Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog explains how a state regulation aimed to help Californians access affordable wildfire insurance is being used as a potential loophole for insurance companies to refuse to insure residents living in high-risk areas.
"That's the huge loophole in this rule that could really swallow its promises," said Carmen Balber, the executive director of the non-profit Consumer Watchdog. Balber says while the regulation sounds good on paper, it doesn't tell the whole story. "There are two parts of the insurance transaction. First, insurance companies decide if they're going to sell you coverage. And second, they decide what price they're going to charge you," Balber said.
In 1975, the state of California capped medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering to $250,000 and that’s where it's stayed for 47 years. Assembly Bill 35 stands to change that. CW board member Scott Olsen has been fighting for the change for 3 decades after his son Steven was injured at 2 years of age.
The California families harmed by medical negligence who launched the Patients for Fairness coalition (http://www.patientsforfairness.org) responded favorably to news of a potential legislative deal to raise the 47 year old cap on medical malpractice damages. The families said the legislation would eliminate the need for the Fairness for Injured Patients Act to go before voters in November 2022.
TJ Watkins has served as a public member of the medical board of California; he says he is troubled by what he has witnessed. Of the 10,000 or so complaints filed by patients every year, only a small fraction of those are actually investigated.
CEO of consumer watchdog Jamie Court said he knows the price spikes are because of greed; In 2022, the oil refineries in California doubled their profits. These are unprecedented windfall profits and it's all because of the market power of the oil refiners.
According to Carmen Balber, with Consumer Watchdog the time when it really makes sense to buy travel insurance is if you are going on a big, expensive foreign vacation where you have to pre-pay for your hotels, travel, tours, etcetera, and there's a chance you might lose that money. Putting out an extra 50 bucks to protect your $250 trip to Denver when the airline is at least going to give you a credit for that amount doesn't make as much sense.
Governor Newsom accuses big oil companies of ripping off customers, Consumer Watchdog found that Valeros profits in California where once again higher than any other region in the country and the world, while Californians are trying to pay record gas prices and deal with rising inflation.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court talks with KGO's Michael Finney about reducing the high price of gasoline in California by imposing a price gouging penalty on oil refiners for making unprecedented profits.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court explains how Big Oil's 5 refineries that control 97% of the gas production in CA collude to all schedule maintenance at the same time to artificially drive up the price at the pump and gouge Californians.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court explains how Big Oil companies are artificially lowering supply so they can price gouge Californians at the pump and calls for a windfall profit tax to give the money back to consumers.
Consumer Watchdog says insurance companies complaining about having to hike their rates are not telling the whole story, including that they still owe over $3 billion in refunds to California policyholders from lockdown overcharges.
Consumer Watchdog says wildfire risk scores are determined by a variety of factors. Insurance carriers weigh probability, intensity, even flying embers. but each insurance company uses its own analytics and it doesn't matter how much policies cost if the policies aren't even offered to consumers due to insurance company greed.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says Governor Newsom's recent signing of SB 1322, which will require the state's oil refineries to report monthly on the cost of the crude oil they buy and their profits made per gallon, could be a significant step in addressing the soaring price of gas in California.
Liza Tucker with Consumer Watchdog warns about the special interest pork money that will go to Big Wine corporations that is tucked into the current recycling bill waiting for Governor Newsom's signature.
"We were astonished to find provisions in these insurance policies that say that they limited coverage for smoke damage," says Consumer Watchdog's Harvey Rosenfield. "California law is very clear, there is no separate limit for a smoke damage."
Homeowners in a Castaic condo complex were hit with a massive rate increase for fire insurance, with rates going from roughly $40,000 a year in 2020 to nearly $450,000 in 2022.
Harvey Rosenfield, with Consumer Watchdog, authored Prop 103 in 1987, which led to stricter regulations for insurance companies in California. "Here is what I think," Rosenfield said. "I think insurance companies are taking advantage of a crisis to create their own crisis in the marketplace, by overcharging people, by refusing to renew."
