Mortgage Rates Higher, But Still Low-Low-Low

by Categorized: Banks Date:

Mortgage rates moved slightly higher in the past week, with 30-year rates averaging 4.14 percent nationally and 15-year rates averaging 3.27, according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.
The previous week’s rates: 30-year, 4.12 percent; 15-year, 3.23 percent.

The numbers in New England:

This week:
30-year: 4.14 percent
15-year: 3.26 percent

Last week:
30-year: 4.12 percent
15-year: 3.23 percent

A year ago:
30-year: 4.42 percent
15-year: 3.44 percent

Survey: Connecticut Makes A ‘Least Expensive’ List!

by Categorized: Banks Date:

When was the last time Connecticut appeared on a “least expensive” list? It’s ranked second in a 10 Cheapest States for Mortgage Rates survey released Monday by GOBankingRates and RateWatch.
Or maybe Connecticut is simply in the right place: Six of the 10 states with the most affordable rates are in the Northeast. (Six of the 10 highest rates are in the Midwest and Northwest.) Borrower demand, local property rates, default rates and unemployment are among the factors that influence rates regionally.

Least Expensive States:
Rank State Average Mortgage Rate
No. 1 Rhode Island 3.395 percent
No. 2 Connecticut 3.41 percent
No. 3 Nevada 3.459 percent
No. 4 Pennsylvania 3.551 percent
No. 5 Maryland 3.593 percent

Most Expensive States:
Rank State Average Mortgage Rate
No. 1 Nebraska 4.102 percent
No. 2 South Dakota 4.066 percent
No. 3 Wyoming 4.059 percent
No. 4 Vermont 4.020 percent
No. 5 Oklahoma 4.019 percent

GM Recalls Monte Carlo, But Not Hers Despite Ignition Failure

by Categorized: Banks Date:

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This weekend’s Bottom Line column:

General Motors has recalled more than 15 million vehicles worldwide this year for ignition-related defects, but Shelley Hansen still doesn’t understand why it hasn’t recalled her (VIN) number yet.

GM’s massive recalls began in February with 2.6 million older vehicles for faulty switches the company has now linked to 54 crashes and 13 deaths. The latest recalls sound like those that preceded them: Weight on a key ring could push the ignition switch out of the run position, turning off the engine and disabling the airbags.

Hansen knows the feeling. Before the massive recall, she says, the ignition in her 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo shut down while her daughter was driving.

More . . .

Mortgage Rates Remain Steady: 30-Year Fixed Averages 4.12 Percent

by Categorized: Banks Date:

Mortgage rates changed little in the past week, with 30-year fixed rates averaging 4.12 percent nationally and 15-year fixed rates averaging 3.23. according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.
The previous week, 30-year rates averaged 4.13 percent, 15-year rates 3.26.

Here are the numbers from New England:

This week:
30-year: 4.12 percent
15-year: 3.23 percent

Last week:
30-year: 4.12 percent
15-year: 3.27 percent

A year ago:
30-year: 4.43 percent
15-year: 3.45 percent

Heroin Overdose; Electricity Suppliers With Most Complaints

by Categorized: Consumer Complaints, Health, Safety Date:

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Today’s Bottom Line column:

Is it just me or is this a mix-and-match Bottom Line?

Overdose Prevention

A new state law grants immunity to people who administer naloxone, or Narcan, to anyone who has overdosed on heroin or other opioid like oxycodone. The heroin-reversal drug, approved in April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, had been carried in Connecticut by paramedics but not by police and firefighters.
Now it’s available to anyone.

More . . .

Expedia’s $43 Rate At New Punta Cana Resort Too Good To Be True?

by Categorized: Travel Date:

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This weekend’s Bottom Line column:

Expedia is so sure of its travel prices that it offers a best-price guarantee that matches any lower price found within 24 hours of booking. It refunds the difference and issues a $50 travel coupon.

But what happens when a traveler books a trip to a Caribbean resort through Expedia, then finds out, months later, that the resort is increasing the nightly rate by more than 500 percent?

What about the confirmation?

More . . .

TicketNetwork: State Cracks Down On Deceptive Practices

by Categorized: Consumer Complaints, Consumer Rights, Customer Service, Deceptive advertising Date:

TicketNetwork, the ticket resale business in South Windsor, has agreed to more clearly identify itself as a secondary seller of tickets instead of an official website for concert and sports venues in a settlement with the state attorney general and Department of Consumer Protection.

Here is the joint announcement released Thursday morning by the AG’s office and DCP:

The Office of the Attorney General, at the request of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, is joining the Federal Trade Commission to file a Complaint and Consent Orders in U.S. District Court against TicketNetwork, Inc., a Connecticut-based ticket resale company, its wholly-owned subsidiary TicketSoftware, LLC, and two companies that are part of TicketNetwork’s Partner Program, Ryadd, Inc. and SecureBoxOffice, LLC. Also named in the complaint are Ryadd co-owners Ryan J. Bagley and Charles A. Lineberry, and Secure Box Office owner James Moran.

