Consumer News & Views
In this Issue…
Economic Recovery and Jobs Remain the Hot Topic for Election 2012.
So far, the 2012 presidential campaign has been a slugfest about everything but the two key issues that will determine the outcome on Tuesday, November 6th. While American voters care about healthcare, how quickly President Obama has removed troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Governor Romney’s tax returns, ultimately, this election will be dominated by two familiar issues -- the state of our economy and jobs.
When President Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush in 2009, the American economy was a mess. Over the past three years, many voters have forgotten how bad things were and now hold Mr. Obama accountable for the economic condition of our nation. While Mr. Obama has stopped the bleeding, the American economy remains in critical condition. While the president gets credit for his healthcare and financial reforms laws, the overriding issue for most voters remains jobs and the economic health of America. President Obama is relying on federal stimulus to jumpstart the economy, While Mr. Obama’s plan appears to be working the results are painfully slow, which is frustrating to millions of Americans who remain out of work, under-employed or facing foreclosure.
Mitt Romney says he wants to leverage the private sector to spur economic growth. Romney is also committed to balancing the budget, cutting spending for federal agencies and entitlement programs, and reducing taxes at the corporate and personal level. Romney also has vowed to repeal Obama Care.
While President Obama’s Recovery Act has contributed to the creation of 4 million jobs during his term, the unemployment rate in the United States remains stuck at a dismal 8.2%. Obama blames an uncooperative Republican Congress for his policies’ sluggish performance while Republicans claim the president’s opposition to extending the Bush-era tax cuts “as is” is the reason why small businesses won’t hire people.
In this war of words who wins? Certainly not American consumers who are anxious to see a major drop in unemployment numbers, a higher growth in America’s GDP and a system-wide resolution to the mortgage and foreclosure problems nagging millions of homeowners.
“These are the serious issues of the day, says Thomas Hinton, president of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer education organization. He added, “But candidates prefer to talk about more mundane matters rather than confront the major issues that are facing voters.”
While this strategy tends to favor President Obama, it is possible for Governor Romney to win if he can convince enough voters that the current Obama plan is not working and America’s economic mess is really Mr. Obama’s fault and not George W. Bush’s doing. That’s akin to pulling a rabbit out of your hat when you’re wearing a visor.
Maine Savings Federal Credit Union began as BARCO Federal Credit Union in Millinocket, Maine in 1961 for the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad Company. In the past 49 years, we have grown to be the largest credit union in eastern Maine with assets of $217 million, and more than 25,000 members, plus more than 450 Select Employee Groups, and nine branches—in Hampden, Bangor, Brewer, Milo, Corinth, Ellsworth, Vassalboro and Bar Harbor. In 2001, the Board of Directors made the strategic decision to change the name to Maine Savings Federal Credit Union, to more accurately reflect our diverse field of membership.
To become a member of Maine Savings Federal Credit Union and take advantage of their outstanding customer service and competitive loans, please click on their website link at: http://www.mainesavings.com
Maine Savings is a full service financial institution offering all of the products and services as the large national institutions—consumer products, commercial services, mortgages, insurance, and financial planning—but with the safety and security of a truly local institution. You can rest assured that Maine Savings is safe and sound.
Maine Savings is the largest credit union lender in the state of Maine, and specializes in mortgages. While the national news about housing continues to be bleak, Maine Savings is quietly building a mortgage success story, with a complete menu of mortgage products and services. We’re helping more Maine people buy new homes or refinance existing ones than ever before. Maine Savings offers the new CU Promise Loan, created specifically to make the home buying process simpler. It comes with three guarantees—guaranteed same day loan decision, guaranteed closing date and guaranteed local servicing for the life of the loan. Your money stays right here in the community you call home.
Maine Savings also continues to lead the way in commercial services. Ever since introducing the expansion of our commercial services in late 2003, more and more of our small business owner members have taken advantage of our Business Made Easy program. Our financial products and services provide simple and effective ways to handle their finances with ease, freeing them up to concentrate on developing their business. Our commercial lending program offers business loans at competitive rates, lower and fewer fees and generous terms that allow small business owners to borrow comfortably in order to achieve their financial goals.
Make the move to Maine Savings and you’ll agree that our tag line says it all — “We treat you like you own the place!” — because you do!
The American Consumer Council and the New England Consumer Council are pleased to have Maine Savings Federal Credit Union as a Sponsoring Member
Visa, MasterCard Agree to $6 Billion Credit Card Settlement.
