2003-01-18 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Notes On Consumer Affairs


It is hard to believe that the year is at a finish. I am proud to say that 2002 proved to be a very successful year. This column will provide an overview of the year and will highlight things to come...

Telemarketing: The New York State "Do-Not-Call" registry is as popular and effective as ever. Over 1.8 million residents have registered to stop receiving unwanted telemarketing sales calls. The State has proved to be successful in enforcing violators of the "Do-Not-Call" registry. In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will have a national list to protect all residents of all states from unwanted sales calls.

Identity Theft: New York is one of the top states were identity theft is committed. For the past five years, identity theft legislation has been a priority of mine. This year I am proud to report that the Legislature enacted A.4939-E. This law defines consumers as the victims of the crime, as well as financial institutions. It sets ranges of penalties for those who aid, attempt or commit identity theft from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony. By enacting an identity theft law, New York will provide law enforcement and local district attorneys with an important pool to prevent this crime.

Next year, the Committee will continue to progress legislation to prevent identity theft and to empower consumers from being victims. Providing consumers with one free credit report would help consumers guard against fraud and would increase a consumer's financial awareness. Limiting the printing of credit and debit card numbers on receipts would help consumers protect personal information and take away an avenue of accessing consumers credit and debit accounts.

Predatory Lending: Predatory lending is an unfair lending practice that takes advantage of consumers, and especially targets low income and elderly consumers. Consumers oftentimes end up taking out loans they cannot afford, have unclear conditions, or cost more than necessary upon the advice of the lender.

In order to prevent this practice, the legislature enacted A.11856. This law was designed to protect consumers against abuses in the sub prime lending market. It provides for increased consumer disclosures and encourages counseling for consumers when applying for a high cost loan. This law will help consumers be better informed when negotiating a loan, thereby reducing the occurrence of unaffordable, predatory loans.

Supplements: More and more often, consumers are turning to dietary supplements to lose weight, gain muscle and strengthen themselves. Increased use of supplements perpetuates the misconception that all supplements are safe and do not have adverse safety effects.

In 2002, I introduced a bill that would limit the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra to minors. Ephedra based supplements are used to build muscle mass and lose weight. The FDA has reported side effects including cardiovascular disease and neurological problems that may cause heart failure and seizures. The IOC, NFL, and NCAA have all banned players from using these products due to health concerns. This issue will remain in the Committee's focus in 2003.

I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of all consumers in New York during the 2003 Legislative Session.


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