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Consumer Protection

Aug 13, 2009

Poisonous Lead (Pb) in Electrical Power Cords

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Aug 14, 2009 03:13 PM

Did you know that many household power cords contain lead (Pb), a highly poisonous substance? I was recently surprised to read the warning label on an extension cord I purchased.

 

Ace Hardware Extension Cord Label with Warning About Lead The adjacent image is a scan of the label attached to an electrical power cord I recently purchased.

Click the image to see it full-size and note the warning regarding the power cord's lead content.

The warning label says:

"WARNING: The power cord on this product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling."

Sadly, many power cords still contain lead. If you use a power cord that contains lead with your vacuum cleaner, you're potentially brushing the cord over your carpet where your children and pets play. Keep reading - there's a way around this.

How dangerous is lead? You might want to read this excerpt from Wikipedia or this Wikipedia article about Lead Poisoning. There's also a group, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning with useful information on their website.

Help is On The Way to Remove Lead from Your Life

There is a formal initiative to stop the use of hazardous materials in electrical devices. It's called the Reduction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS. The goal is to remove hazardous substances like lead from electrical devices. RoHS took effect in 2006 in the European Union, via EU Directive 2002/95/EC. RoHS compliance is not mandatory in the USA, but manufacturers can voluntarily comply with the RoHS directive at their discretion - and help is on the way.

Not every power cable or surge protector contains lead.

I recently purchased a Tripp Lite Surge Protector, model: TLP602, because the packaging had an RoHS Compliant logo. I subsequently called Tripp Lite to ask them about their RoHS policy and was directed to their website, where I found:

  • Tripp Lite's formal declaration that if they use the RoHS logo on a product, the product will in fact be compliant with EU Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS)

True Blade will be doing additional research into the use of lead in electrical devices with the goal of helping offices and families stay safe, healthy, and lead-free.

Register your contact information with us if you would like to receive more information in the future regarding our findings.

Aug 11, 2009

Penny Stock Promoters Now Providing Useful Disclaimers

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Aug 12, 2009 11:00 AM

I received an unsolicited email this morning, promoting a low-cost stock. Interestingly, this solicitation had a disclaimer at the end, telling me: "We want you to know that while our ad says buy we are selling".

The email is promoting the stock of a company whose revenue for the period ending March 31, 2009 was $0. I researched the company's SEC filings and found that the company's total assets as of March 31, 2009 are $57. 

What I found insightful about this promotion was the disclaimer at the bottom of the email; the highlighting is mine.


CYA:   This is an ad.    We were paid get this message to you.    We only
take on projects we feel have upside and that are willing to pay us.  We
never tell people to sell.    The info in this piece is based on what the
Company told us.  What we believe MAY happen in the future may not come to
pass this is a risky business.     We don't hold any licenses and this has
not been reviewed and signed off on by anyone.    Do not get this or any
other pick unless you are able to pay the band and handle a complete loss
We were paid 20k for this report.     Do your homework and
research any pick before putting your hard earned cash in it and talk to
your own experts.    Basically if you decide to buy in it's your decision
and you are on your own.   We want you to know that while our ad says buy
we are selling
so you can factor it in to your decision and we don't get in
trouble.


Needless to say, ignore this and similar stock promotions. If you receive an inappropriate solicitation, you may want to file a complaint with the SEC.

Jun 26, 2009

Chase Credit Cards Increases Minimum Payment from 2% to 5%

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jun 27, 2009 01:15 PM

A recent Chase Credit Card mailing informs the reader that Chase is more than doubling the minimum monthly payment on credit card balances, from 2% to 5%, effective August, 2009. This will create hardship for many Chase customers who are unable to come up with additional money to make the higher payments. Chase's notice is dated June, 2009 and is labeled "ADV5679".

 

This is not a defensive move by Chase done out of need.

Chase is well capitalized.

So, why do this now?

Doesn't JP Morgan Chase & Company have a good deal as a national banking institution? Let's see:

  1. Deemed too large to fail, Chase received (and repaid) $25 billion in TARP money from the Federal Government. The change in minimum monthly payments was announced after repayment of the TARP money.
  2. Chase received and continues to enjoy being able to offer enhanced FDIC guarantees on bank deposits made by their customers.
  3. Chase enjoys essentially unlimited borrowing privileges, at interest rates of 0.25% or less, a benefit unavailable to you or me or any industrial business in the United States.


The above benefits increase the value of Chase's banking franchise. And the benefits are only possible due to tax revenue and a regulatory structure whose costs are borne by taxpayers.

The USA and the rest of the world are in recession. Many people are out of work and money is more scarce than when credit card minimum payments were 2%. Credit card minimum payments have been low for as long as I can remember.

This is a strong, giant industry. Read more info on the credit card industry and how large it is.

So, is this a good time for a National bank to pull in money from its customers, when our country's national bank, the Federal Reserve, is making money available to Chase in unlimited amounts at interest rates of 0.25% or less?

I called Chase on June 24, 2009 and asked them, why do this now?

The agent's response was that it was intended to make new borrowers become more responsible about borrowing. OK, fine, good idea.

But what about all those people with big outstanding balances? Read the comments of a few of them. Those people are going down, down, into bankruptcy, and maybe worse.

The Obama Administration recently encouraged Congress to pass legislation to improve the rights of credit card customers. The legislation, the "Credit CARD Act of 2009" was passed over strident objections. Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, deemed the legislation "Victory", and by reading their summary, you will see that it's mostly favorable for consumers. Favorable for consumers likely means "mostly unfavorable" for credit card issuers.

So perhaps in raising monthly minimum payments Chase is sincere in merely wanting new borrowers to be more responsible.

Or, may I suggest a counter-idea:

Marginal borrowers won't be able to pay 2.5 times as much as they're paying now, pushing these people into default, enabling the credit card companies to quickly raise the borrower's interest rate.

Other borrowers have low interest rates on their outstanding balances, due to "teaser" offers from the credit card companies that encouraged borrowing at attractive interest rates.

These borrowers faithfully make their minimum monthly payments, stretching out the repayment term as long as possible - making for a not-so-profitable customer for Chase. Who knows, maybe with the increased monthly payments some of these borrowers won't be able to afford the increased payment, their low teaser rate will vanish, and the borrower will be thrust into a high interest rate due to late or missed payments.

I posit that Chase already has calculations and estimates of exactly how many of these borrowers will be forced into default, and that Chase has already run a full profit and loss simulation of what will happen.

This is the United States of America. If you want to know why this country is compounding itself at a negative rate, pushing itself further and further into the abyss, it's hard to think of a better example than letting national banks, subject to Federal Regulation, and receiving abundant benefits available to no other sector of the U.S. economy, unilaterally take actions that will push potentially millions of new people into financial ruin.

Write to the authorities if this bothers you or to state your thoughts. Per Chase's mailing, which doesn't contain a copyright notice, the relevant Federal Regulatory Entity to write to is:

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Customer Assistance Group
1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3450
Houston, TX  77010-9050

The address to send written correspondence to Chase Credit Cards is:

Cardmember Service
PO Box 15098
Wilmington, DE  19850-5098

Or you can write to Chase's CEO:

Jamie Dimon, CEO
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
270 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017