"This bill basically says 'Show us the Money. Show us how much you're making, per gallon, per month,'" said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. "Unfortunately the evidence we have from the information that's out there on the per-gallon profits are that we are being ripped off in the extreme."
LOS ANGELES - People filling up at the downtown Los Angeles Chevron off of Alameda woke up to gas prices under $8 a gallon, a few cents cheaper than what it was just a day ago after FOX 11 reported the station was charging over $8 a gallon.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County Board of Supervisors proclaimed May 2022 as Latina Maternal Health Awareness Month Tuesday morning.
Local health officials said Kern County has the highest pregnancy-related mortality rate in California.
Kern County also has the second highest infant mortality in the state, second only to San Luis Obispo County.
According to the board, proclaiming Latina Maternal Health Awareness Month is a critical step in addressing the growing maternal health crisis here at home and throughout the state.
Calendar entries recovered from a Public Records Act request show City Attorney Mike Feuer in the room where an extortion payment was ordered to cover up the DWP billing debacle. Feuer claims he doesn’t recall.
Jamie Court with Consumer Watchdog explains how there is an artificial $1.50 difference in the price Californians pay per gallon for gas and taxes and environmental fees only account for about 40 cents of it.
Jamie Court is the president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit aimed at protecting people, especially those who have nowhere else to turn for help, urges PG&E customers to keep a close eye on their bills and has the same advice for people who use other utility companies. “If you’re overcharged by PG&E, you should definitely inform the Public Utilities Commission. They’re supposed to be keeping tabs on this,” Court advised.
Over a year ago Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed a new director to the EDD. For Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, the change hasn’t been enough. “It’s shocking,” Court told FOX40. “We’ve had fraud, we’ve had payments gone amiss, we have a department with a computer system that’s ancient, and we’ve had privacy problems. And the problems just keep going on and on.”
Consumer Watchdog's Jerry Flanagan says there must be oversight locally and statewide on the pop-up COVID testing clinics who take consumers' private information without disclosing who they are or what they are doing with that information.
Bakersfield OB-GYN Dr. Arthur Park has agreed to surrender his medical license in an agreement with the Medical Board of California. Park was accused of negligence in the death of Demi Dominguez in 2019.
The Metropolitan Water District of Souther California, the largest water supplier in the country, asked residents to cut back on water usage. Then it was found to be wasting hundreds of thousands of gallons.
Consumer Watchdog and FrakTracker Alliance are sounding the alarm after a massive oil spill occurred off the coast of Orange County. Activists said the incident could have been prevented if proper oil drilling regulations had been in place.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court explains how oil companies and refiners use disruptions like Hurricane Ida to wrongly hike gas prices in far away states like California, even though we don't get our oil from the Gulf Coast area.
“Why haven’t you announced it earlier, number one,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. Court also feels the project should not hit the pockets of customers. “If PG&E is really serious about committing to putting these wires underground, they have to actually come up with the corporate money to do it. And there is corporate money, there is shareholder money that could be put towards this use and should be put towards this use,” Court said.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court tells how Californians like Nancy can't get any grocery stores to accept and redeem her bottles and cans and how SB 38 is a solution to fix the state's broken recycling system.
Data compiled by Consumer Watchdog shows Oregon has the third best redemption rate out of ten states at 86 percent. California is third to last at 58.9 percent, down a full 10 percent since the beginning of 2020.
"There is no person in the country who can be charged for the COVID vaccine," said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. She said medical providers are not allowed to bill consumers for the COVID vaccine.
Demi Dominguez was determined to have died from pre-eclampsia, also leading to her newborn son’s death. The Attorney General’s office has since filed an accusation of negligence against Dr. Arther M. Park. Non-profit consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog says a decision on Park is as soon as next week.
Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog explains that while admin fees are not uncommon, medical facilities are not allowed to bill the consumer. They can either bill the patient's insurance company or the federal government if the patient doesn't have insurance.
