Archive for the ‘consumer rights’ Category

Learning From Japan, 2013: Internet Service What’s 100-1000 Times Faster But Also Cheaper Than Yours in San Francisco

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Well, I don’t know if the people at Google Fiber should feel ashamed, but check it:

SONY-BACKED ISP SHAMES GOOGLE FIBER, LAUNCHES 2GBPS SERVICE IN JAPAN

That’s like what, about a thousand times faster than your AT&T ADSL connection for less than what Google charges for Google Fiber?

You know why we don’t have this here? Because of politically-connected monopolies like Comcast.

JAPAN DON’T HAVE NO COMCAST, YOU DIG?

Of course, the Japanese pay waaaaaay too much for rice, on account of bad policies having to do with mom and pop farmers, but they’re doing lots better than us with the internet.

Obvs.

And did you know that there are people living out there west of San Francisco, all the way out there in the Outer Richmond and the Outset (the Outer Sunset) who can’t get cable internet or DSL at any price? Yes, in this day and age, in 2013, there are people in this so-called World Capital of Innovation who go online with a dial up modem because they have no choice.

Poor devils.

Poor, poor West Bay devils. (At least they have Ocean Beach.)

In closing, the Comcast monopoly ought to get shut down and Sony should start selling us internet for cheap.

Test Spokeo Yourself – Type In Your Own Name to See an Inaccurate Take on Your Personal Information

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I don’t know how worried you should be about the new search engine at local outfit Spokeo.com. Here’s the pitch: 

“People Search, Email Search, Phone Search, Friends Search with Spokeo

That pitch has been scaring people concerned about their privacy, but if you test Spokeo out you’ll see that you don’t have too much to worry about.

For example, the info it has on me under “basic results” are correct only in three cases, two of which are implied by my name. That’s out of 14 responses. I mean, you’d have more accurate info if you just guessed.

Hey, what about the Mayor? Let’s try:

I don’t know, does Spokeo reveal anything?

I’ll tell you, there have been similar search engines that have come down the pike with great fanfare, ones that gave wealths of accurate information for free but they haven’t lasted very long, for whatever reason.

Spokeo says that it’s, “Not Your Grandma’s Phonebook” but I don’t know. Grandma’s phonebook might work more better.  Or Yahoo! People Search, that one might work if you want the number to your uncle’s fishing cabin in Idaho, or something.  

In other words:

“I think spokeo.com should actually be called spookeo.com .. the only solace is that half their data is wrong.”
 
See you in Hell, Spokeo.

Jerry Brown Throws Down: Goes After “Tax Lady Roni Deutch” for $34 Million

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Our California Attorney General Jerry Brown can’t abide those who concoct “heartless schemes” to prey on those of us who owe the I.R.S. a lot of money.

Looks like famous Tax Lady and UC Berkeley grad Roni Deutch will soon have some splaining to do.   

All the deets, below.

El Protector de la Gente, Jerry Brown:

via Thomas Hawk

Brown Seeks $34 Million From TV’s Tax Lady Roni Deutch For Victimizing Thousands Who Sought Her Aid in Dealing With the IRS

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today filed a $34 million lawsuit against television’s “Tax Lady Roni Deutch” for orchestrating a “heartless scheme” that swindled thousands of people facing serious and expensive tax collection problems with the IRS.

“Tax Lady Roni Deutch is engaged in a heartless scheme that swindled people with tax problems,” Brown said. “She promises to significantly reduce their IRS tax debts, but instead preys on their vulnerability, taking large up-front payments but providing little or no help in lowering their tax bills.”

Deutch manufactures credibility by boasting that her tax resolution law firm, which has annual revenues of at least $25 million, is the largest of its kind in the nation. She spends $3 million a year on advertising, much of it on late-night cable TV, and frequently offers tax advice on NBC’s Today Show, CNN, and CNBC.

Here she is, more deets after the jump

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Attorney General Jerry Browns Allows You to Ban Yourself from CA Card Rooms

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Now, normally, this would be yet another edition of Jerry Brown Throws Down and I’d already be telling you just exactly what he can’t abide. But I don’t know, he’s not really throwing down on this one. 

Anyway, get all the deets of California’s official anti-gambling Self Exclusion Program below. It used to be run old school, but now the joint is going online – that’s the news of the day.

El Protector de los Jugadores, Jerry Brown:

via Thomas Hawk 

Brown Introduces State-of-the-Art Technology to Help California Gambling Addicts Help Themselves

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today unveiled an innovative, web-based computer program for all of California’s licensed cardrooms that is intended to help addicted gamblers break “their spiral of debt and addiction” by allowing them to voluntarily exclude themselves from gambling establishments.

“This system serves as a safety net for gambling addicts fighting to end their spiral of debt and addiction,” Brown said. “These are people who have chosen to help themselves, and we’ll assist them in keeping their pledges not to gamble.”

An estimated one million Californians suffer from problem or pathological gambling, and more than 1,000 of them have signed up for the Attorney General’s Self Exclusion Program, which allows problem gamblers to voluntarily exclude themselves from licensed cardrooms. So far, the program applies only to card rooms and not to the California lottery, tribal casinos or horse racing, but if the cardroom program is successful, it can be expanded.

To join the Self Exclusion Program, a problem gambler fills out a form, has it notarized, attaches a photograph and chooses to be excluded for one year, five years or his or her lifetime. The Self Exclusion form can be found at http://ag.ca.gov/gambling/exclusion_self.php

Of the 1,009 gamblers voluntarily on the list, 285 are for one-year terms, 196 are on for five- years, and 528 signed up for lifetime terms. Options are offered because some patrons are trying to learn to gamble responsibly while others are pathological or compulsive gamblers.

