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About a year ago we at the Blog notified you that CitiMortgage and other mortgage servicing companies may have been charging so-called “Property Inspection Fees” in violation of the law.  Indeed, several class action lawsuits against Citi and other mortgage servicing companies are currently proceeding in federal court in California.

But those lawsuits don’t focus on you – the high-rise condominium owner.  Is your condo above the first floor in a secure building?  Would property inspectors be able to get to your floor without your permission?  If you answered yes and then no, then the so-called property inspection fees on your monthly statement may be improper.

Here’s how it works.  You miss a few payments, go into default, and suddenly you have a monthly mortgage statement littered not only with late fees, but also a variety of new charges for “default services” including property inspections.  Codes like INVO may appear on your paperwork or in your mortgage records.     Continue reading

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You may have heard about the recent $100 million settlement reached between Uber and its drivers:  http://fortune.com/2016/04/21/uber-drivers-settlement/.  In that class action lawsuit Uber’s “driver-partners” claimed that they should be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors.

But there is another class action and it may impact you and other people who use Uber to get around town.  That lawsuit, Spencer Meyer v. Travis Kalanick, was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2015.  The plaintiff, an Uber rider (rather than an Uber driver), just notched a pair of significant victories.

First, on March 31, 2016, United States District Judge Jed Rakoff denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-03-31/uber-antitrust-lawsuit-over-pricing-green-lighted-by-judge.  The plaintiff alleges that Uber’s smartphone app allows drivers all over the country to agree with Uber and with each other to charge only the prices set by Uber.  Judge Rakoff agreed that these allegations are plausible, stating:  “The advancement of technological means for the orchestration of large-scale price-fixing conspiracies need not leave antitrust law behind.”      Continue reading

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As loyal readers know, we here at The Blog are quite skeptical when it comes to hard-to-believe advertising claims.  The XHose? Too good to be true.  The FlexBelt? Looks like another fibber.  And now ….. the 5 Second Fix.  If you’re like us and watch even a few minutes of late night TV weekly, you’ve probably come across an ad for the 5 Second Fix – a supposed upgrade over traditional superglues that is “welded” with an ultraviolet light shortly after application, allowing you to “fix, fill and seal … in 5 second or less” and achieve a “durable permanent bond” and “everlasting repair.”  But don’t listen to us; hear it from the manufacturer itself:

I mean, you can’t argue with that ad? 5 Second Fix couldn’t actually be a scam or ripoff, right? I mean, look how well it works in that commercial?  But what if 5 Second Fix doesn’t work? Does that mean that 5 Second Fix’s marketing claims are completely bogus?  Unfortunately, our investigation suggests that 5 Second Fix simply doesn’t work as advertised and will not create a permanent bond.  In short, 5 Second Fix likely is a scam product intended to rip off customers for their hard-earned dollars.

As is often the case, Amazon.com tells most of the story.  48& of Amazon’s reviews for 5 Second Fix are ONE STAR.  ONE. STAR.  And although 28% of reviewers gave it 5-stars, other reviewers indicate that rating may be inflated by customers who provide a good review on Amazon in exchange for free, additional tubes of 5 Second Fix.  In other words, 5 Second Fix is using customers unaware they have been ripped off by a product that does not work in order to scam new customers with the exact same defective product!  Just look at some of these reviews: Continue reading

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For many consumers, warranty coverage is one of their primary concerns when spending thousands of dollars on a new mattress. Due to the expense involved—memory foam mattresses cost upwards of $5,000, and even traditional pillow-top mattresses retail for over $1,000—consumers want to know that they can depend on the manufacturer to repair or replace a mattress under warranty for years following purchase. Tempur-pedic and Sleep Number offer twenty-five-year warranties to entice consumers to purchase their products. Serta and Simmons—both of which are owned by the National Bedding Company—also offer long warranties ranging anywhere from 3 to 30 years and include no charge for replacements within the first 10 or so years of ownership.  These long-term warranties should give consumers as much comfort as the mattresses themselves!