On Wednesday Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with the Medical Board of California filed an accusation against Dr. Arthur M. Park, accusing him of negligence in the deaths of Demi Dominguez and her baby. This is not the first time he’s been in trouble. Park is currently on probation with the medical board and has been on probation before.
Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court explains that thanks to deregulation of the energy market in Texas, utilities there have no incentive to keep things running, because they can jack up prices when demand is very high, like during the current crisis.
It's been more than a year since the death of 23-year-old Demi Dominguez. Her family says that not only are they still mourning, but their legal battle against the hospital and doctors, they claim were responsible for their loved one's death, continues.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Whether in conversation with the president or with the dramatic ruins of a wildfire as his backdrop, Governor Gavin Newsom has been sounding the alarm on climate change, positioning himself on the national stage as a climate leader.
As COVID-19 cases shattered California daily records in the second quarter of 2020, oil regulators under Gov. Newsom also shattered records for dispensing new oil and gas production well drilling permits, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance said today.
A San Joaquin Valley legislator is seeking answers from the Medical Board of California as to why the oversight agency allowed a Bakersfield doctor to remain in practice even though it determined he had been negligent with patients.
Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog explains how people who evacuated from the lightning-sparked wildfires in the Bay Area may qualify for fire insurance payouts even if their homes escaped damage, and the best ways to go about filing claims.
Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog explains that anyone, uninsured or not, should be covered for coronavirus testing. However, the ambiguous language of the CARES Act means many uninsured face steep COVID-19 medical bills.
The COVID-19 Stay At Home order has meant a significant drop in mileage for Californians. Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog is pushing the Auto Industry to refund insurance premiums to reflect the change in driving behavior.
President Donald Trump’s administration is struggling to find its footing in the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Just as it seemed as though the past 6-12 months of impeachment proceedings and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe were a closed chapter in American politics, Trump amidst the virus panic, announced he was considering a pardon for his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn was convicted of lying to the FBI and was one of the earliest Trump cabinet members to be disgraced.
A bill (SB372) to transform California's Bottle Deposit System did not pass the senate in January 2020. Now, Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog calls on Governor Gavin Newsom to demand that the beverage industry take responsibility for recycling and redeeming consumer deposits on their containers.
In its report "Trashed," Consumer Watchdog backs the bill, which pulls from the cornerstones of the most successful bottle deposit systems in the US and abroad.
A new bill to overhaul the bottle deposit system has reached the senate. SB372 will place accountability on retailers who sell beverage containers. With the passing of the bill, retailers must accept bottles back and redeem the deposits on them. Consumer Watchdog backs this bill in its new report “Trashed,” which explains how the new bill will pave the way for consumers to get deposits as easily as they buy drinks.
SB372, a bill that would transform California's Bottle Deposit System, reached the Senate on January 15th, 2020. Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog explains that California's current recycling model is on the verge of collapse in a new report, "Trashed" and how SB372 pulls from the cornerstones of the most successful bottle deposit systems in the US and abroad.
January 15th, 2020, SB372 reached the senate. The bill will make the beverage industry responsible for recycling and redeeming consumer deposits on their containers. Consumer Watchdog's new report, "Trashed" ranks California's bottle deposit system as the worst in the country.
Consumer Watchdog highlights the failures of California's Bottle Deposit System in its new report "Trashed," which explains how the beverage container recycling program is beset with problems, among them that Californians, and not the beverage industry, foot the majority of the bill for the program.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) took effect January 1st, 2020. Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog stresses the importance of the act and its value as a deterrent for companies who profit from the sale of consumer data.
Consumers are finding it increasingly more difficult to find somewhere to get their CRV deposit refund as recycling centers close and stores shirk their in-store redemption responsibilities. Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says CalRecycle's lack of enforcement with in-store redemption is a huge part of the problem.
Senator Markey urges NHTSA to protect consumers from the cybersecurity risks posed by internet-connected cars referencing Consumer Watchdog's Kill Switch report.
