What an inspiring 2012! Together, we exposed and stopped false MPG claims by automakers, shamed health insurance companies into lowering outrageous rate hikes and moved closer to the day when technology companies can't collect and sell our private information online and on our phones without consent. This year we'll continue these fights, and more.
Big things are going to happen in 2013, and we're glad you're here with us to see them through. We'll be asking in the coming days your thoughts on what Consumer Watchdog's priorities should be in 2013.
For now, here are some of our pledges for this year. We will:
- Turn up the heat on health insurance companies to stop unjustified rate hikes for families like Karyn Mor's, who has seen her premiums jump over $800 a month in just two years. Californians will have a chance to vote at the next general election on the ballot initiative to require companies to publicly justify and get their rates approved.
- Win our three-year campaign to give consumers the right to say "Do Not Track Me" online. The more companies collect information about what we read, search for and buy online, the more they abuse that knowledge - as privacy project director John M. Simpson discusses in this news story about companies that change prices based on your browsing habits.
- Expose oil companies' continued Enron-like manipulation of gas prices, which brought gasoline to $5.00 a gallon on the West Coast this summer. When gas prices spiked in May and August, oil refiners blamed reduced capacity because of outages and maintenance. But new evidence in November suggested that refineries were running as usual. Consumer Watchdog has called for a criminal investigation, joined by 7 US Senators, into whether oil companies faked the supply shortage.
- Protect patients from the kind of dangerous medicine practiced by doctors like Dr. Carlos Estiandan, who the LA Times exposed as a reckless over-prescriber of narcotics. Eight of Estiandan's patients died of overdoses or related causes while the Medical Board of California dragged its feet on a 4-year investigation before finally pulling his prescription pad. It's time the Medical Board got serious about disciplining bad doctors.
- Save California consumers hundreds of millions more on their auto and homeowners insurance premiums. Since 2002, our challenges to excessive rate hikes have saved policyholders over $2.2 billion.
- Prosecute our suits filed on behalf of drivers to hold car companies accountable for their fuel economy promises. Louis Bird bought a Hyundai Elantra that advertised 40 MPG, but the car never came close to that promise. A Consumer Watchdog complaint led to an EPA audit finding the company's MPG claims were false, and to the first-ever multi-vehicle recall of MPG window stickers. The state and federal cases on behalf of owners of the Hyundai Elantra and three other models are heading to court.
What do you think of our resolutions? At Consumer Watchdog we know that when public opinion is on our side, we can make big things happen. So be on the lookout for our survey next week, and let us know your opinion on what our priorities should be in 2013.
Your ideas, actions and complaints were behind some of our biggest consumer protection victories. We need your input again to make this year as big as the last.
Happy New Year!
Posted by Carmen Balber, Executive Director of Consumer Watchdog.