By Al Sunshine, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Consumer Investigator, Nov. 24, 2015 – As you plan for your Holiday Shopping needs, you might wanna check out the latest list of “Naughty & Nice” companies from Consumer Reports. While there are plenty of “Nice” businesses around the country, CU found a growing list of “Naughty” ones too that are not as consumer friendly as you like. Remember, the lowest prices may not be the best deals if it’s damaged merchandise, features high shipping costs and extra handling charges and limits or prohibits returns or refunds.
Per Consumer Reports:
Citibank. The financial giant engaged in deceptive marketing and unfair billing for credit-card add-on products and services from at least 2000 through 2013. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered Citibank to pay an estimated $700 Million (including $35 million in civil penalties) to millions of consumers harmed by myriad illegal practices. They include: misrepresenting costs, fees, and benefits of some products; enrolling consumers in services without their consent; misrepresenting or omitting information about eligibility for coverage; and charging for benefits consumers never received.
Costco. The warehouse club is facing a jury trial for trademark infringement for selling “counterfeit” Tiffany diamond engagement rings. In September, a federal judge in New York agreed with the luxury jeweler’s claim that Costco confused customers by using the word “Tiffany” in display-case signage. In doing so, the court rejected Costco’s argument that “Tiffany” was a generic description for a type of ring setting. A jury trial has been scheduled for early next year. Tiffany originally filed suit on Valentine’s Day 2013, claiming hundreds, possibly thousands, of Costco members bought rings they thought were genuine Tiffany baubles. Costco has filed an appeal.
UPS and FedEx. Why is it that companies continue to impose fuel surcharges even when prices are relatively low? According to the industry publication TruckingInfo.com, the price of diesel won’t rise markedly until next year and even then, the increase is expected to average well below that recorded in 2014. Yet the two shipping titans continue to add fees, based on U.S. Energy Information Administration averages. For November, FedEx adds a 4.25 percent surcharge for ground shipping services; the add-on at UPS is 5.25 percent. Both carriers already hit customers with a separate surcharge for residential home delivery.
Other companies that were included on Consumer Reports Naughty list this year for their not-so-consumer friendly policies and practices included: Allegiant Air, Citizens Bank, LifeLock, Tom’s of Maine, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Verizon & Sprint, Volkswagen and Whole Foods.
Brinkmann and Home Depot. When consumers buy a gas grill they expect it to work and work safely. When it doesn’t, they have to hope that the problem will be quickly resolved. That’s exactly what these two companies did when Consumer Reports testing uncovered a safety issue with a Brinkmann grill and gave it a “Do Not Buy” Rating last spring. While Brinkmann challenged the existence of a safety threat, the company nevertheless made available an easy-to-install, do-it-yourself fix for grill owners. Meanwhile, Home Depot, which sold the vast majority of the grills, put a freeze on their sale — the stores’ checkout system wouldn’t allow a purchase transaction at the register. The grills were fitted with the new part that solved the problem, and soon were made available for sale.
Southwest. Kudos to Southwest for providing the most frequent-flyer award program trips of any big airline, according to a recent Consumer Reports analysis of millions of passenger trips for the fiscal year ended September 2014: 11.9 million, or 11.5 percent of total passenger seats. The Dallas-based carrier also did some Texas-sized butt-kicking of rivals by providing the highest percentage of award-seat availability on 72 percent of the 25 most popular U.S. award routes.
Target. The retailer has enacted several policy revisions that benefit consumers. The chain (and its website) expanded its price-match policy to include all major in-store and online competitors, including warehouse clubs, Amazon, and Walmart, and dozens more, and doubled (to 14 days) the timeframe to seek a price adjustment. Target also revised its policy earlier this year on shipping, lowering the purchase minimum to $25, from $50, required for free year-round shipping on online orders. Walmart still has a $50 minimum. In addition, the chain has extended the return period for all Gift Registry items from 90 days to one year from the guest-designated event date. Guests can return most new, unopened items at any Target store using a gift receipt or their Gifts Purchased List.
Other companies that were included on Consumer Reports Nice list this year for their consumer friendly policies and practices included: Covered California (the California Health Insurance Exchange), CVS, DISH Network, Dr. Martens, JetBlue, Nomorobo, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Procter & Gamble and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers).
For more about Consumer Reports’ 2015 Naughty & Nice list, visit ConsumerReports.org; and to connect with Consumer Reports on social channels and share your Naughty or Nice experience with a companies’ policies visit us on Facebook: facebook.com/consumerreports, twitter @consumerreports, and instagram @consumerreports.