The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) offers consumers a great free tool to download and review before shopping for a motor vehicle. You can access the app on your desktop or laptop by going to www.USLemonLawLawyers.com. Or take it with you to the dealer's by downloading it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store (Android).
Oregonian opinion columnist Elizabeth Hovde wrote an execrable column the other day that proposed cutting food stamps for the "not so needy" -- you know, the folks with smartphones and on foodstamps.
Hovde's column shows that if she ever had any understanding of just how damn expensive it is to be poor in America, her perch of privilege has long since helped her forget that crucial fact. So I wrote a letter to the editor in response, which they ran today (below).
If you have no idea what I mean when I say it's really costly to be poor in America, click the image over there, which is to a great book, Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, which every politician in America should have to read and pass a test on before being allowed to legislate.
Letter: Cellphones don't always signal prosperity
Another Oregon attorney writes:
Start Now for 2014: Stop exempting insurance companies from Oregon's unfair trade practices act! Bring insurance under the UTPA (the same law that applies to every other business in Oregon).
Alas, the power of concentrated wealth and smooth lobbyists in tassel-toed loafers defeated the people of Oregon yet again: the insurance industry cowed and bought enough legislators to preserve its one-of-a-kind exemption from basic fairness.
As the law stands today, and for at least another session, for insurance companies, unfair and deceptive practices pay, and pay well indeed. The Legislature folded yet again.
But, sooner or later, we can win, and make the insurance industry follow the same rules as everyone else, because there is no good reason to exempt one of the most powerful and profitable industries from basic consumer protection laws. As Oregonians learn every day, the "good hands" folks and the "good neighbors" and the cute little lizards all have a way of turning into the toxic creeps once you are actually injured or damaged and they face the prospect of actually parting with some of the billions in premium dollars they love to collect. We didn't get it done in 2013; that ought to just make us even more determined to get it done in 2014.
Call or write your legislators now, as this session is ending. Tell them that you want the first bill introduced and passed next year to be a bill ending the special exemption from the UTPA for the insurance industry.
Here's a bit about the bill that would have gotten it done in 2013:
If there's one thing that every Oregonian can agree on, it's that there should be no one above the law.
But, unique to Oregon, we have a whole industry that has a special privilege given to no one else: Complete exemption from the rules against unlawful and deceptive trade practices.
And this isn't some little tiny industry that no one ever has to deal with. This is the biggest gorilla there is in Oregon, the behemoth that makes the big banks look like little corner grocery stores: the insurance industry.
This is the industry that supported laws making their products mandatory, and while they were at it, they bought themselves a sweet deal decades ago: Complete and total exemption from the consumer protection laws.
It's long past time that we brought them back into the fold and make them answerable to their customers for their abuses. Please, call, write, and email (all three if you can) to your senator and representative and tell Salem to End Special Privileges for Insurance Companies by passing HB 3160.
Financial self-defense for real people: Excellent series of video explanations, delivered in a cool Irish accent.
I was impressed by Ms. Gunderson's wish to help her readers and explain things to them correctly -- a difficult task when writing about the law in the few words allowed in a column. I wrote her a note thanking her for mentioning me, and added two suggestions: One, we didn't discuss the small claims court limit, so I didn't know she had found something with the old, lower limit of $7,500. The current limit for small claims court is $10,000. Second, I wish I had thought of NACA.net when we spoke and she asked me how consumers could find an attorney to help with a defective product or service. NACA -- National Association of Consumer Advocates -- attorneys are likely to be much more experienced in handling consumer problems, and NACA attorneys (like me) are all committed on the consumer side of things: to join NACA, you have to agree that you won't represent any business against a consumer.
"Never forget, the law is never settled until it is settled right, it is never right until it is just, and it is never just until it serves society to the fullest."
Note the attempts to make it seem to come from a government source
The folks who prey on the elderly -- the Elderscammers -- never tire of trying to make their scam letters appear to come from an official source (anything that will get you to open them). When you get mail in an envelope that looks like this, your best bet is probably to recycle it immediately without even opening it.
If you are really torqued about their deceptive technique and want to make it a bit more expensive for them, here's one thing you can do: Open the envelope, but only so that you can find out if there is a postage-prepaid "Business Reply Envelope" inside (there often are). If there is a BRE, take a dark marker and write "STOP SENDING ME JUNK" on the reply card, and draw a big X over the part where they want you to give them all your personal information. Then stuff everything they sent you into the BRE, seal it, and drop it in the mail. This has proven remarkably effective at getting them to stop sending me any such junk. Sadly, all my elderly neighbors and friends keep me well supplied in examples of this kind of scam. (This one was another come-on for funeral expenses insurance, the biggest ripoff this side of waterline insurance plans.)