Consumers report in droves, however, that Simmons and Serta routinely deny warranty coverage due to the presence of any stain, no matter how small or harmless, on a defective mattress. Don’t believe us? Just listen to some of the incredible stories from affected consumers (postings from www.consumeraffairs.com):

  • After owning a Serta “Beautyrest World Class Recharge Shakespeare Luxury Plush Pillow top Mattress” for about two years, and paying over $2000, the mattress was sagging. So I called Serta, and they send you a “sleep set inspection kit” where you have run a string across the dips in the mattress and take photos from different angles. After doing all this they agreed to replace the mattress. When their team arrived they said that they couldn’t take the mattress because of a small stain!! I called Serta, and was told that the stain voided the warranty because it wasn’t sanitary for their inspection team to open the mattress up and see where the mattress failed. The product was an inferior product with a huge manufacturers defect, and because of a small stain (barley visible) which had nothing to do with the sagging, was a loophole they used to void the warranty. I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER SERTA PRODUCT BECAUSE THEY DON’T STAND BEHIND IT!!!
  • We purchased this mattress between 2 and 3 years ago. It has not held up. There are sags and dips plus a back ache to people sleeping on it. It should be covered by a warranty issue except a small stain gets the Beautyrest folks off the hook. Never, never, would I buy from this manufacturer again. This was in our bedroom and we moved it to a guest room buying a replacement. Please note the Beautyrest replaced a mattress which had been in our room over 25 years. Since putting it in the guest room, two different guests mentioned waking up with a back ache. There are other options… Select one.

Continue reading

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As mobile smartphones have become more advanced, they have also become more fragile (the author does not remember being particularly worried when she dropped her Nokia 3310).  With each advancement in security, screen quality, data speed, and so forth, something else is sacrificed—durability, size, and/or battery life.  Most people with smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, have probably experienced an issue with their mobile phones at some point during ownership.  Speaking from experience—the author of this blog post has cracked the screen of every smartphone she has ever owned.

Upon damaging their phone, many consumers look to third parties to conduct repairs, as such repairs are often significantly cheaper than repairs through the manufacturer.

One issue for which consumers have sought third party support is Touch ID sensor issues related to the iPhone 6 and 6s.  For example, many have speculated that the Touch ID sensor feature on the new Apple iPhone 6 and 6s are prone to causing phone issues, such as the touch screen becoming unresponsive, the fingerprint sensor not registering when users are attempting to use it, and the home and lock buttons failing to work as expected.

Continue reading

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Rock-hard, 6-pack abs … we all want them, right? If you love in America and watch enough late night television, you’ve probably seen commercials for everything from the “Ab Roller” to “8 Minute Abs” and everything in between. And it’s clear why—Americans want to look good, but due to our busy lifestyles we want to do as little as possible while still maximizing results. Enter the Flex Belt, Slendertone and Contour ab belt systems: wearable electrical-stimulation belts that tie around your stomach and force your abdominal muscles to contract repeatedly for anywhere from a few sections to a few minutes. Both products are manufactured by the same Ireland-based company and make identical promises: “TONE, TIGHTEN, FIRM AND STRENGTHEN YOUR ABS” … “Get strong, toned abs in weeks” . . . “Slendertone toning products include everything you need to tone, firm and strengthen your muscles. All Slendertone products are clinically proven to deliver results.” And according to the Flex Belt website:

The Flex Belt will stimulate all your major stomach muscles at the same time providing you with the perfect abdominal contraction – that means your upper abs, the lower abs and even your obliques are going to get worked from The Flex Belt… and it does all the work for you. You don’t have to worry about your form or come up with the time to get it done. The Flex Belt is clinically demonstrated to deliver firmer, stronger and more toned abdominal muscles while you are: at home, at work, watching TV, exercising, folding laundry, helping your kids with their homework, taking a walk… virtually anytime and anywhere.

In short, use the Flex Belt, Contour or Slendertone ab belts, and you can expect rock hard abs in a matter of weeks without any of the sit ups or crunches we all dread. The Flex Belt ads say it all. I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like these models with simply the “push of a button”:

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As we’ve repeatedly covered here on the blog, so called “miracle products” that sound too good to be true—like the X Hose, DeckOver and Grassology—usually promise far more than they actually deliver. Consumers instead tend to wind up with fragile products that break far sooner than expected or simply can’t perform as promised. But miracle products only find their way onto the blog because the target market wants to believe the products work and buys them…… and there is no group that needs and wants miracle products more than new and expecting parents….

Enter the Baby Brezza Formula Pro. The Baby Brezza Formula Pro promises customers hassle-free, warm bottles at any time of day or night. But don’t listen to me, hear it from the makers of the Baby Brezza Formula Pro themselves:

Say goodbye to the time and hassle of manually preparing baby’s bottles. Introducing Formula Pro, the revolutionary new way of preparing your baby’s formula bottles. The Formula Pro uses patented technology to measure, dispense and mix water and powdered formula to the perfect temperature and consistency. With the push of a button, you can prepare a bottle within seconds that has no air bubbles. The water and formula powder are stored right in the machine, so it’s always ready for you when your baby gets hungry. The machine works with all bottle sizes and all formula brands and types. You can also choose the amount of formula you want to make: 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 ounces. The easiest way to prepare baby’s bottles is now right at your fingertips.