"Automakers have acknowledged the dangers of interconnected cars to their investors and shareholders but they have not disclosed those same cyber risks to the public at large," said Senator Markey citing the Kill Switch report.
The Kill Switch report from Consumer Watchdog says cars with internet connectivity are vulnerable to hacking and outside interference with crucial systems including brakes and steering. A 50 cent kill switch could address the problem and sever the car's essential safety systems from the internet. "The security in these cars is no better than a smart phone," says Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, "and that's not good enough. The danger is these connections can be hacked and when the connection can be hacked, the car can be hacked and someone can take control of the car."
Some mobile phone carriers have been limiting or slowing consumers cell phone data despite them having unlimited data plans. Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says consumers have to make an informed decision before signing off on a plan and to know where the throttling limit is or go to another carrier.
With online search results affecting everything from jobs to relationships, more people are pushing to have a say in shaping their digital narratives - and that includes "the right to be forgotten." But critics say delisting information online is censorship, and it’s not in the public interest to rewrite history.
Governor Newsom is asking Attorney General Becerra to open an investigation into potential gas price fixing by oil companies in California as Californias pay the highest price in the country at the pump. Consumer Watchdog applauds his request for scrutiny of this long-term price manipulation and how the Golden State Gouge affects drivers.
Consumer Watchdog supports Governor Newsom's request for the Attorney General to open an investigation into the reasons behind California's extrordinarily high gas prices and potential price fixing by refiners to increase profits at the expense of consumers.
Governor Newsom has asked Attorney General Becerra to investigate the high gas prices in California, suggesting that oil refiners are manipulating prices with no legitimate justification. Consumer Watchdog applauds this action and the examination of the Golden State Gouge.
Governor Newsom has asked Attorney General Becerra to investigate the high gas prices in California, suggesting that oil refiners are manipulating prices with no legitimate justification. Consumer Watchdog applauds this action and the examination of the Golden State Gouge.
The Moreno family speak about their daughter Mia's cerebral palsy which was the result of over-sedation and their experience with the medical malpractice damages cap which hasn't been changed since 1975.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court comments on insurance rates being raised for vape users. " I'm no fan of the insurance industry but I think they're probably right in this circumstance," Court says in reference to the long term health effects.
Lara had campaigned on a pledge not to take any money from the insurance industry. However he later broke that pledge and accepted insurance industry money, taking $50,000 from people affiliated with the industry.
If you use a car to commute in SoCal, here’s some news you’ve already felt: gas prices have reached their highest level in five years in California, and have hit 17 straight days of increases in L.A. County.
If you have friends in other states, here’s some more news your friend has probably hipped you to: California’s gas prices are about $1.50 more per gallon than the national average ($4.13 a gallon compared to $2.67).
Gas prices have gone up every day for the last 13 days in California. Jamie Court discusses the increasing prices in California and suggests filling up at independent gas stations rather than the big chains, saying they get better deals from refineries. "It's a lot of profit for the oil industries," Court says, "they treat us as a cash machine, they treat us as an ATM."
The City of Los Angeles is dropping its lawsuit against the software company PricewaterhouseCoopers, accused of being responsible for the LADWP overbilling scandal. City Attorneys accused of conflicts of interest are refusing to testify which the city has made it difficult to pursue the case. Jamie Court says this is a cover-up and that the city wants to shut the case down to prevent public awareness of the level of fraud in LADWP and the City Attorney's office.
Gas prices have jumped again in Los Angeles and could go up even more soon. Jamie Court discusses the spike in Southern California and suggests filling up at independent gas stations rather than the big chains, saying they get better deals from refineries.
"Job and education level are being used as proxies for race and class" says Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber. Drivers working blue-collar jobs, without college degrees or those who live in less affluent neighborhoods are being discriminated against and end up paying more for their car insurance.
Car suppliers – like Harman International – and major automakers are spending more than they ever have on securing vehicles. But a Consumer Watchdog study says safety concerns related to connected cars are only increasing. Others in the auto industry say those fears may be overblown.
