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The Viking refrigerator saga: When high-end went awry

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Under federal law, companies are required to self-report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission any product defect that could cause serious harm. Most seem to.

Every now and then, a company that doesn’t do this gets punished by the agency. It’s usually termed an “agreement,” in which the company disputes the allegations and then agrees to pay a penalty anyway.

These situations aren’t common, and it is rarer still when the company involved caters to upscale consumers.

Enter Viking Range Corp., which recently agreed to pay $450,000 after being accused of not telling the government that the doors of several models of its refrigerators were literally falling off their hinges in dozens of homes across America.

Child identity theft: Why you should worry

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Michelle Dennedy’s daughter Reilly is nine and already has had her identity stolen twice. Earlier this year Dennedy, who lives in California, learned that the most recent use of Reilly’s identity was to get utilities set up in Arizona.

She is part of a growing trend — stealing the identities of children. On July 12, the Federal Trade Commission is hosting a forum on child identity theft, pulling together a broad group of parents, lawyers, advocates and experts to discuss how to handle this disturbing crime.

Consumer product database in jeopardy

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You may think the government’s wheels always grind slowly, but they can spin fast when a government action runs afoul of business.

After years and years of providing but an iceberg’s tip of the information possessed by the agency, the tiny U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in March opened the door to a new world for its constituents: American consumers. The agency launched a publicly searchable database that catalogs product incidents experienced in homes across the nation.

Even “healthy” food can make you sick

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Even those who zealously eat healthy food or are partial to the finer things aren’t immune from the dangers of food poisoning.

The situation in Germany, where nearly two dozen have died and 2,000 more have been sickened from E.coli contamination, is just the latest example of the potential perils in the food chain. The deadly infection has been linked to bean sprouts. Suspicion also has focused on other salad standbys: lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

China making improvements with product safety, CPSC chief says

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After a staggering run of lead-related toy recalls a few years ago, mostly imported from China, Congress made meaningful advances in consumer product safety laws for the first time in decades. It was also a painful blow the “Made in China” branding experience — perpetuating the notion that it was synonymous with cheaply made, lower-quality products.

While it hardly made a blip on the Chinese export machine, the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008 has made an impact on Chinese manufacturing and, indeed, the government itself. Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recognized that in order to make some significant improvement in the track record of Chinese imports, the Chinese would need to be involved.

China imports in the grocery store: A cause for concern

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With Chinese products dominating more than just the shelves of dollar stores, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise — if you’re surprised at all — that imports from the largest nation in the world are increasingly finding their way into American grocery stores.

But the Chinese imports are starting to crop up in parts of the store that were more typically dominated by U.S. grown products or those from Central America. One such place is the freezer case, where imports are up 20 percent over the past decade and it is no longer unusual to find frozen vegetables that originated in China.

How safe is your mobile wallet?

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A woman uses her mobile telephone in central London January 23, 2011.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregorWhen you whip out your smartphone to transfer money, deposit a check, or “tap” it on an electric reader to buy milk at your local 7-Eleven, do you ever wonder how secure it is?

The good news is, using your phone as a “mobile wallet” is largely considered safe. In fact, some experts argue the security of  mobile payments is on par with online banking, with the added layer of password protection.

Paperless tickets: Is Ticketmaster hurting consumers?

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A man holds a pair of tickets for the 'Live 8' Hyde Park concert, in central London, July 1, 2005.  	 REUTERS/Toby MelvilleIf you buy tickets to events, there’s an awfully good chance you get them from Live Nation’s Ticketmaster, the dominant player in the industry. And if you get paperless tickets, you had better read the fine print before you buy them or you could be in for a shock.

Ticketmaster, some artists and venues are changing the terms of tickets — moving to a paperless ticket (known to some as a restricted ticket). The restriction on these tickets is that they are linked to the buyer, who must show the credit card used to purchase them and possibly some other identification in order to gain entry to a venue.

Google work-from-home scammers to pay $1.6 million settlement

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A Google Inc page is shown on a blackberry phone in Encinitas, California April 13, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake  Being the giant brand that Google is and given that people are always hoping to find a way to make money quickly, mixing the two makes for a great scam. And such has been the bait for many thousands of people who have gotten hooked on the idea they could participate in a program that would bring in big bucks selling Google ads.

A couple of years ago Google decided it was time to protect its brand and sued a collection of the outfits selling get-rich-quick schemes in the company’s name. Google’s attack against those companies — not really on behalf of consumers but on behalf of its brand — won the company a $1.6 million settlement last week.

Electronic fans yanked from market after causing fires

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A recalled fan. REUTERS/CPSCNearly 5 million inexpensive electric fans are being recalled after they were blamed as the cause of at least seven fires, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The box style Lasko and Galaxy brand fans were sold at major retailers nationwide between 2002 and 2005 for $12 to $25. They were manufactured in the U.S. by Lasko Products Inc. of West Chester, Pennsylvania.