To hear Baby Brezza tell it, the Formula Pro will change parents’ lives. “Forget making bottles at midnight, just push a button!”

Unfortunately for new parents everywhere, the Baby Brezza Formula Pro is the newest defective product to find its way onto this blog. The defect seems to lie in the Baby Brezza Formula Pro’s design: the system of tubes that are used to transport and mix water and formula clog during use. Unbeknownst to parents, the clogs may prevent the Baby Brezza Formula Pro from dispensing the right amount of formula, resulting in a watery bottle. And with all that clogging comes mold and mildew, a parent’s worst nightmare. As any parent knows—well, mostly the moms 😉 —watery bottles are no good for baby, and anything that’s not good for baby means more “hassle” for you. From Amazon, to BuyBuy Baby down to Diapers.com, parents everywhere say the Baby Brezza is virtually guaranteed to clog and fail without constant cleaning. Continue reading

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Volkswagen has recently come under serious fire for allegedly fraudulently concealing the true emissions of pollutants in certain of its Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi diesel vehicles.  An announcement by Volkswagen this week is even more troubling for the company and also for those who own Volkswagen and Audi vehicles.  On Tuesday, Volkswagen announced that an internal investigation revealed what it titled “inconsistencies” in both carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy of an additional 800,000 vehicles, most of which were sold in North America.  The Volkswagen internal investigation indicated the “inconsistencies” may lower fuel economy of certain vehicles up to 15 percent.

Details have yet to be revealed to the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates emissions standards and sets the requirements for fuel economy measurements.  Consumers, too, are left in the dark while Volkswagen continues to not fully disclose this important information.

What Do We know and Which Vehicles Are Affected?  Continue reading

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You miss a payment or two – and wham!   Suddenly your monthly mortgage statement is littered not only with late fees, but with a variety of new charges you have never seen before and may not understand. Among them: Your lender might be charging you for unnecessary property inspections (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-fees-can-the-lender-charge-if-im-late-mortgage-payments.html). Several mortgage lenders and servicers, including Citi Mortgage, appear to be automatically charging borrowers for inspections to make sure their homes are occupied – even if there is no reason to believe the home has been abandoned.

Foreclosure Sign

In a growing number of class actions, homeowners say that inspection fees and other unreasonable, unauthorized fees are being tacked onto their statements automatically when they are late on payments. The mortgage companies allegedly program their computers to order the inspections after an account becomes a certain number of days past due. There is no human review or assessment of the account before the inspections are ordered, according to these lawsuits. And the inspections continue on an automated basis, sometimes as often as monthly.

The property inspection fees are typically small – in the range of $10 to $15. But since they are often charged monthly, they can add up (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/challenging-late-other-fees-foreclosure.html).  Homeowners must pay these fees in order to save their homes from foreclosure.   Mortgage companies typically won’t reinstate a loan and halt the foreclosure process until all of the fees are paid, or even added to the balance of the loan. In some cases, homeowners have to pay these fees even when their homes are foreclosed. They are often deducted from the proceeds of the foreclosure sale. Continue reading

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It started with a sheet of ice on the floor of your refrigerator’s freezer that you possibly did not notice right away. Shortly thereafter, water began leaking onto your kitchen floor under your freezer. Perhaps you looked to the Internet for answers, or called up the manufacturer for help. If so, maybe you learned that the issue was a clogged drain hole in your freezer floor. Perhaps you were able to get a temporary fix by defrosting the drain hole and clearing it out. Unfortunately, that fix did not address the defective design of the freezer and within a few weeks, you once again had a mini Rockefeller Center in your freezer. You are not alone. Hundreds of consumers have complained about this issue.

What Is Happening?

Every few hours, a freezer automatically goes into “defrost” mode. The purpose of this mode is not to defrost your entire freezer (if operating properly, your freezer remains cold enough to safely store your frozen foods). Instead, it helps remove frost and ice build-up from the condenser, and theoretically, keeps your freezer and refrigerator operating correctly and efficiently. If all is functioning properly, when the freezer goes into defrost mode, the frost from the condenser melts and drips to the bottom of your freezer. It then passes through a valve and through a drain and collects in a pan on the floor outside of and under your refrigerator. If all goes according to plan, the water in that pan naturally evaporates.  Unfortunately, this is not happening for many with these refrigerators. Continue reading