The Consumer Watchdog News to Use for New York

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					                                   The Consumer
                                                                                                       New York State
                                                                                                  Consumer Protection Board
                                                                                                   Advocating for and Empowering NY Consumers
                                                                                                     www.nysconsumer.gov


                                     Watchdog
                                                                                                       1-800-697-1220
                                                                                                      Volume 2, Number 2
                                                                                                           Fall 2008

                                                News to Use for New York Consumers

                                                                    The CPB “SYDES” with Consumers as
    The New York Giants and the CPB
                                                                      “Stretch Your Dollar” Effort Nets
     Team Up Against Identity Theft
                                                                         Effective Money-Saving Tips
   Countless consumers                                                 The Consumer Protection Board’s (CPB) Stretch
are receiving the                                                   Your Dollar Effort (SYDE) gained the attention of the
message that they need                                              Center for Best Practices of the National Governor’s
to protect their identity                                           Association. The Association touted SYDE as an
through       different                                             effective method of helping families deal with tough
practices. The legendary                                            economic times.
New York Giants wide                                                   The CPB launched its SYDE this summer, and turned
receiver Amani Toomer                                               to consumers to provide suggestions. The information is
is the spokesperson for New York Giants Amani Toomer is the         continually updated to add ideas.
                          spokesperson for the ID Theft Campaign.
a joint New York
Giants/Consumer Protection Board (CPB) awareness                       Ingenious consumers have risen to the fiscal
campaign airing on radio and television this fall.                  challenge, devising good strategies to cut spending and
                                                                    save money. Consumers are sending in written, audio
   “I have proclaimed the week of October 26 -                      and video tips to the CPB’s dedicated e-mail address:
November 1, 2008 as Identity Theft Awareness Week                   my2cents@consumer.state.ny.us. You can too!
in the Empire State,” said Governor David A.
Paterson. “I would like to thank CPB Executive                         For example, it’s amazing how much money people
Director Mindy A. Bockstein, the NY Giants and                      spend on eating food in/from restaurants when they
Amani Toomer for championing this cause. By getting                 could bring lunch from home to work and save their
the word out on identity theft, New York State can                  hard-earned money. Assuming that restaurants typically
reduce the number of victims of this insidious crime.”              charge between $6 and
                                                                    $10 for a meal, this adds Inside this issue:
   “We are grateful to the NY Giants and Amani                      up to between $1,500 Chairperson and                2
Toomer for helping us draw attention to this                        and $2,500 over the Executive Director Message
important consumer issue,” said Bockstein, CPB                      course of a year! In Overcharging New Yorkers 2
Chairperson and Executive Director. “By providing                   contrast, homemade for Electricity is Intolerable
consumers with information, we are empowering                       lunches generally cost The CPB and NYSBA Advise
them to take action to protect their identity and                   between $2 and $5.                                  3
                                                                                              Consumers with “Ask the
prevent the consequences of victimization.”                                                     Expert” Program
                                                                       Consumers are urged
    The public service announcement (PSA) directs                   to add their 2 cents to     CPB Part of Eight-Agency
                                                                                                Effort to Assist Vulnerable                     3
consumers to identity theft information and additional              our Back To School
consumer resources available on the Agency’s website                Savings, General Savings,   New Yorkers with Heating
at: www.nysconsumer.gov. The PSA features the                       Grocery Shopping, Gas       Costs
following message: “My identity is important to me,                 Savings, at Home Food       Kids Learn about Toy Safety                     4
                     and I protect it just like I protect           Prep and Household          through CPB’s Milk Carton
                     the football,” said Amani                      Savings Tips. The SYDE      Campaign
                     Toomer, #81, wide receiver for                 tips can be found on the    Kids Corner                                     4
                     the NY Giants. “Don’t get                      CPB’s website at            CPB Broadens Outreach to
                     sidelined by identity theft!”                  www.nysconsumer.gov.                                                        4
                                                                                                NY’s Hispanic Communities
                     Protect yourself now!”
The Consumer Watchdog, Fall 2008                                                                                                        Page 1
                                       Overcharging New Yorkers for Electricity is Intolerable!