Jamie Court says a portion of the unclaimed CRV deposits currently held by the state should be allocated to keeping recycling centers open and accessible to consumers. Just 10 to 20 million of the $300 million in unclaimed deposits would help keep centers afloat.
A man posed as a surgical assistant in the hospital operating room at several hospitals and stole from patients and employees. The police were not able to find any kind of licensing, credentials or qualifications. Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says hospitals are responsible for everyone they bring in as a contractor.
Californians living in high fire danger areas are facing an insurance crisis as companies are drastically increasing their rates or dropping their policies completely.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says Insurance Commissioner Lara can do more to prevent discrimination against people and protect Californians in high fire risk areas with his regulatory powers.
“As Insurance Commissioner, you have broad power that you are not using to prevent insurance companies from unfairly penalizing homeowners,” Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber wrote. “There is a way, now it is up to you to demonstrate the will.”
United States Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to ask if carmakers have reported the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in their Internet-connected cars and what steps NHTSA is taking to address the problem.
The largest fine issued against a car insurance company in California has been upheld by the state supreme court. As mandated by Prop 103, insurance companies must charge fair premiums and get the insurance commissioners's approval for those rates.However Mercury had been overcharging consumers by adding broker fees on top of premiums. The California supreme court has upheld the decision that Mercury must pay the $27 million fine.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara recently told the insurance industry in a closed door meeting what he wants to give them direct access to the safety critical systems in your car that show how you brake, accelerate and steer. Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court says this is dangerous to your safety and privacy.
California's largest operator of recycling centers is shutting down all 284 of their facilities statewide leaving all of those who depend on them to get their CRV deposits back with nowhere to go. Consumer Watchdog is calling on state legislators to mandate that retailers allow consumers to redeem their bottles and cans in store and remove existing exemptions that provide stores with loopholes to shirk their responsibility.
RePlanet which runs the largest chain of recycling centers in California is shutting down. Consumers will have even less options on where to redeem bottles and cans to get their deposits back. The State needs to mandate that retailers accept recyclables and provide redemption as recycling centers are shutting their doors.
More and more cars are connected to the internet and are therefore vulnerable to dangerous hacking interfering with the engine, brakes and other critical safety systems. Hackers could access entire fleets of connected cars leading to catastrophic injury and fatalities. Manufacturers are aware of the problem and have done nothing to resolve this potentially catastrophic vulnerability. A 50 cent kill switch would allow the driver to disconnect safety systems from the internet, preventing malicious interference.
Consumer Watchdog has issued a report, with the help of car industry technologists, that finds all the top 2020 cars have Internet connections to safety critical systems that leave them vulnerable to fleet wide hacks.
The group and experts warn that a fleet wide hack at rush-hour could result in a 9-11 scale catastrophe with approximately 3,000 deaths.
Developed with the help of car industry technologists, the "Kill Switch" report from Consumer Watchdog finds all the top 2020 cars have Internet connections to safety critical systems that leave them vulnerable to fleet wide hacks.
The experts warn that a fleet wide hack at rush-hour could result in a 9-11 scale catastrophe with approximately 3,000 deaths.
The report recommends cars come with a 50 cent "kill switch" that can disconnect the safety critical systems from the Internet.
Cars connected to the internet can be hacked, allowing for outside interference with the car's brakes, engine and other crucial systems. Consumer Watchdog's report 'Kill Switch' advocates for a safety mechanism to be put into all connected cars that allows drivers to disconnect the car's essential functional systems from the internet.
Consumer Watchdog's new Kill Switch report warns that there is a serious risk of hacking with cars connected to the internet. Hackers are able to access the entire network of cars and interfere with the engine, brakes and other crucial aspects of the car. These hacks could lead to thousands of fatalities and must be addressed by manufacturers who are aware of the problem but have done nothing about it.
