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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prepaid Debit Cards: Watch for hidden fees

A prepaid debit card is not the same as a credit card. With a prepaid debit card, you buy a card with money on it or you deposit money on the card. Prepaid debit cards can be "reloaded", which means that if the balance is used up, you can choose to add more money to the card.

Watch. Prepaid debit cards can carry high fees. Some consumers say they were not adequately warned about those fees. Consumers were often charged an activation fee that was taken off the value of the card, without the consumer's knowledge of the fee.

Often, prepaid debit card users are low-income earners, or immigrants, who can not open a typical bank account or get approved for a credit card. Prepaid debit card companies target these groups of people.

The industry often says they operate with small profit margins. The criticism is often that they have many small charges which add up costing more than the consumer realizes. This has usually meant that prepaid cards are more expensive way to bank.

"Green Dot" is a big provider of prepaid debit cards. It states that consumers "can count on us to be there for you". Customers have complained of poor customer service and that there were hidden fees.

As listed on the Green Dot website fee schedule:
Initial Purchase: Varies, from $4.95 to $6.95, depending on where it is purchased.
Monthly Charge: Waived when you load at least $1,000 to your card or make 30 purchase transactions, otherwise, it is $5.95 per month.
ATM Withdrawal: free at participating ATM's only, otherwise it's $2.50 per withdrawal.
Teller Cash Advance: $2.50
ATM Declined Withdrawal: $0.50
ATM Balance Inquiry: $0.50
Lost/Stolen Card Replacement: $6.00
Other Prepaid Debit Card Companies

According to The New York Times (October 6, 2009), consumers who used cards by other companies also felt they were not adequately warned about the fees.

Other large providers of prepaid cards:
MiCash Prepaid MasterCard
Millennium Advantage Prepaid MasterCard
Silver Prepaid MasterCard
Only 1 Visa prepaid card
Wal-Mart Money Card
Vision Premier Prepaid Visa Card

Congress has asked federal regulators to investigate pre-paid cards. To date, this industry, which is a newcomer to the personal finance provider field, has not had regulatory oversight that would give added protection to customers.

If you would like more information, feel free to contact me.

David E. Schreiber
Of Counsel
Law Offices of Thomas Wolpert, PC

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Montgomery County Pennsylvania School District Sued for Allegedly Using Webcam to Watch Students at Home via Loaned Laptops

In a law suit filed in the United States Easter District, Philadelphia, Parents of a Lower Merion School District student allege that High School officials used school-issued laptop computers to illegally spy on students.

The Civil Action Complaint claims that unnamed school officials at Harriton High School remotely activated the webcam on a student's computer last year because the district believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home."

An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for "improper behavior" on and used a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.

The Suit seeks to be "certified" as a class action. That happens when a first Plaintiff files a case and requests that the Court certify it as the type of case that involved a class of similarly situated victims. Those additional persons can then elect to join the class action.

The district has issued school-owned laptops to 2,290 high school students, starting last school year at Harriton, in an effort to promote more "engaged and active learning and enhanced student achievement," the superintendent said in a message on the district website.

In a statement on its website, the district said that "The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today."

In another statement, the district said: "Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."

The Complaint alleges that when the computers were given to students, the school district did not reveal that it could or would activate the cameras at any time.

The Complaint pleads that the school district violated federal and state wiretapping laws and violated students' civil rights and is an invasion of privacy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Sexting" in PA High School Leads to Criminal Charges

According to AP Sources and local police, three teenaged female high school who allegedly sent nude or partially-nude cell phone pictures of themselves, have been charged with child pornography. Three of their male classmates at a Greensburg, PA High School who received them, are also charged.

While charged as juveniles, the student still face felony charges. The police indicate that the girls are 14-15 and the boys are 16-17.

One of the students had their phone on in class, which is against school property. The school confiscated the phone and then an administrator for the school found the photos. It was turned over to the Greensburg Police.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Drunk School Bus Driver takes kids on wild ride

A school bus driver who drove 37 students while intoxicated was sentenced to five years probation and jail time, but some parents of her terrified passengers say the punishment is not nearly harsh enough.

According to the "CBS Early Show," the bus driver pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2009, to 37 counts of child endangerment and driving while intoxicated. It happened on May 8 2009, while students screamed and begged her to stop.

On Jan. 4, the Allegany County Court sentenced her to six months of electronic home monitoring, five years of probation, 12 weekends in jail and mandatory alcohol counseling. She was also fined $1,000.

Police Reports indicate the bus driver's blood alcohol level was .15, almost twice the New York state legal limit of .08 percent.