                                        When electricity customers in New         the Midwest, rather than taking a direct
                                    York State were charged to the tune of        route, causing overcharges in New
   A Message from                   more than $100 million this year, the         York. It is unclear whether or not this
                                    Consumer Protection Board (CPB),              abuse of the system constitutes an
  Mindy A. Bockstein                joined by the New York Power                  illegal action or was simply unethical.
   This newsletter highlights       Authority (NYPA) and the Long Island
partnerships with both public       Power Authority (LIPA) demanded that             The CPB’s formal comments to the
and private entities to             the Federal Energy Regulatory                 FERC seeking an investigation and
advocate for and empower            Commission (FERC) investigate the             refunds are under consideration.
New York consumers.                 matter, eliminate the loopholes that             Further, in an August 7, 2008 letter
   There are many exciting          allowed it to happen and require the          to NYISO President Stephen Whitley,
achievements to highlight, such     culprits to provide refunds for               the CPB’s Chairperson and Executive
as our partnership with the         consumers if appropriate.                                    Director Mindy A.
NY Giants, featuring the               “New Yorkers are                                          Bockstein expressed
legendary Amani Toomer, who         already      financially                                     concern about their
is championing identity theft       burdened due to                                              efforts to monitor the
protections in TV and radio         economic hardships,                                          electricity market,
public service messages.            and can ill-afford to                                        saying, "It appears that
                                    bear the brunt of                                            certain        market
    The CPB is also pleased to                                                                   participants can engage
be working with various             overcharges for their
                                    energy,” said Governor                                       in questionable behavior
industries to promote juvenile                                                                   with impunity. Even
product safety. Additionally, we    David A. Paterson. “I
                                    am counting on the                                           when caught, there is no
are raising toy safety                                                                           penalty or risk of losing
awareness among children            federal government to
                                    act on behalf of New Yorkers. Anything        legitimate gains. Such a framework is
through the CPB’s Max                                                             unbalanced and is a detriment to
Safetoy Club on 1.5 million         less than a swift comprehensive
                                    investigation and restitution would be        consumers."
milk cartons now available in
New York schools every week,        unconscionable.”                                 In taking an indirect route, the
thanks to NYS Dairy Foods,              The Governor asked the CPB, in its        traders avoided substantial costs and
Inc. and various dairies.           capacity as the consumer advocate in          yielded greater profits than they would
                                    utility proceedings, to take the lead in      have typically net on the transactions.
    We are honored to partner
                                    protecting New Yorkers from being             While providers saved money by
with the NY State Builders
                                    overcharged.                                  looping around Lake Erie, ultimately
Association on our “Ask the
                                                                                  consumers bore the brunt of the costs,
Expert” home improvement
                                        The nonprofit New York                    and paid more for their electricity
initiative and have extended
                                    Independent System Operator (NYISO)           because of it.
the Agency’s fiscal literacy
                                    is responsible for oversight of the State's
initiative to colleges and career                                                    “Paying more for already high
                                    wholesale electricity market. The CPB
development programs.                                                             energy prices is simply intolerable,” said
                                    represents consumers before the
   These partnerships keep          NYISO and other energy agencies,              Bockstein. “We can not stand idly by
costs down as the CPB is doing      including the FERC and the Public             and watch this continue. Something
its part to help stave off          Service Commission.                           must be done to restore the public
budget woes without cutting                                                       trust in governance of our energy
services or efficiencies.               According to findings first revealed by   system.”
                                    the NYISO in July 2008, some energy
         Sincerely,                 traders used a “seam” in market rules to         FERC has begun its investigation and
         Mindy A. Bockstein         sell electricity in a circuitous route        the CPB and New York consumers
         Chairperson and            around Lake Erie, through Canada and          await the results.
         Executive Director
Page 2                                                                                          The Consumer Watchdog, Fall 2008
    The CPB and the NYS Builders                                          CPB Part of Eight-Agency
  Association Advise Consumers with                                     HeatSmartNY Effort to Assist
 Innovative “Ask the Expert” Program                                 Vulnerable NYers with Heating Costs