Retailers have won a major victory against Visa and MasterCard for overcharging them on swipe fees. The Associated Press reports that the deal includes more than $6 billion in cash for damages, of which Visa will pay $4.4 billion and MasterCard will pay $790 million. As part of the settlement, credit card companies have agreed to reduce for eight months the “swipe fees” that businesses pay credit card companies for card transactions they process. The temporary fee reprieve is valued at $1.2 billion.
Lawyers involved in the case call it the largest antitrust settlement in history. Most major U.S. banks are defendants. The merchants include grocery chains Kroger and Safeway, the Rite Aid drugstore chain and QVV, the TV and online shopping network.
In the antitrust case, which dates to 2005, the retailers alleged the card issuers and banks conspired to fix the fees the stores paid to accept credit and debit cards, which average about 2% of the price of a purchase.
Consumers could feel effects of the settlement, too. Part of the agreement includes changes to Visa and MasterCard rules that will allow retailers to implement a surcharge for customers who pay with a credit card, which are more expensive transactions for merchants to process since they aren't subject to the caps on interchange fees imposed by the Durbin Amendment.
The Durbin Amendment was enacted in 2010 as part of a broad financial markets overhaul and lowered the swipe fee charged to merchants when they accept debit cards from customers. It's been contentious because banks have lost revenue from not being able to charge as much for those transactions. But retailers say the fee they're charged now is still too high.
Thomas Hinton, president of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer education organization called the settlement a hollow victory for consumers. Hinton said, “While this is a victory for retailers, it remains to be seen how consumers will benefit from the settlement since there’s no requirement on the part of retailers or credit card companies to reduce the fees consumers pay for using a credit card.”
6 Secrets Retailers Don't Want
You to Know: How to Get the Most for Your Money!
If you're like most consumers searching for the
lowest prices when shopping, you need to know retailers have some tricks up
their sleeve for fighting back against their own rising costs.
Be warned, say consumer experts and retail
industry insiders alike, because the best price is not all you have to look out
for when trying to get the most for your money.
Manufacturers for items from bedding to boots
have been sweating price hikes in cotton, leather and other textiles. And, the
costs of doing business in China, from sewing to shipping, have increased as
2. Retailers take advantage of focus on price:
Consumers often set a price in their mind to pay
for an item, says James Dion, president of Dionco, a Chicago-based retail
3. Outlet stores are no bargain:
You might think outlet stores and off-price
shopping is the way to get the better goods for a cheaper price. "But
manufacturers and retailers have figured out it's actually cheaper to just make
lower-quality merchandise specifically for these stores (think outlet malls,
Marshall's and Ross), and that's 90 percent of what you'll find there," says
Vicky Oliver, author of "The Millionaire's Handbook."
4. All bedding and bath items are not the same:
"Consumers think any towel or sheet is as good as
any other, and that's a costly mistake," explains James Dion, president of
Dionco, a Chicago-based retail consulting firm. Two bedding and bath suppliers,
who preferred to remain anonymous, gave the following advice for examining
bedding and bath merchandise.
5. The latest trends will cost you more:
"If you examine hot new trends such as colored
skinny jeans, faux leather outerwear, handbags and apparel ... with zippers
instead of buttons or laces or less fabric, you will see that these are all ways
a manufacturer can cut costs," says Andrea Woroch, savings expert for Kinoli
Inc., creator of CouponSherpa.com. "These small changes per item really add up
to a lot of cost savings for the retailers. Plus, they are promoted to you as
the hot, new thing and priced higher to boot."
6. Beware of 'designer exclusives':
So what about brands such as Simply Vera, the
Vera Wang brand sold only at Kohl's, or Jason Wu for Target? If you think it's
the same designer merchandise sold at Bloomingdale's for four times more, then
you need a reality check. "You're buying into the brand name, but you need to
understand it's not the same," says Vicky Oliver, author of "The Millionaire's
Handbook." "These designer 'exclusives,' as stores call them, are nothing more
than cheaply made merchandise using that designer's name."
Green CSM Certification Accepting Applications for 2012 Summer Cycle:
If your company or organization would like to increase its credibility with consumers, you should consider applying for the Green CSM Certification. Applications for the 2012 Summer cycle are now being accepted through August 31, 2012.
It's a proven fact that consumers want to do business with companies that are eco-friendly and practice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The process is straight-forward and all applicants are recognized by ACC and the Green USA Institute.
All applicants complete the criteria and submit their responses to ACC's Green Consumer Council for review, assessment and feedback. Program details and the Green CSM Certification criteria can be viewed at ACC's website located at: http://americanconsumercouncil.org/greenc.asp