Leaks reveal how creepy, cultish monopolist Intuit lobbied Congress and the IRS to kill free tax-filing

Virtually every rich country on Earth provides pre-completed tax-returns that you can either ignore (and pay an accountant or do your own taxes), or just sign and return: after all, the government already knows what you're earning and how much tax you paid, so they can do all the heavy lifting for your annual return. Read the rest

Charter's new way to be terrible: no more prorated cancellations

Charter isn't America's most hated company, but that's only because Comcast is so next-level terrible that they distort the leaderboard; nevertheless, Charter tries hard! Whether it's slashing billions from network outlays while raising prices way ahead of inflation or lying so egregiously that they get kicked out of New York State, Charter is relentless in its pursuit of ways to be a shitty, shitty company. Read the rest

Samsung phone owners are upset because they can't delete the Facebook app

Samsung's sleazy deals with Facebook mean that owners of Samsung phones are not able to uninstall the Facebook apps that come pre-installed with their devices. Read the rest

Facebook support groups packed with predatory marketers

Looking to Facebook for help with addiction? Take care: the social network is full of predators, and they know where to find vulnerable people. They're sleazy marketers, brokering questionable self-help and inpatient treatment options.

A stranger named Garrett Hall sent Couch a Facebook message. “Hey Lauri [sic], I saw your name on the Affected By Addiction support group, and I had this weird/strong impulse to just reach out,” Hall wrote to Couch. “[A]re you doing ok?” ...

Couch soon got a call from Meghan Calvert, a paid marketer for a treatment center called Pillars Recovery. It’s owned by Darren Orloff, who is part of Affected by Addiction’s volunteer leadership team. Couch, who has a background in sales, knew a sales pitch when she heard it. She told Calvert off for taking advantage of desperate people. ... After the call, Couch was surprised to find that she could not log back in to Affected by Addiction. In fact, she came to realize, she’d been banned.

Specific addiction support groups are the tip of the predatory marketing iceberg, but Affected by Addiction's the one Zuckerberg personally promoted on his own page.

Cat Ferguson:

Facebook, by making desperation so easily searchable, has exacerbated the worst qualities the treatment industry. A word-of-mouth industry with a constant supply of vulnerable and naive targets who feel stigmatized and alone is a scammer’s paradise.

Read the rest

Topman plagiarizes designer, promises to stop, doesn't stop

Stefan Lawrence is a much-loved designer whose work graces such Maximum Fun podcasts as Judge John Hodgman and Bullseye, noticed that the "fast-fashion" brand Topman (a division of the notorious slavers Topshop) had ripped off one of his designs and used it without license or credit in a bunch of its products. Read the rest

Catch and Kill: National Enquirer protected Trump from Playboy model’s affair charges, reports WSJ

From the Wall Street Journal tonight, just a few days from the presidential election on Tuesday, a sleaze exposé involving the GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Read the rest

Sidelined Trump campaign chief quits, rumored to be target of federal investigation over Ukraine ties

Sidelined but not fired by Republican millionaire Donald Trump to make way for a new campaign manager, Paul Manafort is nonetheless resigning from his post. The rumor? He's under federal investigation for his role in shady goings-on in Ukranian politics.

Mr. Manafort left nearly a week after a New York Times report about tumult within the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign helped precipitate a shakeup of the campaign’s leadership. His departure reflects repeated efforts to steady a campaign that has been frequently roiled by the behavior of its tempestuous first-time candidate.

Mr. Manafort was also dogged by reports about secretive efforts he made to help the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine, where he has worked on and off over several years. He had also become viewed with trepidation by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a major force within the campaign, amid a number of false starts since the Republican National Convention, according to three people briefed on the matter.

U.S. lobbyists must declare their representation of foreign interests; he did not. Manafort, if found guilty of violating these rules, would be a felon facing "up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000," according to the Associated Press. Read the rest

Airbnb stealth-updates terms of service, says it's not an insurer and requires binding arbitration

The March 29 edition of Airbnb's terms of service requires that people who rent out their homes acknowledge that despite the company's widely advertised Host Protection Insurance program, "you understand and agree that Airbnb does not act as an insurer." Read the rest

UK government warns people that copyright trolls are a scam

The UK Intellectual Property Office has sent an official notice to Britons warning them that they don't have to pay the copyright trolls who send them threatening letters accusing them of copyright infringement. Read the rest

McAfee shovelware emits tracking beacons

Researchers at Duo Labs bought a "stack" of OEM laptops and audited the preinstalled shovelware they came with, looking specifically at the security implications of the default settings. Read the rest

Righstcorp's terrifying extortion script is breathtaking in its sleaze

Rightscorp is the notorious publicly traded shakedown outfit that accuses people of online infringement and threatens them with titanic fines and jail time for allegedly listening to music or watching movies the wrong way, offering to make the whole thing go away for a few hundred dollars -- less than a lawyer would charge to advise you on whether to pay up. Read the rest

FTC clobbers Roca Labs, the terrible weight-loss company that banned negative reviews

If you follow my tweets of interesting stories from one year ago, you'll have seen the Roca Labs saga popping up again. Roca sold a "non-surgical gastric bypass" that was mostly made from industrial food-thickeners that were supposed to gunk up your stomach and fill you up. Read the rest

Cox cable: Rightscorp is a mass copyright infringer

Rightscorp is the publicly traded extortion racket that tries to force/bribe ISPs into disconnecting their customers from the Internet unless those customers pay "settlements" for unproven allegations of copyright infringement. Read the rest

Dietary supplement company sues website for providing a forum for dissatisfied customers

Roca Labs sells dubious snake-oil like a "Gastric Bypass Alternative," and their terms of service forbid their customers from ever complaining; they say that Pissedconsumer.com committed "tortious interference" by providing a place where disgruntled buyers could air their grievances. Read the rest

Seattle paid $17.5K to "manage" online rep of public utility CEO

The City of Seattle paid $17,500 to Brand.com to enhance the "online reputation" of City Light, its public utility, and Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, asking them to "lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories" in search results for the utility or the CEO, who was the highest-paid public employee in the city, with a salary of $245,000.

It's not clear what sort of bad news about Carrasco or City Light Brand.com was trying to push off the front page of Google results, but their promised methodology included placing favorable paid articles with the Huffington Post and Examiner.com, as well as "doctorate level content" written by "influential bloggers."

The Huffington Post says that it was unaware if Damon Banks, the writer who published a favorable piece about Carrasco and his utility, was being paid by Brand.com, but if he was, they'd no longer accept work from him. Banks did not reply to a request for comment from the Seattle Times.

Here's the action plan [PDF] that the city and Brand.com drew up for City Light and Carrasco's online reputation polishing. Read the rest

FCC Chairman's competition promise means nothing

Cable lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to "balance" his attempt to nuke Net Neutrality by promising to override state laws that prohibit cities from setting up their own broadband networks. But it's a largely meaningless gesture: practically every big city in America is locked into a decade-long contractual "franchise" arrangement with a big cable company. Read the rest

T-Mobile: your dead dad's active phone will let you stay in touch

Robert, a Consumerist reader, called up T-Mobile to close his dead father's cellular account; the rep suggested that he should keep paying for it so he could listen to his dad's voice on the voicemail message whenever he wanted. Read the rest

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