   In the wake of mounting                                             In October, Governor David A. Paterson announced
complaints against home                                             a coordinated State endeavor to help vulnerable New
improvement contractors, the                                        Yorkers facing high home heating costs this winter
CPB collaborated with the New                                       through intervention, information and assistance.
York State Builders Association                                        In introducing the effort, Governor Paterson said,
(NYSBA) to bring consumers                                          “While we remain focused on reducing spending to
reliable project information                                        address the economic downturn, we must at the same
through an “Ask the Expert” program.                                time be mindful that for many New York families, this is
   The CPB’s popular “Ask the Expert” Home                          going to be an especially harsh and difficult winter. New
Improvement Program has attracted attention by giving               Yorkers should not be endangered by falling
consumers an opportunity to e-mail their questions to               temperatures and rising heating fuel costs.”
asktheexpert@consumer.state.ny.us, where they can                      Under the initiative, a new website
find the answers to their own or similar home-                      (www.HeatSmartNY.org) and hotline number (877-NY-
improvement questions on the CPB’s website                          SMART) enables New Yorkers to quickly determine
(www.nysconsumer.com).                                              which programs might be available to help keep their
   "Our homes are our castles, representing one of the              homes and families warm through the winter. A series
biggest investments people ever make” said Mindy A.                 of workshops, around the State, informs consumers of
Bockstein, Chairperson and Executive Director of the                energy efficiency steps to lower heating bills.
CPB. “With so much money at stake, our collaborative                   The Consumer Protection Board (CPB) is
‘Ask the Expert’ program is helping to protect                      participating in this effort along with the New York
consumers by providing them with reputable information              State Energy Research and Development Authority; the
they can count on upfront - - before they contract for              Division of Housing and Community Renewal; the
home improvements.”                                                 Office for the Aging; the Office of Temporary and
   Consumers should note that the CPB's "Ask the                    Disability Assistance; the Public Service Commission
Expert" project on the Agency’s Home Improvement                    and, the Long Island and New York Power Authorities.
page of its website is for informational purposes only and              “Record high home energy prices are placing a
is not designed to replace an actual visual inspection,             tremendous strain on the bank accounts and wallets of
evaluation or estimate for any home maintenance or                  many New York consumers,” said CPB’s Chairperson
improvement project.                                                and Executive Director Mindy A. Bockstein. “The
                                                                    Governor’s efforts to
                                                                    combine Agency resources       Snapshot Energy
                 Sample Questions from the                                                           Efficiency Tips
                  “Ask the Expert” Program                          to help more people gain
                                                                    access to information and ♦ Install insulation
Question: “Is there a resource available to the public that         assistance will prove ♦ Lower your thermostat
defines construction and architectural terms so that I can better
                                                                    invaluable to millions. The ♦ Lower your hot water
understand a home improvement project and the terms of my                                         temperature to 120o F
contract?”
                                                                    CPB continues to save
                                                                                                ♦ Weatherproof your
                                                                    consumers money by            home
Question: “We are interviewing contractors for a 3+ million job.    representing their needs ♦ Keep ducts, filters,
How can we check to be sure there are no claims against them?”      before federal and New        heaters, registers, etc.
The answers to these questions as well as other questions           York State governing          clean and unblocked
from consumers on heating systems, builders and                     bodies, and, working ♦ Keep fireplace dampers
contractors, construction and architectural definitions,            together with other           closed when not in use
contracts, energy savings, paint, mechanics’ liens and more         Agencies, saved more than      For more tips, visit
can be found on the CPB’s website.                                  $1.1 billion in avoided        HeatSmartNY at
                                                                    utility costs last year.”   www.HeatSmartNY.org.

