Making A List And Checking It Twice, Consumer Reports Finds Company Policies And Practices That Are Naughty Or Nice

Brinkmann & Home Depot, Southwest, Target among companies named to CR's annual Nice list, Citibank, Costco, UPS & FedEx, join others in leaving consumers frosted

Nov 23, 2015, 06:00 ET from Consumer Reports

YONKERS, N.Y., Nov. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Just in time for the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping and travel season, Consumer Reports releases its sixth annual Naughty & Nice List of consumer-friendly and not-so-friendly policies among popular businesses and service providers.

Well-known for its meticulous product testing, it has also developed an annual tradition where the organization scrutinizes the policies, practices, and behavior of the companies that make and sell the goods and provide the services consumers use every day.

This year, Consumer Reports took companies to the woodshed for gouging consumers, subjecting them to annoying fees, and sneaky marketing practices. Conversely, the organization lauded others for transparency, generosity, and stand-up behavior that improves and enhances health, safety, and the overall quality of life.

Consumer Reports' full 2015 Naughty & Nice List is available online at www.ConsumerReports.org/naughtynice2015.

"Whether we're flying or buying, banking or borrowing, there's no more important time than the high-octane holiday season to be vigilant about how and with whom we spend our shopping dollars," said Tod Marks, senior projects editor and resident shopping expert at Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports annual Naughty & Nice List is based on input from Consumer Reports experts, and is neither an endorsement nor criticism of an overall company or brand. In other words, Consumer Reports is not rating the firms themselves. Rather, it's praise or condemnation of a specific policy or practice that Consumer Reports believes either helps or hinders consumers.

Here are some of the companies (and their policies) that earned them a spot on the list:

NAUGHTY

  • 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.

NICE

  • 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.

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is the world's largest and most trusted nonprofit, consumer organization working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to cut hospital-acquired infections, prohibit predatory lending practices and combat dangerous toxins in food. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center and consumer research center. Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, works for pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. With more than eight million subscribers to its flagship magazine, website and other publications, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment or other support from the companies whose products it evaluates.

NOVEMBER 2015
© 2015 Consumer Reports.  The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.  We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.

 

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