocates joined together in a letter to DHS condemning this invasive proposal. Not only does this requirement fail to increase the security of U.S. citizens, it’s a direct assault on fundamental privacy rights and sets a terrible global precedent. Learn more.

Congress moves to punish malpractice victims. Medical malpractice kills as many as 400,000 people a year—making it the third leading cause of death in the United States—and is responsible for ten times as many injuries. Yet instead of enhancing patient safety, House Republicans are banking on a bill (HR 1215), misleadingly entitled the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” to impose severe limits on medical malpractice lawsuits—a move that would both prevent victims from receiving appropriate compensation and make the malpractice problem worse by lessening the deterrent effect of litigation. Learn more.

Children’s advocates oppose attempts to revoke internet privacy rules. Consumer Action and a coalition of children's advocates have filed a comment opposing petitions that ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revoke its broadband privacy rules. The coalition urged the FCC to retain both the rules that treat children's web browsing histories and app and other usage data as sensitive as well as the opt-in requirements for all categories of sensitive information. Advocates previously urged the FCC to establish comprehensive safeguards for consumer privacy, ban pay-for-privacy schemes and prohibit mandatory arbitration. (Unfortunately, since the letter was sent, the U.S. Senate voted to eliminate the privacy rules. The House of Representatives is expected to approve the measure.) Learn more.

Republican FCC chair looks to suspend consumer privacy protections. In an attempt to reverse the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) landmark internet privacy rules, the FCC’s new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, sought comments to suspend and ultimately rescind new privacy rules from broadband providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. (Now the rule, which required these internet service providers to take more stringent steps to protect consumers' personal data, is slated for repeal by Congress.) Privacy advocates, including Consumer Action, filed comments with the FCC to denounce attempts to weaken the rule, arguing that consumers’ information will be more vulnerable to breaches and unauthorized use. Learn more.

Will Judge Gorsuch uphold a consumer’s right to a civil trial by jury? Coalition advocates penned a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) urging her to question Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch on whether he will uphold the entire Constitution, including the Seventh Amendment, which guarantees consumers the right to a civil trial by jury. This is especially important for consumers who have been victimized or defrauded by big business and are barred from court by mandatory arbitration clauses in service contracts. The coalition urged Senator Feinstein to oppose the nomination if Judge Gorsuch fails to fully commit to preserving Seventh Amendment protections. Learn more.

Class Action Database: Addio to inauthentic olive oil

Class action settlements involving Guthy-Renker LLC (sellers of the popular Proactiv skincare line) and telecom company Frontier Communications were among 13 new settlements added to the Consumer Action Class Action Database during March.

One notable class action is Kumar v. Salov North America Corp. The plaintiffs in this case filed a class action against Salov North America Corp. (SNA), charging that the company’s Filippo Berio olive oil products cannot legitimately be labeled as “imported from Italy.” Plaintiffs claimed that, in reality, most of the olives were grown in other countries and then transported to Italy for blending and bottling in Filippo Berio olive oil products. Plaintiffs allege that the “imported from Italy” claim enabled the products to be sold at a higher price compared to olive oil without the label.

SNA denied the allegations but agreed to a settlement to avoid the burden, expense and risk of continuing the lawsuit. SNA replaced the “imported from Italy” label with a label simply stating “imported.”

Consumers who purchased the following products between May 23, 2010 and June 30, 2015 may be eligible to join the settlement:

  • Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Delicato Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Light Tasting Olive Oil

The settlement provides 50 cents per product purchased. The minimum payment is $2 cash for valid claims of one to four products purchased per household. Class members who claim more than 10 products purchased must provide proof of purchase.

The final settlement approval hearing is on May 30, 2017. If the settlement does not get approved, the class action will proceed only on behalf of California consumers who purchased Filippo Berio brand olive oil (of any grade except “organic”) between May 23, 2010 and June 30, 2015.

The claims deadline is May 2.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has championed the rights of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. Throughout its history, the organization has dedicated its resources to promoting financial and consumer literacy and advocating for consumer rights in both the media and before lawmakers to promote economic justice for all. With the resources and infrastructure to reach millions of consumers, Consumer Action is one of the most recognized, effective and trusted consumer organizations in the nation.

Consumer education. To empower consumers to assert their rights in the marketplace, Consumer Action provides a range of educational resources. The organization’s extensive library of free publications offers in-depth information on many topics related to personal money management, housing, insurance and privacy, while its hotline provides non-legal advice and referrals. At Consumer-Action.org, visitors have instant access to important consumer news, downloadable materials, an online “help desk,” the Take Action advocacy database and more than half a dozen topic-specific subsites. Consumer Action also publishes unbiased surveys of financial and consumer services that expose excessive prices and anti-consumer practices to help consumers make informed buying choices and elicit change from big business.

Community outreach. With a special focus on serving low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers, Consumer Action maintains strong ties to a national network of nearly 7,000 community-based organizations. Outreach services include training and free mailings of financial and consumer education materials in many languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Consumer Action’s network is the largest and most diverse of its kind.

Advocacy. Consumer Action is deeply committed to ensuring that underrepresented consumers are represented in the national media and in front of lawmakers. The organization promotes pro-consumer policy, regulation and legislation by taking positions on dozens of bills at the state and national levels and submitting comments and testimony on a host of consumer protection issues. Additionally, its diverse staff provides the media with expert commentary on key consumer issues supported by solid data and victim testimony.

 
 

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