Hundreds of driving drunking car accidents happen in Pennsylvania each year. Drunk Driving car injuries happen too often. Our firm has expertise in suing drunk drivers in civil cases. If you have been hurt in a drunk driving accident, call us.

David Schreiber

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Toyota: Prius brakes had design problems

According to AP reports, Toyota has conceded the antilock brake system in the newest Prius model, which went on sale in 2009, had design problems.

A spokesperson for Toyota Motor Corp. stated on 2/4/10 that Toyota learned about design problems and corrected the design for Prius models sold since late January.
The spokesperson also said Toyota was still investigating how to inform people who had bought the Prius' before January 2010.

Apparently 180 Owner complaints have been made of braking problems in the third-generation Prius surfaced in in both the U.S. and Japan. This has happened while there are global recalls of eight Toyota car models for faulty gas pedals.

If you would like more information about the sudden acceleration or product defects and your legal rights, feel free to contact us.

David Schreiber

Monday, February 1, 2010

Walmart removes "Princess and The Frog" Pendants: Toxic

According to the Associated Press and Walmart Sources, Walmart has removed from its sales shelves "Princess and the Frog" pendents. They have apparently contained high levels of Cadmium, which is a toxic substance. The recall inolves approximately 55,000 items, sold at Walmart for $5 per item. Walmart indicates that this was voluntarily done by FAF, Inc., a jewelry company in R.I. The US Consumer Product Safety Comission put out a recall notice after testing for Cadmuim in jewelry produced for Children.

The Walt Disney Co. sent a letter to its sellors and licensees that there will be a zero-tolerance policy--stricter than federal requirements--for Cadmium in any jewelry bearing its brand. Disney Co. is now mandating that all products must be tested for Cadmium.

"Any detectable levels of cadmium will be deemed a product failure," wrote Manuel G. Grace, Disney Co.'s senior vice president for product integrity.

The Federal Government does not actually require Cadmium testing of toys, nor does it set any limit for the amount the substance in toys.

Walmart responded to the recall by removing 3 items from sale, including a crown pendant with UPC number 72783367144 and a frog pendant with UPC number 72783367147.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is instructing parents to throw out all pieces of inexpensive metal jewelry, and that children who chew, suck on or swallow a bracelet charm or necklace may be endangering their health because Cadmium could leach out of the item and into the body. Cadmium can harm the brain, kidneys and bones.

If you would like more information about defective product laws in Pennsylvania, feel free to contact us.

David Schreiber
Mayerson Schreiber McDevitt, PC

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toyota and Lexus Sudden Acceleration Problem

Reports show at least 4 people have been killed after a Toyota Vehicle suddenly accelerated. The Government has complaints of others seriously injured.

The “electronic throttle” is the primary culprit of claims that these vehicles are suddenly accelerating without warning.

In March 2004, the Center For Auto Safety reported about sudden acceleration problems in 2002-03 Toyota Camrys and Solaras and the 2002-03 Lexus ES 300.

The US Government is looking into 2002-3 Camrys, Solaras, as well as Lexus ES 300's to figure out if they have this defect to the electronic throttle. The Toyota Tacoma has also been a source of complaints for sudden and unintended acceleration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota pointed to the electronic throttle in 2004 as the probable cause of the complaints of the sudden acceleration.

Toyota had claimed, though, that the real problem was the floor mat.

The Detroit Free Press has reported that 432 customers made complaints of sudden acceleration problems, which included 51 crashes and 12 instances of injuries.

Finally, in October 2009, Toyota conceded that there is an issue with sudden acceleration on these models:

2007-2010 Lexus ES350
2006-2010 Lexus IS250
2006-2010 Lexus IS 350
2007-2010 Toyota Camry
2005-2010 Toyota Avalon
2004-2009 Toyota Prius
2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma
2007-2010 Toyota Tundra


The Detroit Free Press cited the following:

TOKYO — Toyota’s president said it was “extremely regrettable” an American family died in a crash in which a floor mat in one of the Japanese automaker’s vehicles is suspected as the cause.
"Four precious lives have been lost," Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said Friday. "I offer my deepest condolences." According to California Highway Patrol Sources, the vehicle
accelerated to over 120 mph, went over an embankment, rolled over and then burst into flames, killing the four occupants.

Toyota is apparently still deciding what action to take. It has not admitted to a defect..

According to a December 2009 Consumer Reports Article, Toyota and Lexus models “lead the pack for sudden acceleration problems.” According to the Article, an analysis of NHTSA safety complaints database indicates over 40 percent of sudden acceleration complaints involve Toyota and Lexus models.

If you would like more information, or have experience a sudden acceleration problem with your vehicle, feel free to contact us.

David Schreiber
Mayerson Schreiber McDevitt, PC