All the deets, after the jump.

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The National Dollar Store on Fillmore Changes Business Model – Prices Raised to 10 Bits

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

These days, “Everything’s ____ or less” at our National Dollar store at 1633 Fillmore Street.

Can you call yourself a dollar store if everything you have costs more than a dollar?

Click to expand

I cry foul.

Don’t Forget About Target’s NIMBY Extortion Meeting at the Abandoned Mervyn’s on Masonic

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

[UPDATE: There was a good turnout with lots of media on the scene.]

It’s on tonight at 6:30 PM! Here’s your scorecard right here from Bike NOPA, which has lately received nothing but snark from the likes of Matt Smith and “Crazy” Rob Anderson.*

Is a one-hour meeting going to be long enough to record all the demands from all the NIMBY’s?

Now what about this? What if Target Corporation just buys off the NIMBY extortion groups with a little cashola? I’ll tell you, it worked for STI, the owner of Sutro Tower, didn’t it? Oh yes, that’s why those people up there don’t gripe as much about that big old structure raining paint chips down on them and whatnot. See?

13. STI agrees to contribute:

a. $ 3,000.00 per year to the Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association. The initial contribution payable prior to December 31, 2008. Subsequent contributions to be made on or before July 1 of each year.

b. $ 4,500.00 one time contribution to the Twin Peaks Improvement Association for an open space improvement project.

c. $ 6,000.00 one time contribution to the Forrest [sic] Knolls Neighborhood Organization to replace the Forrest Knolls [sic again - Run Forrest Run!] entrance sign.

d. $ 10,000.00 one time contribution for the benefit of the surrounding area to purchase two drinking fountains one each at the walking paths around two area reservoirs. The contribution will be payable only when the fountains are approved by the appropriate agencies and actually purchased.

That’s how the game gets played in the 415. (A little hush money can work wonders.) Or sometimes, the president of the nimbyhood group will get a private meeting with a developer and a deal will be struck where a family member of the Chief NIMBY will get hired on as a “consultant” or something. Or the deep pockets will fund a pet project that the NIMBIes themselves don’t want to pay for. Same deal.

But the idea of  this store coming to town is so popular (OMGTARGETMIGHTGOWHEREMERVYNSUSEDTOBEONMASONIC!) that perhaps the Target people need offer only a few palliative cliches to make the nimbyhood groups go away. We’ll see.

As far as The People, La Raza, are concerned, well they’ve picked up the ball by starting a leafletting campaign. As seen at Geary and Masonic:

Can you see the Masonic TJ’s in the background? It certainly messed up traffic on Masonic but that’s because it wasn’t allowed enough parking spaces because of some reason or other. Oh well.

(I’m not into extortion myself, so I’ll miss this joint.  But when the time’s right, I am going to ask them to consider putting the Chemical Brothers’ We Are the Night in heavy rotation on the store’s Muzak system, at least when they first open.)

On It Goes…

Shakedown 1979 2010/
NIMBYs always have the time

*NB: “Traffic calming” means frustrating drivers so much that, it is hoped, they’ll eventually abandon their preferred means of transport.

Jerry Brown Prohibits H&R Block From Marketing “Early Tax Refunds”

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Oh snap! Just in time for tax season, California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s 2006 lawsuit against H&R Block has borne some fruit. He just reached agreement prohibiting deceptive marketing of tax refund loans:

“The settlement provides for up to $2.45 million in restitution for consumers who purchased a “Refund Anticipation Loan” or a “Refund Anticipation Check” through H&R Block between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2008. In addition, H&R Block will pay $500,000 in penalties and $1.9 million in fees and costs.”

Will the “settlement administrator” be contacting you about getting some money from H&R? Read on for details.

California’s dogged AG:

via “Thomas Hawk’s” Photostream

Attorney General Brown Reaches Agreement with H&R Block Prohibiting Deceptive Marketing of Tax Refund Loans

Sacramento—Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today reached a $4.85 million settlement with H&R Block, which prohibits the company from marketing refund anticipation loans as early tax refunds.

This settlement prevents H&R Block from marketing high-cost loans as early tax refunds,” Attorney General Brown said. “This is especially important because often these loans go to those who can least afford them.”

Attorney General Brown filed suit against H&R Block in early 2006 regarding its marketing and sale of income tax refund anticipation loans and a related product called refund anticipation checks.

H&R Block continues to deny any wrongdoing. During the course of the investigation, Block has worked with the Attorney General to improve its practices.

A refund anticipation loan is a short-term loan secured by a taxpayer’s anticipated income tax refund. The complaint alleged a variety of deceptive practices by H&R Block including:

Deceptive advertising designed to disguise refund anticipation loans, which carry fees and other costs, as tax refunds, which the IRS provides without charge; and

Unfair debt collection practices by which customers’ refund proceeds were garnished to pay off debts they supposedly owed.

The settlement provides for up to $2.45 million in restitution for consumers who purchased a
“Refund Anticipation Loan” or a “Refund Anticipation Check” through H&R Block between
January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2008. In addition, H&R Block will pay $500,000 in penalties and $1.9 million in fees and costs.

In addition. H&R Block will be prohibited from marketing these loans and related products in a deceptive or misleading manner and will be required to make clear and conspicuous disclosures to consumers prior to their purchase of these products. Terms of the settlement are limited to three years.

A settlement administrator will be contacting eligible consumers directly. Eligible consumers may also write to the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550, or may send an e-mail at http://ag.ca.gov/contact/.

Attorney General Brown previously settled claims against Jackson Hewitt and recently concluded a trial against Liberty Tax Service, the second and third largest tax preparation companies in the country, respectively. All three lawsuits involved refund anticipation loans and related products.