Today, I serve up Watchdog stew. Updates and information you can use. I hope there will be at least one ingredient that you like. Let’s chow down.
New credit card protections
The Watchdog congratulates both Visa and MasterCard for new rules that block scam companies from offering a free trial period for a product, and then when the trial period ends, the merchant starts charging month after month. It’s usually difficult to cancel the charges.
MasterCard’s program requires merchants to send you either a text or email notifying you that the free period has ended, and you must cancel or start paying.
Visa, playing catch-up, will launch its version in April.
The best example of the free trial scheme I’ve reported on is One Technologies of Dallas, which tricked customers seeking their credit score into more costly monthly monitoring.
Your electric bill is going up — slightly
Thanks to reader Andy Rosemore of Plano for the tip that Oncor, which delivers electricity for the electric company that serves you, raised its “Oncor fee” on your electric company’s bill from 3.135 cents per kilowatt hour to 3.8447 cents. That’s about a seven-tenths of a cent per kWh increase.
What does this mean? Well, the Oncor fee is tacked onto your electric company’s charge for each kWh you use, plus any taxes and fees.
Oncor spokeswoman Kerri Dunn says the add-on fee is adjusted twice a year, in March and September. Usually, it goes up a bit in September and down a bit in March.
The fee goes to investments in transmission and distribute infrastructure, Oncor tells me. The Public Utility Commission approves the twice-a-year change.
For a home or apartment that uses 2,000 kWh a month, the increase on the September bill works out to $14 more a month. It’s expected to drop again in March, Oncor says.
Freon problems galore
Raymond Rodriguez of Mesquite saw my piece on the new Freon requirements that will prove costly to everyone with an air conditioner.
He asks if the new Freon requirements apply to window air-conditioning units, too?
Unfortunately, yes, Raymond. When that window unit starts to blow hot air, you’ll step into the new Freon world. And it’s usually costly.
DFW Airport cut-through charge
Well, they’ve ruined one of the region’s best shortcuts.
Starting Oct. 1, DFW International Airport began charging $6 instead of $4 if you want to use the main airport road as a cut-through.
If you’re on airport property less than eight minutes, the fee will show up on your toll bill or you’ll pay at the gate. Airport officials have explained that drivers taking longer than eight minutes are usually there on airport business.
The airport expects to make an additional $1.8 million. But that’s only if the current 2,500 drivers a day who use the pass-through stick around and pay the higher bill.
Watchdog tip: Drive slow. Visit a terminal to admire the architecture. Set a timer to 8:01.
Oldie but goodie
It’s been four years since I first announced that a class-action lawsuit against StarKist tuna for under-filling its cans meant free money and/or tuna for us tuna lovers.
With such a delay, though, a lot of tuna-nistas gave up.
Well, in the past few weeks, tuna coupons began arriving in the mail. One of my work colleagues proudly showed me her $5.03 coupon for any StarKist product.
Supposedly, there were to be cash awards, too, but as for the cash part, you’ll need to talk to the lawyers. I suspect they snared that part. [I called them, but they didn’t call back.]
I haven’t received my coupon yet, nor have others. I don’t know why.
That’s OK. I like Bumble Bee better.
I recently learned of an error in a story I wrote two weeks ago called, “A cool new Texas law you never heard of means they can’t shut you up at government meetings.” I reported that only one area lawmaker, state Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, voted against the new law.
I found his “no” vote in the Texas House Journal and called him to talk about it. I wanted to ask why. We never hooked up. The other day, he told me if I had read further down in the Journal, I would have seen that he changed his vote from “no” to “yes.”
iPhone update blocks spam
After doing the most recent Apple update on my phone, I noticed I wasn’t hearing the ring on calls.
Turns out Apple has added a new spam-blocker feature.
The update had automatically defaulted my calls to voice mail with a new feature called “Silence Unknown Callers.”
It doesn’t allow calls from numbers not in your contacts to ring through.
Turn it on or off by going to settings, then phone, and find the feature on the bottom of the page.
Finally, I pride myself on being able to know which envelopes in the mail I shouldn’t waste my time opening. [Spectrum, AT&T, AARP, etc.]
The mailing from LifeLock didn’t fool me. It was marked “SECOND ATTEMPT.” I don’t care how many times you try, I’m not opening that one.
But the big envelope marked “Open for a free gift” got me. I wanted to see what my free gift was.
The mailing turned out be from Cigna health insurance.
There was no gift inside.
Only this: “Call the number on your letter and ask for your FREE, no obligation gift today.”
I have to call? The envelope is a lie!
And what’s the gift? A light that attaches with a magnet or adhesive pad.
The Watchdog would use that light to shine on Cigna’s trickery. If you tell me there’s a gift inside, there darn well better be.