In any other industry, emergency medical billing would be considered fraudulent

Last summer, MD/journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal's husband had a bike accident and was seriously injured and taken by ambulance to an emergency room. Read the rest

After decades of corporate theft, Spinal Tap is finally getting paid by Universal

For years, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner have been suing Universal to get paid, citing Universal's blatantly crooked bookkeeping (Shearer received $98 in music royalties and $81 in merchandising income from the film). Read the rest

Airbnb's easily gamed reputation system and poor customer service allow scammers to thrive

Vice's Allie Conti got scammed by an Airbnb host who promised her a really nice place, then made up a story about its toilets being clogged and shifted her to a derelict, filthy wreck of a house. When she tried to get her money back, she discovered that Airbnb had no effective systems for following up on the kind of scam she'd encountered, so she began digging. Read the rest

AT&T hikes business customers' bills by up to 7%, charging them to recoup its own property taxes

AT&T business customers, including those who've been promised a locked-in rate inclusive of all taxes and fees, are finding "property tax" surcharges on their bills of up to 7%. These charges represent an attempt by AT&T to pass on the property taxes it pays on its own offices and other facilities to its customers. Read the rest

Consumer Reports documents the deceptive cable industry practices used to hike real prices 24% over advertised ones

Your cable company advertises one price, but charges another, much higher one: on average, your real bill will be 24% higher than the price you were promised. Read the rest

Startup that raised $197 million appears to have plagiarized the words, images, and design of a competitor

A well-funded startup called Hims, which sells subscriptions to generic viagra and cialis, launched a digital doctor's visit service so people can get a prescription without having to visit a doctor. Weirdly, it looks like they lifted almost everything from the website of a competitor, called Roman. Check out the Medium article that's loaded with examples of the swipes here, which was written by the cofounder of Roman. Read the rest

Report: UK "Ransomware consultants" Red Mosquito promise to unlock your data, but they're just paying off the criminals (and charging you a markup!)

Last month, Propublica published a blockbuster investigative report on companies that claimed they could help you get your ransomware-locked data back, but who were secretly just paying off the criminals -- one company got so good at it that ransomware criminals started to refer their victims to them. Read the rest

Samantha Bee looks at Facebook propagated multilevel marketing

Multilevel marketing companies are legal pyramid schemes that screw over gullible, desperate people who believe they'll make money by convincing other desperate people to convince other desperate people to fork over money to the people at the top of the pyramid. Samantha Bee does a great job exposing these shady outfits who happily ruin people's lives. Read the rest

Chase credit cards quietly reintroduce the binding arbitration clauses they were forced to eliminate a decade ago

Binding arbitration is a way for corporations to force you to surrender your legal rights as a condition of doing business, relegating you to seeking redress for breaches and harms by going before a paid arbitrator who is in the employ of the company that harmed you, and who almost always sides with their employer. Read the rest

Federal lawsuit calls college textbook/ebook packages a "scam"

The Virginia Pirate Corporation is a startup that brokers sales of used textbooks at colleges; they're suing North Charleston, SC's Trident Technical College over its inclusion of textbook fees in tuition, meaning that students will have already paid for new textbooks when they pay their tuition. Read the rest

Grifty "information security" companies promised they could decrypt ransomware-locked computers, but they were just quietly paying the ransoms

Ransomware has been around since the late 1980s, but it got a massive shot in the arm when leaked NSA cyberweapons were merged with existing strains of ransomware, with new payment mechanisms that used cryptocurrencies, leading to multiple ransomware epidemics that locked up businesses, hospitals, schools, and more (and then there are the state-level cyberattacks that pretend to be ransomware). Read the rest

The eyeglass industry is a ripoff, with "markups often approaching 1,000%"

I buy my eyeglasses online, paying about $30 a pair (I use Optical4Less, though there are many other online prescription eyeglass stores with equally low prices). I've always suspected brick and mortar eyeglass shops to be a ripoff, and this excellent LA Times article by David Lazurus confirmed my suspicions.

[E. Dean Butler, the founder of LensCrafters] said he recently visited factories in China where many glasses for the U.S. market are manufactured. Improved technology has made prices even lower than what Dahan recalled.

“You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”

And lenses? “You can buy absolutely first-quality lenses for $1.25 apiece,” Butler said.

Yet those same frames and lenses might sell in the United States for $800.

Butler laughed. “I know,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a complete rip-off.”

Image: Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock Read the rest

The TRUE Fees Act: legislative proposal to force cable/ISP companies to advertise the true cost of their services, inclusive of surcharges

The Truth-In-Billing, Remedies, and User Empowerment over Fees Act [TRUE Fees] has been introduced by Rep Anna Eshoo [D-CA] and Sen Ed Markey [D-MA]; if passed, it will force ISPs and cable operators to advertise the true costs of their packages, including all surcharges. Read the rest

A service to help airline passengers get compensated for lost bags, delays, cancellations and overbookings

Airhelp is a service that helps airline passengers in 30 countries file claims (for delays, lost bags, overbookings, and cancellations) structured to increase the likelihood of paying out; the bots have made $930m in successful claims to date, and the company behind it only collects a commission when a claim succeeds. Read the rest

Charter slashes network spending by $2B, but makes up for it by charging its customers more

When Trump FCC Chairman (and former telcoms executive) Ajit Pai murdered Net Neutrality, he told us the slaughter was necessary, otherwise the ISPs wouldn't invest in their networks. Read the rest

Cut the cord NOW: Cable bills are up 50% since 2010

My local cable monopoly is Spectrum, part of Charter, and I refuse to get anything except internet service through them (alas, my city, Burbank, will not sell me access to our amazing, 100GB/s fiber network, which runs directly under my house, because they have a deal with Charter not to connect any non-commercial-zoned properties to our muni fiber). Read the rest

US Customs is seizing refurbished Apple batteries and calling them "counterfeits"

Louis Rossman is one of the highest-profile independent Apple repair technicians, famous in part for fixing devices that Apple has declared to have reached their end-of-life, diverting these devices from landfill and keeping them in the hands of the people who paid good money for them. Read the rest

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