Consumer Watchdog's new report called 'Kill Switch' shows that 2020 cars with internet connections are vulnerable to potentially catastrophic hacking. Millions of cars could be hacked leading to interference with crucial safety systems including the brakes and engine that could cause thousands of fatalities and injuries.
The LADWP may owe another $40 million to consumers after overcharging them years. The FBI raided the LADWP and City Attorney's offices last Monday investigating, bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering. Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says there is no doubt crimes were committed and that the consumers are owed millions.
Consumer Watchdog says consumers are owed tens of millions after longterm overcharging and a deeply flawed class action settlement involving lawyers with conflicts of interests shortchanged and ignored wronged ratepayers.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court speaks on the recent FBI raid of the LA DWP offices and how consumers are being left behind.
"When City Hall and the City Attorney cannot clean up their own DWP mess, this is what happens, the FBI has to do it. These raids are almost certainly related to what appears to be a fraud on the court and ratepayers in the DWP billing error case that led to tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on contracts to a company controlled by the city’s outside attorney in the case who has already taken the Fifth Amendment.
In a letter to Governor Newsom, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker called on the Governor to freeze all new oil and gas well permits until a top-to-bottom ethics review is completed, all conflicted regulators within DOGGR are removed, and the Administration can guarantee regulatory decisions are based on public safety, not pecuniary gain.
A review of state conflict of interest forms shows that eight regulators managing the state’s oil and gas well approval and inspection process have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the oil companies they regulate.
The gas tax kicks in on July 1st in California and is expected to generate $50 billion for repairs to roads and infrastructure. Consumer Watchdog President argues that these repairs should be paid for by the excess profits of oil refiners that have been gouging Californians for decades.
This recycling center, closing June 15th, is the last redemption center west of the 405, serving 200,000 people on LA's Westside.
40% of the recycling centers in the state have closed in recent years due to economic distress and the failure of state regulators and lawmakers to provide adequate funding for redemption centers where consumers return their bottles and cans.
Consumer Watchdog and recycling advocates are calling on the state to provide relief to the recycling centers to help consumers get their 5 cent and 10 cent bottle deposits returned.
Consumer Watchdog's Liza Tucker explains California's CRV system and the broken in-store deposit system. An audit of California stores showed that 66% are refusing to take back bottle deposits and provide redemption, creating a huge impediment to a successful recycling program. The system of recycling in California needs to be reexamined and manufacturers need to be held accountable for their part in creating waste.
An audit by Consumer Watchdog of stores that are supposed to accept recyclables and refund bottle deposits shows that 66% of stores refused to do so. California's recycling system is not as effective as one might think and is in dire need of reassessment.
Drivers are experiencing the 'Golden State Gouge' as gas prices soar in California. Consumer Watchdog explains that a small number of refiners control the supply of the whole state and use their ability to manipulate prices to up profits at the expense of Californians.
An audit by Consumer Watchdog shows stores that are supposed to take back recyclable bottles and provide a redemption are not doing so. These stores are impeding consumer access and denying their right to this redemption program.
Consumer Watchdog report shows 66% of grocery stores surveyed refused to recycle. Stores listed by CalRecycle as required to accept bottles and provide bottle deposits refused to do so even when clearly posted signs said they accept recyclables.
Consumer Watchdog says insurance companies charging people more for their car insurance based on their profession and level of education is an unfair and discriminatory practice. "We should be charged, in California, based on how we drive, on how long we've driven, how safe we are as a driver not based on whether we are a waitress or a doctor," says Consumer Watchdog President Jaime Court.
Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog alleges that the City Attorney of Los Angeles's Office was engaging in misconduct and is guilty of a serious conflict of interest during the 2015 LADWP lawsuit settlement.
Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog tells Valentines Day shoppers that they aren't left in the lurch if their Edible Arrangements gift never came on Valentines Day and offers advice on how to get their money back.
Carmen Balber, Executive Director of Consumer Watchdog, says new nonbinary gender identity choice on California drivers licenses will have unintended consequences in preventing gender discrimination in auto insurance rates.