Tips for paying off debts in 2016
How did consumers do in 2015 in the battle with corporations? Corporations win – again

Top news stories for consumers in 2015

Look Back 2015

2015 wasn’t a very good year for consumers.

Although the economy is improving slowly, consumers aren’t seeing the benefits. Salaries aren’t going up much with corporations and businesses, who have seen booming profits, keeping increasing profits for themselves. It’s not uncommon to hear news reports that corporations, across many sectors, are laying off hundreds of employees.

Then, there are the mergers. Big corporations are joining with other big corporations in record numbers. It usually means thousands of lost jobs and higher prices for consumers.

So, what are the top news stories for consumers in 2015? Here they are, some good, some bad:

Record fines for deceptive practices

Dozens of corporations, especially banks and pharmaceutical companies, were issued huge fines for deceptive practices. I wrote about many of them: Takata, BP, General Motors, and JPMorgan Chase Bank.

Action to help college students

Regulators are finally taking action to protect students from deceptive practices by for-profit schools. Corinthian Colleges, a chain of for-profit colleges that at one time had 72,000 students, closed its remaining 28 colleges, and the U.S. Department of Education announced it would ensure that students who have been defrauded by their college, or because their school closed down, receive debt relief. In addition, Discover Bank paid $185 million for illegal student loan servicing practices.

Lower gas prices

Gas prices remain lower. While this is good for consumers now, the oil industry will figure out how to get the prices up again.

Auto industry fraud 

In the auto industry, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen, the world’s largest auto manufacturer, had cheated on emissions tests. The company installed software in its diesel cars that turned off the emission of harmful chemicals during testing, meaning that at other times the cars are spewing out harmful pollution. Finally, after years, Takata, a Japanese company, admitted it had hid for years that its airbags could explode and injure and kill people.

Intensifying wars

Wars are heating up around the world. When the United States is pouring money into wars around the globe, consumers suffer at home. Our 50 year-old-bridges and highways are crumbling, millions of people are homeless, including veterans, and governments at all levels find it more and more difficult to provide basic services. The problem is complicated by the conservative philosophy that’s gripping Congress and many states, including Washington where I live, to cut programs then cut them more rather than raising taxes.

Corporate mergers

Large corporations are merging in record numbers. While they say it will result in savings for the new giant corporation, thousands of workers are often laid off and prices go up due to less competition. It’s estimated that the value of the transactions in 2015 is about $5 billion. Some of the mergers are: Dow Chemical and Dupont, Pfizer and Allergan, CVS and Rite Aid, and Budweiser and Miller.

The drought

The 2015 drought, most pronounced in the West, got many of us to conserve water. And, in addition, to worry about what further changes climate change will make and when. 

The 2016 presidential election

The upcoming 2016 was a surprise as the debates turned mean when Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and other Republicans racheted up the commentary against the poor, immigrants, women, and government services to help people.

FDA approved genetically modified salmon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the go ahead for the production an Atlantic salmon that has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, which allows the salmon to grow twice as fast as a traditional Atlantic salmon. It also contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon. I think the action is ill-advised, especially since the genetically modified salmon won't be labeled as such.

So, best wishes for 2016. Keep your good humor and don't let the constant battle to good customer service and quality products get your down. And, above all, file complaints when things go wrong. It's easy to do online these days.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

 

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