CFA News

CFAnews Update – July 7, 2017

FCC Proposes Rules for Blocking Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering ways to help consumers who are overwhelmed with unwanted robocalls by clarifying that all providers may block fraudulently spoofed calls under certain circumstances. CFA and several other consumer groups submitted comments last week supporting the Commission’s proposal but urging it to do more to address the problem.

The FCC outlined two circumstances in which providers can block fraudulently spoofed calls:

  • First, if the owner of a phone number, such as the Internal Revenue Service or a financial institution, asks the providers to block outbound calls purporting to be from that number (also known as “Do Not Originate”);
  • Second, if the Caller ID is clearly fraudulently spoofed, for example when the spoofed number is invalid (such as less than 10 digits), the number has not been assigned to a provider, or the number has not been provided to a customer.

While these steps move in the right direction, more can and should be done, the groups wrote. Among other things, they urged the Commission: 1) to explicitly permit and encourage providers to use additional tools, such as advanced analytics, to identify and block clearly illegal robocalls, where it can be done reliably and with the consumer’s consent; and 2) to clarify that providers should make available to consumers the option to block calls that fail to authenticate their Caller ID information.

“We’re in a technological arms race to battle illegal robocalls,” said CFA Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy Susan Grant. “Carriers and consumers need to be able to use all the tools available to stop these calls.

CFA Issued July 4th Warning Regarding Off-Highway Vehicle Risks

CFA issued a 4th of July warning to all parents and off-highway vehicle (OHV) drivers to use caution when driving OHVs, which have been associated with more than 2,500 deaths in just a few years.

“We urge all OHV riders to be cautious this holiday season and especially urge parents not to allow their children to operate an adult OHV or one that is too powerful for them,” stated CFA Legislative Director Rachel Weintraub. “Parents should also ensure their children have the necessary skills and are using safety equipment, such as helmets, when operating an OHV.”

The groups documented 2,583 OHV fatalities from January 2013 through June 27, 2017. And of those fatalities, the groups found 442 (17%) are of children less than 16 years old. “This is particularly troubling because children under 16 years old should not be operating adult-sized OHVs or any OHV that is too large and too powerful for them,” Weintraub stated. While already high, this data is not yet complete and will likely increase as additional information becomes available, CFA warned.

CFA has been working to minimize deaths and injuries from OHVs for decades by petitioning the CPSC to ban adult-size ATVs for children, by convening a coalition to prevent OHV road access, and with that coalition, by compiling fatality information in real time.

7th Annual Survey Suggests Erosion of Credit Score Knowledge

Consumer knowledge of credit scores appears to have eroded over the past year, according to the seventh annual credit score survey, released last week by CFA and VantageScore Solutions, LLC. For example, the percentage of survey respondents who know that non-credit service providers used credit scores in making available and pricing their services was significantly lower in June 2017 than in April 2016.  For cell phone companies this consumer awareness that credit scores are used for this purpose was down from 68 percent to 59 percent, and for electric utilities this awareness was down from 53 percent to 44 percent

At the same time, the percentage of those who said they had obtained at least one credit score in the past year has steadily risen – from 49 percent in 2014, to 51 percent in 2015, to 54 percent in 2016, to 56 percent in 2017.  “One would think that increasing access to one’s credit scores would help increase knowledge about these scores,” noted CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck. “But that apparently has not been the case, to the detriment of consumers.  Low credit scores can cost consumers hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars a year in higher loan and service costs.”

Other areas that showed an apparent declines in consumer credit score knowledge over the past 14 months include awareness that:

  • A low credit score on a typical auto loan would increase loan charges by more than $5,000 (down from 25% to 18%).
  • Credit scores represent the risk of not repaying a loan (down from 43% to 38%).
  • Individuals have more than one credit score (down from 69% to 64%).
  • It is very important to check the accuracy of one’s credit reports at the three main credit bureaus (down from 73% to 68%).
  • Credit repair companies are never or only occasionally helpful in improving one’s credit scores (down from 54% to 47%).

The survey found the largest demographic differences in credit score knowledge reflected income.  On many questions the difference in correct responses was well over 10 percentage points. For example, only 55 percent of those with household incomes under $25,000, but 73 percent of those in households with incomes $100,000 and over, correctly identified three ways to raise a low credit score.

“Certainly one reason for the knowledge gap is that low-income consumers have much less experience with credit than do high-income consumers,” Brobeck noted.  “Yet, understanding credit scores is absolutely essential to lower-income consumers who can ill-afford to pay high loan rates and service fees.”

Stronger Action Urged on Hazardous Tipping IKEA Furniture

Last year’s recall of 29 million Ikea dressers that posed a tipping hazard has not adequately removed these potentially hazardous products from people’s homes.   Safety advocates are, therefore, calling on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to invest new efforts in the recall to remove these dangerous products from use. In a letter to CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle, CFA, Kids In Danger (KID), and Shane’s Foundation urged the safety agency to take strong, immediate action to better protect children from the tip-over hazard posed by IKEA dressers, the MALM in particular.

“While we applauded last year’s recall of the MALM and other IKEA dressers after six deaths (a seventh death was announced after the recall), we have been repeatedly dismayed by the lack of preparation for the recall and the lack of action to encourage consumer participation with the recall,” the groups stated in the letter.  “IKEA quickly moved on to simply sharing their anchoring message with consumers without highlighting the recalled products.  In fact, recently MALM dressers and other recalled unit names returned to IKEA stores and are available for sale again – adding more confusion to the recall.”

IKEA has withheld information about how effective the recall has been, according to the groups. “The most recent data we have is from January 2017 and may only go through the end of 2016,” the groups stated. “But given that most recalls have larger responses soon after the recall announcement, it is unlikely that these response rates are significantly higher: 175,000 refunds were provided to consumers, 268,000 consumers received anchoring straps since the recall, and an additional 439,000 straps were sent out by IKEA prior to the recall, based on the July 2015 announcement by CPSC and IKEA of the deaths.”

“Much more must be done to articulate the seriousness of this recall and the urgent need to remove these dressers from homes. Consumers should stop using these dressers and contact IKEA immediately to obtain a refund,” said CFA Legislative Director Rachel Weintraub.