All defendants have been involved in the secondary ticket market, in which ticket resellers such as brokers advertise and sell event tickets to consumers. In the primary ticket market, consumers buy tickets directly from either a venue box office or from an authorized ticket service. While the primary market typically sells tickets at face value, the secondary market, which operates primarily online, often sells tickets at prices above face value.

“We pursued this action to bring some needed transparency to secondary ticket market transactions,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “Through today’s settlement, TicketNetwork will more clearly advise consumers that they are purchasing through the resale ticket market rather than through a venue’s box office. Armed with accurate information, consumers can make better-informed decisions about whether the resale ticket market provides them with the tickets and services they value at reasonable prices.”

“This settlement will help Connecticut consumers avoid confusion and deception in the ticket resale market, and I commend Commissioner Rubenstein and his department for their leadership on this matter,” said Attorney General George Jepsen. “Today’s consent order ensures that consumers will not be misled, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when seeking to purchase tickets through a reseller.”

The State alleges that through use of website design, web addresses and terms like “official” tickets, the defendants falsely created the impression for consumers that their online ticket sites were official websites for the venues or other entities authorized to sell tickets at face value, when in truth the websites were secondary market sites reselling tickets, often at higher prices.

The Complaint asserts that the alleged actions are violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Also filed today in U.S. District Court are Consent Orders agreed to by each of the defendants. Under terms of the consent orders, which must be approved by the court, all defendants are prohibited from misrepresenting, directly or by implication, that their resale websites are affiliated with any venue box office.

Among other terms of the Orders are specific bans on:
• using the name of theaters, stadiums or other entertainment venues, including partial or alternate spellings in website URL addresses;
• deceptively using pictures, logos or descriptions of venues; and
• using the word “official” in phrases such as “official tickets,” “official source,” or “official website” in any online advertising, display URLs, websites, web pages or any other form of advertising for the sale of secondary market tickets.

All defendants, their officers, agents, employees, attorneys and servants, and others directly or indirectly involved with them in advertising, marketing or promoting secondary market tickets are subject to the Orders’ ban of misrepresenting or implying that any resale ticket website is a primary ticket site, or that a resale site is offering tickets at face value — unless authorized by the venue, primary seller or original issuer of the tickets.

Furthermore, the defendants and all associates must disclose, clearly and prominently on the ticket listing page and the payment authorization page of their ticket sale websites that:
a) their site is a resale ticket marketplace and not a venue or box office;
b) the ticket price offered here may exceed face value; and
c) the website is not owned by the venue, team, performer or promoter (as applicable).

Under the Consent Orders, defendants also agree to requirements regarding record-keeping, monitoring of subsidiary agents, and ongoing compliance reporting to the State and the FTC.

Ryadd, Inc., and co-owners Ryan J. Bagley and Charles A. Lineberry, are ordered to pay $550,000 to the State of Connecticut. SecureBoxOffice, LLC and owner James Moran are ordered to pay $100,000 to the State of Connecticut, and TicketNetwork, Inc. and TicketSoftware, LLC are ordered to pay $750,000 to the State of Connecticut. All funds are to be used by the State for complaint resolution programs, consumer education and consumer protection enforcement.

The Department of Consumer Protection issued a report to the General Assembly in February 2012 that highlighted confusion between resale websites and venue box office websites as an area of consumer protection concern.

Are These Chemicals In Your Deodorant, Shampoo, Soap Or Cosmetics?

by Categorized: Health Date:

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Today’s Bottom Line column:

Why do so many people care so much about what they put in their body and so little about what they put on it?

Europe’s regulatory system bans close to 1,400 ingredients in cosmetic products, including carcinogens like parabens and toxic chemicals that can cause reproductive and developmental-health risks. The United States bans 11.

So after dining on certified-sustainable wild Alaska salmon and organic spinach, it’s time to wash precious toddler Timothy with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. This gentle shampoo, a favorite for generations, is notorious among knowledgeable label watchers for its history of toxic-chemical use. Johnson & Johnson, after years of complaints, finally reformulated the shampoo earlier this year. It removed formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, potentially harmful chemicals, and now lists the shampoo as paraben-free and even soap-free.

More . . .

Technology for the amateur spy

by Categorized: Technology Date:

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This week’s tech column, courtesy of Tribune Newspapers:

Spy technology has become so widespread and smartphone-ready that sleuthing, like golf, can be played by almost anyone.

Not everyone can own a Stingray II, the controversial surveillance device from Harris Corp. that gathers cellphone data from targeted neighborhoods and costs, by some estimates, more than $130,000. The company, which does not discuss its products or its prices, has even required local police departments to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding them to acknowledge use of its equipment.

What’s spy work without secrecy, or at least a nondisclosure?
The everyday spy, meanwhile, shops at online spy boutiques, amazon.com or, yes, the local Home Depot. Spying isn’t as glamorous as it used to be, but it does make one wonder who’s watching, listening, tracking and scouring our data.

More . . .