National Consumers League

From the Experts Blog

NCL staff is hard at work for you playing watchdog on a variety of issues. Get to know the latest From the Experts!


Ways to Save on Car Insurance

Prices at the pump getting you down? Here are a few tips on getting your money's worth when buying auto insurance:

  • Compare policies according to price, coverage, customer service, and company's reputation.
  • Ask for higher deductibles. The deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in when you have a claim.
  • Consider buying your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer. Insurers often offer a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them.
  • Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s Web site for more tips on getting the most for your auto insurance dollar!


Are You LifeSmart?

The excitement is building at NCL as we finish the last-minute preparations We\'re headed to Minneapolis!for the 2008 National LifeSmarts Championship. This year we’re heading to Minneapolis, MN where teens from 29 states will compete. These state champs are sharp, emerging from more than 20,000 other students who answered more than 2.6 million questions in order to make it to Nationals. Do you think you’re up to the challenge? Test your LifeSmarts skills. What kind of personal information is not covered by any federal privacy law? (Answer will appear in a blog later this week.) a. Titles of videos you rent b. Items you buy at a supermarket c. What you watch on cable television


Think About Carlitos…

By Reid Maki, NCL staff

As you bite into that juicy piece of fruit, you might want to think about the hidden cost of inexpensive American produce: the extensive use of chemical pesticides, some of which cause grievous harm to the workers who pick the fruit.

The potential dangers of pesticides were highlighted on March 24, when Ag-Mart, a Florida-based produce company, announced it was settling a civil suit brought by the parents of Carlos (“Carlitos”) Candelario Herrera, who was born in December 2004 without arms and legs.

Carlitos was one of three children born with major birth defects in a six-week period in 2005-2006 to farmworker parents who lived in Immokalee, Florida and who worked for Ag-mart in Florida and North Carolina. According to reports in the Palm Beach Post, Carlitos’ mother, Francisca Herrera, worked in Ag-Mart fields when she was 19 and pregnant with the boy. In court depositions, Herrera said that she and other workers were exposed to pesticides repeatedly when chemicals drifted from adjacent fields. Herrera also worked in fields were pesticides had been recently applied. According to Post reporters John Lantigua and Christine Stapleton, the Herreras’ complaint asserted that “at least three of the chemicals used were mutagenic, which means they had caused deformities in lab animals during testing.”

Although major birth defects like those suffered by Carlitos are thought to be rare in the farmworker community, advocates worry about the frequent use of chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic. Scientific studies have suggested that children with their smaller body weight and developing neurological and endocrine systems are more vulnerable to pesticides than adults. That’s just one of the reasons that the National Consumers League, through its leadership role in the Child Labor Coalition, is fighting to change child labor laws to close loopholes that allow kids in agriculture to work at younger ages and for longer hours than kids in other industries. We are working closely with Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) in support of the CARE Act (the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment), her legislative remedy to end the discrimination against the children of farmworkers. If a 12-year-old is not allowed to work for wages in an air-conditioned office, why should he or she be allowed to work in 100-degree heat in pesticide treated fields? (Our proposed legislative changes would not impact family farms where children work for their parents.)

Terms of the settlement between Ag-Mart and the Herrera family were not disclosed, but published reports speculated that millions of dollars will go toward the care of Carlitos. Ag-Mark has stopped using the three pesticides that health experts feared caused the mutations.

If you want to support NCL’s Child Labor coalition efforts, become a member of the league and make a contribution to our work.


New Help for Home Buyers and Owners

Unless you’ve been asleep the last couple of years, you’ve www.mortgagetown.orgprobably heard that we’re in the midst of a foreclosure crisis, people are abandoning homes they can no longer afford, and the rest of the economy isn’t looking so good either.

Prices for food, gas and healthcare – the most basic items – have increased by more than nine percent since 2006, according to The Washington Post.

With cities experiencing the highest number of foreclosures these days (Detroit, Stockton, and Las Vegas, you’re at the top of a sad list) offering foreclosure bus tours, things are actually looking better in some ways for people interested in buying a home.

But how can new homebuyers avoid the mistakes that are costing millions of Americans their dream homes? NCL has created a step-by-step guide, www.mortgagetown.org, which we’re launching today, to walk new homebuyers through the complicated process of making their dream of owning a home come true.

Finding the right loan, reading through and understanding all of the paperwork, closing the deal and maintaining the mortgage is enough to intimidate any prospective buyers. In addition to helping consumers through these steps, MortgageTown helps homebuyers:

  • assess their budget before signing a deal
  • seek help from a knowledgeable and loyal loan officer
  • learn how to minimize the risks of a loan
  • negotiate the loan
  • close on and successfully maintain ownership of the home

Our site also has a ton of practical resources to help homeowners make sense of it all:

  • glossary of key real estate and mortgage terms
  • a Good Faith Estimate
  • contact information for housing counselors from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

NCL reminds homeowners who are worried about holding onto their homes that there is help out there. Here are a few nonprofit groups, associations and government agencies you can contact: