This year, when you’re steering your sleigh and squeezing down chimneys, please consider our holiday wish list for consumers everywhere:
- A Star Trek tricorder that will scan advertisements, e-mails and the fine print in contracts and translate them into plain English, such as “WARNING: This offer is a ripoff.” (Please grant consumers the capacity to read, question and understand all terms of any contract before they sign. In most cases, they can’t change their minds and cancel.)
- A no-fee, low-interest credit card that only works when a consumer wants it to – and blocks any fraudulent and unauthorized charges. (Until then, please remind people to only buy from reputable businesses and watch out for so-called “free trial” offers and post-transaction billing.)
- A magical day planner that can guarantee an appointment with a qualified, honest mortgage lender. (If your elves run out, you could direct consumers to the foreclosure and mortgage assistance resources on the Attorney General’s Web site and make sure they know that HUD-approved housing counselors offer free and low-cost help.)
- An affordably priced car that never breaks down. (You'd be surprised how many people think there's a three-day cooling off period on new car and sleigh purchases. We wish they'd check out the helpful car-buying and auto repair tips on the Attorney General’s Web site.)
- A virus-free computer. (While you’re working on that, please make sure folks know about the importance of downloading updates, using a firewall and installing antivirus and antispyware software. Good thing the AG’s office provides Internet safety tips.)
- An enchanted phone that ensures peaceful dinners without interruptions from telemarketers and blocks calls from scammers. (Thanks again for giving us the national Do Not Call List, by the way.)
- A winning lottery ticket that’s not accompanied by a request to wire money to a foreign country. (In fact, maybe you could include a warning not to send money via Western Union or Moneygram to strangers – and especially not to bail a grandkid out of jail, work as a mystery shopper or pay fictitious loan fees or shipping costs.)
- A free credit report that’s actually free. (Oh wait, we have one! Thanks for www.annualcreditreport.com, the only government-mandated, truly free place to request a credit report. We wish other sites would be upfront about their fees and what they do with consumers' personal information.)
- Checks that incinerate the moment they’re touched by a bogus charity or stingy fundraiser. (Meanwhile, we hope people are giving wisely by checking the Secretary of State’s charities database and reading the annual fundraiser report.)
- Fun, safe toys that eternally entertain. (While we think your elves are excellent craftsmen, we feel the need to remind families to check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s site for recall notices.)
- An Internet camera that reveals the faces of every person who sends a phishing e-mail, so you can track down those naughty boys and girls to put big lumps of coal in their stockings. (Clicking on hyperlinks and attachments in e-mails is so dangerous these days.)
- Last but not least, please make your naughty and nice list a public record!
We’ll have cookies and milk waiting.
P.S. If our wish list seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Chime In: What gift would you give consumers this year?