She wants to break it all up

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Is that really such a bad idea? Via the New York Times, a profile of anti-monopolist Sarah Miller:

“WASHINGTON — One night five years ago, Sarah Miller, a former Treasury Department aide, was trying to make sense of an economic recovery that had left the country in the grips of rising inequality.

“Thinking back to recent news articles about corporate mergers, she Googled “monopolies in America.” Her screen filled with links to articles detailing a nascent school of thinking that corporate concentration was to blame for inequality, and that a century-old approach to antitrust laws could help solve it.

“As she read more, she felt she had found the absent piece of a puzzle. “This is probably a big deal,” Ms. Miller, now 37, remembered thinking.

“It is now common to hear Democratic presidential candidates argue that tech companies like Facebook and Google are too powerful. The Trump administration, too, is investigating whether those businesses, as well as Apple and Amazon, have violated antitrust laws.

“Ms. Miller has been central in making the issue prominent. From her onetime seat as the deputy director of the Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on antitrust, she spent three years as a thorn in Silicon Valley’s side, guiding a coalition of liberal groups that demanded federal officials break up Facebook.”

Go read the whole thing.

Stop being a spectator

And start being an activist. Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121.

How companies use arbitration clauses to screw consumers: A cautionary tale

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Via the Philadelphia Inquirer, something consumers should consider:

“When you download Uber’s app, you agree that you’re older than 18, that you’re not using a stolen credit card to pay your driver, and — if you’re like one Philadelphia woman and fracture your spine in a Center City car crash — that you won’t seek a jury trial against the ride-share giant.

“But, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has ruled that, because Uber can’t prove that Jillian Kemenosh actually read the company’s terms and conditions before she signed up or rode in the car that ran a red light, she can’t be forced to settle her claims behind closed doors.

“Sitting in the back seat of an Uber in March 2018, Kemenosh was more than halfway home on a four-mile trip from Columbus Boulevard to her Center City apartment when the driver of the 2010 Toyota Highlander ran a red light at 16th and Vine Streets, crashing into another vehicle.

“Suffering a fracture to her spine, concussion, and traumatic brain injury, Kemenosh sued Uber, its local subsidiaries, and the driver, requesting a jury to determine her payout.

“But, Uber argues in court documents, by approving the ride-share’s “terms and conditions” when she downloaded the app in 2013, Kemenosh had already forfeited her right to a jury, agreeing instead to resolve any legal disputes only through binding arbitration, which forces users to waive their rights to sue and settle matters privately.

“Proponents of arbitration say that it’s faster and cheaper than court. But critics say it revokes a consumer’s right to publicly take action against a company.”

CPAP maker pays $37.5M in kickback lawsuit

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Via the Associated Press. Imagine that — corruption everywhere, even while you sleep:

“SAN DIEGO (AP) — ResMed, a San Diego-based company that sells sleep apnea machines, will pay $37.5 million to settle allegations that it provided kickbacks to obtain customer referrals, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

“The settlement covers five whistleblower lawsuits filed on behalf of the federal government. The lawsuits say that the company provided free services and equipment to medical equipment suppliers, sleep labs and other health care providers in violation of the federal False Claims Act.

“Paying any type of illegal remuneration to induce patient referrals undermines the integrity of our nation’s health care system,” Jody Hunt, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil division, said in a statement. “When a patient receives a prescription for a device to treat a health care condition, the patient deserves to know that the device was selected based on quality of care considerations and not on unlawful payments from equipment manufacturers.”

How Big Cable manipulated their speed tests

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Via Salon:

“If you chose an internet-service provider based on their official internet speed scores published by the Federal Communications Commission, you have have been lied to.

“According to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, AT&T, Cox, Comcast and other telecom giants pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove unfavorable data on their speed tests to improve their scores. The FCC has an ongoing research initiative called Measuring Broadband America which is meant to hold internet service providers accountable for their promised internet speeds by gathering “independent” data.

“According to the Wall Street Journal, the FCC uses data from a month or two in the fall to produce the report. The FCC and SamKnows, a company that measures internet performance,  alert the internet providers the dates of when the tests will be done and sends them lists of testers’ names so they can confirm the internet packages. The relationship and process, according to the report, allows the companies to make targeted upgrades and improve service for the households being tested, thus manipulating the results.”

Consumer chief undermines consumers, again.

Amazon helps itself, not consumers

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Go read, it’s quite enlightening. Via the Washington Post:

SEATTLE — When Jeff Peterson’s Amazon seller account was hacked recently, he frantically tried to reach Amazon’s customer service for help restoring access to his sports memorabilia store.

As nearly 4,000 fraudulent orders rang up, the Garden Grove, Calif.-based seller called Amazon’s seller support line, phoned its main customer service number, reached out via a separate account on its Canadian site, and even sent an email to chief executive Jeff Bezos. Nothing worked.

“I can’t get any answers from Amazon at all to fix this,” Peterson said, as negative reviews of his service accumulated, decimating his business.

One thing he hadn’t done was pay as much as $5,000 a month for a program Amazon offers sellers as a way to get quick help from a real person.

Amazon has become a powerful marketplace alongside its role as an online retailer, with more than 2.5 million third-party sellers who have become global businesses on its platform. Early on, Amazon compelled sellers to use its warehouses to guarantee speedy Prime shipping, in addition to other programs that largely benefited consumers. But now, sellers and former employees familiar with Amazon’s internal strategy say the company is increasingly focused on boosting its profits on the backs of its sellers — often without any clear upside for customers.

 

Decrease corporate power to increase consumer power

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