  The Consumer Watchdog, Fall 2008                                                                                      Page 3
  Kids Learn about Toy Safety through                                                                        Kids Corner
     CPB’s Milk Carton Campaign                                                             Consumer empowerment and
                                                                                            protection for children of all ages
                                      Toy and juvenile product                              continues to be one of the CPB’s
                                   safety and recalls continue to               priorities. The website is full of information, tips and
                                   get national headlines, and the              tools for children and their parents and care-givers.
                                   Consumer Protection Board
                                   (CPB) is responding. Through a                    The following is a listing of some of the CPB’s Child
                                   partnership with the NYS Dairy               Safety information and tips, which can be found by
                                   Foods Association and schools,               visiting www.nysconsumer.gov:
                                   the CPB has created the first-                  ♦ Making Your Home Safe For Grandchildren
                                   ever milk carton campaign to
                                   educate youngsters about toy                    ♦ Childhood Choking Prevention
                                   safety.                                         ♦ Top 5 Hidden Hazards in the Home
                             The start of the 2008-2009                            ♦ Raising Baby on a BUDGET
                             school year was marked by the                         ♦ Childproofing Your Home
reintroduction of the Max Safetoy Club, a CPB program
                                                                                   ♦ "Keeping Baby Safe" Checklist
to educate students about toy safety, with activities and a
secret code word of the week available online at                                   ♦ When is Hot Water Too Hot?
www.nysconsumer.gov/safetoysny. This year, students                                ♦ Baby Sleeps Safest Alone
whose school milk                                                                  ♦ Be Video Wise
is provided by
NYC       Elmhurst                                                                 ♦ Car Seat Safety Tips
Dairy receive Club                                                                 ♦ Toy Safety Tip Card
information on 2%                                                                  ♦ Playground Safety
chocolate       milk
cartons. Mohawk
                                                                                CPB Chairperson and
Dairy in upstate                                                                Executive Director Mindy
New York debuted                                                                A. Bockstein meets with
the toy safety                                                                  Fordham Murdy, Ronald
message on the                                                                  McDonald House of New
side panels of their (L-R) Isaiah Scarlett (1st Grade) and Michaela Barnes      York Program Manager,
half-pint 2%, 1%, (3rd display the milk cartons available at their school.
                          Grade) from Roessleville Elementary School, Albany,   while touring the facility
                     NY,                                                        where        Kidsumer
nonfat white and
                                                                                newsletters and other
chocolate milk cartons this September, adding                                   CPB youth resources are
approximately 20 schools to the growing list of toy                             being distributed.
safety-conscious school districts. Other community-based
organizations including hospitals are receiving the milk
cartons as well.                                                                CPB Expands Outreach and Education
    Additionally, Mohawk Dairy has announced that it will                       to New York’s Hispanic Communities
be placing the CPB’s toy safety information on its half-
gallon milk containers which will soon be available in                             The Consumer Protection Board (CPB) has
upstate stores.                                                                 broadened its outreach to Hispanic communities and
                                                                                provides many of its materials in Spanish. In addition,
                                                                                several Hispanic newspapers including El Diario La
                                                                                Prensa in New York City; Hispano Americano in
                                                                                Nassau, Suffolk and Queens; El Especial Newspaper in
                       New York State
                                                                                New York City (Bi-Weekly); CNY LATINO - Hispanic
                       Consumer Protection Board                                Media consortium on the Web representing the
                       Advocating for and Empowering NY Consumers
                                                                                Syracuse area; and, El Aguila News in the Hudson Valley
                  www.nysconsumer.gov
                                                                                are now publishing a Spanish Consumer News Column
David A. Paterson 1-800-697-1220   Mindy A. Bockstein                           through which the CPB provides consumers with key
Governor                             Chairperson and Executive Director         information.

The Consumer Watchdog, Fall 2008                                                                                                    Page 4