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Consumer Affairs

Watching out for Chicago consumers and their money with product news, spending trends, and recall updates.

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A good barber is hard to find and even harder to replace than a good doctor in my book

There’s nothing funny about having to replace your key service providers — well, maybe a little funny.

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Facing safety questions, carmakers group suggests voluntary guidelines on automated vehicles

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation has an obvious motive, a critic says: It wants to put off the imposition of mandatory government standards.

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In Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township, race, poverty, farming, Nicor gas pipeline converge

Hopkins Park’s mayor and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are pushing for a new pipeline that some oppose in what once was called the largest Black farming community in the Northern U.S.

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Supreme Court: FTC can’t use court injunctions to get refunds for wronged consumers

The federal watchdog agency’s acting chairwoman said, ‘The Supreme Court ruled in favor of scam artists and dishonest corporations, leaving average Americans to pay for illegal behavior.’

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Vitafusion gummy vitamin recall: Manufacturer cites reports of ‘metallic mesh’

The affected products were distributed from Nov. 13 to April 9. Here’s what consumers need to know and where to call toll-free for a full refund.

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Car insurance nightmare: After wreck, hospitalized patient crashes again, into $700,000 bill for spinal surgery

Most people are unaware that auto insurance — not health insurance — kicks in first after an accident to cover any medical bills. That can create huge financial landmines for patients.

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Stuck outside U.S. during pandemic, burst pipe floods suburban home, and Allstate won’t pay

That’s about the size of the very big problem facing Betsy and Floyd Rogers, who live near Glen Ellyn but got stranded in South Africa while visiting their daughter and only grandchild.

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COVID’s financial toll: 38 million people, 15% of Americans, say they’re worse off

Many say their financial circumstances are the same or better than before. But 1 in 3 who were living below the poverty line pre-COVID say their finances are worse now.

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Maker of Cottonelle, Scott toilet paper and baby care items plans to increase prices

Kimberly-Clark says it will raise prices on ‘a majority of its North America consumer products business,’ including toilet paper and baby-care items.

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Winners of consumer lawsuits ended up with an unwelcome tax-time surprise

A quirk in the tax code means some people who win court cases are being told they owe taxes on the fees awarded to their attorneys — even though the lawyers are taxed, too.

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401(k)s might be hurt short-term by the economy’s overall good news. Here’s why.

All of the churning going on has a big impact because, more than ever, 401(k) accounts are tied to the performance of the S&P 500 and other stock indexes.

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‘Painless’ glucose monitors pushed despite little evidence they help most diabetes patients

Despite the marketing, experts say continuous glucose monitoring hasn’t been tied to better outcomes for most with diabetes — those with Type 2 disease who don’t inject insulin.

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Curbside pickup, working from home and more things Chicagoans want to hang onto post-pandemic

We asked readers what things that have become part of our new normal thanks to COVID-19 they hope will stick around once this is all over. Here’s what they said.

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Many still face COVID-related losses, AP-NORC poll finds

The pandemic has been devastating for some while leaving others virtually unscathed or even in better shape financially, often depending on the typre-COVID income level.

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COVID bill to deliver big health insurance savings for many

Winners include those covered by Obamacare or just now signing up, self-employed people who buy their own insurance, laid-off workers and most anyone collecting unemployment.

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Peoples Gas pipe replacement is costing Chicagoans more

A vast plan to replace deteriorating natural gas pipes and upgrade the system is not only costing you more, but it’s also behind schedule.

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Coronavirus eviction nightmare at Rogers Park condo: Squatter scared neighbors, wouldn’t leave

A strange man showed up at their building as the guest of a tenant who soon moved out. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. And the man wouldn’t leave.

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Looking for a vaccine appointment at your pharmacy? Get ready for ‘The Hunger Games’

We tested three pharmacy chains’ websites to try to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination for elderly relatives who qualify — with no luck. But an Internet bot is giving some users hope.

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4 vital health issues (not tied to COVID-19) that Congress addressed in huge spending bill

The $900 billion lawmakers approved for urgent pandemic relief got the most attention. But they also took other measures to improve health care and potentially rein in high medical bills.

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FDA issues alert on methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer imported from Mexico

The warning covers ‘all alcohol-based hand sanitizers from Mexico’ to ‘stop products that appear to be in violation from entering the U.S. until the agency is able to review the products’ safety.’

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FTC’s authority to help consumer fraud victims is in question before the U.S. Supreme Court

The court will decide whether the consumer watchdog agency can use the courts to get money back for victims of scams and frauds — something it’s done for decades.

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Some immigrants shut out of stimulus; other mixed-status households will get COVID-19 relief check

As many Americans get $600 coronavirus stimulus checks, undocumented immigrants instead are left to rely on family, community groups during the pandemic.

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Small businesses have a new tool to help workers buy health insurance, but it isn’t cheap

How it works is complicated. And big employers haven’t rushed to embrace the new individual coverage health reimbursement arrangement — sometimes called ICHRA.

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Gift returns should be easier this year, with COVID prompting longer return windows

Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot are among major retailers making returning presents a little easier than in the past.

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Are your kids’ Christmas gifts safe? U.S. secretly halted safety inspections amid COVID-19

Consumer Product Safety Commission records reveal an extraordinary six-month lapse in safety surveillance during the pandemic that was kept hidden from the public.

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Uber to offer 10 million free or discounted rides to people getting COVID-19 shots

The rides will include transportation to and from their destination for both the first and second doses. A date for when the offer will begin rolling out hasn’t been set.

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Plastic waste problem ‘amplified’ by the pandemic: a Sun-Times/ABC7 special report

A push to reduce single-use plastic in takeout food packaging in Chicago is on hold. To get an idea of the impact of increased takeout dining, we invited an expert to a picnic.

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Big-screen TVs, routers, practical tech likely to be big sellers this holiday shopping season

Expect many 65-inch TVs to be priced as low as $250 and for even bigger ones to also be heavily discounted.

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Moving during the pandemic, even to ‘work from home’ from somewhere new, could cost you

And it isn’t just tech workers who could make less, a new Glassdoor survey finds.

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Suit accuses Redfin of systematic racial discrimination in Chicago, elsewhere

Fair housing groups say the online real estate broker offers fewer services to homebuyers and sellers in minority communities through its minimum-pricing policies.

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Coronavirus fallout: Some who struggled early in crisis are on brink, others find hope

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, many people have edged closer to financial calamity. Others, put out of work, have finally landed jobs. Here are some of their stories.

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More than 6 million U.S. households missed their rent or mortgage payment in September

About 8.5% of renters, or 2.82 million households, missed, delayed or made reduced payments, and 7.1%, or 3.37 million homeowners, missed mortgage payments.