DESCUENTO LECTORES

Groupon Australia Sold Boxes Of Counterfeit Durex Condoms

They stopped smiling when they learned about this recall. (Barbara Wells)

They stopped smiling when they learned about this recall. (Barbara Wells)

Overall, Groupon’s transition from a company that sells discount vouchers to a company that sells discount merchandise has gone pretty well. Yet some news from Australia caught our attention when we learned that Groupon in that country sold counterfeit condoms on their website. Now the Australian government is alerting consumers who purchased those condoms that they should probably not use them.

This may provide a lesson for retailers in the dangers of drop-shipping. Drop-shipping is when a company accepts orders from customers, then pays another company to fulfill those orders. It’s very easy to scale your business up quickly this way, but it has inherent dangers. When Groupon started selling physical items here in the United States, they started by drop-shipping, and eventually shifted to storing and shipping their own merchandise.

If you remember the Great Nexus 7 Fiasco of Christmas 2013, Groupon blamed that on the vendor that they used to drop-ship many of the tablets.

Yet while that was a holiday gift-giving disaster, not receiving an Android tablet generally will not lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. (We refuse to ponder what the exceptions to that statement might be.)

These condoms were advertised as products from Durex, and Groupon partnered with an outside company to drop-ship them. For any Australian readers, if you ordered condoms from Groupon between March 10 and April 12, you should have heard from them by now. “Signs that might indicate a potential counterfeit products include suspiciously low prices, poor quality of printing on the packaging and whether information on the foil packaging of individual condoms match that on the box,” Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (like the FDA) helpfully points out in its recall announcement.

A spokesperson for Groupon told Mashable Australia that they’re investigating how the site could have ended up selling counterfeit condoms, and said in a statement:

Customers are our utmost priority at Groupon and we take their health and safety very seriously. All customers who purchased the counterfeit products have been proactively contacted by Groupon notifying them of the recall and have been advised to discontinue use immediately, dispose or return the goods, and seek professional medical advice if they have concerns about their health. A full refund has been processed to all customers.

We’ve questioned Groupon’s product sourcing in the past, too: you might remember the Consumerist reader who purchased a television only to learn that Samsung wouldn’t provide him with technical support since the TV was allegedly manufactured for the Mexican market, and wasn’t supposed to be sold in this country.

Counterfeit Durex branded condoms purchased from Groupon website [Therapeutic Goods Administration]


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

LabCorp Wants To Skip Doctors, Sell Blood Tests Direct To Consumers

When your doctor wants to find out more about what’s going on inside your body, she orders lab tests, sending you down the street or down the hall to have someone extract your bodily fluids and perform tests on them. Laboratory Corp. of America, known on your medical bills as LabCorp, thinks that Americans want to order these tests themselves and pay for them with cash. Do they?

This is already a growing segment of the medical testing industry. There are companies where you can order up your own blood tests directly, visiting a local lab–the same one your doctor might send you too–and receiving the results confidentially in the mail or in an online dashboard. For example, you can pay WellnessFX $988 and have 18 tubes of blood drawn, which will get you “VIP-level access to every biomarker [they] offer,” checking everything from your cholesterol and thyroid levels to your reproductive hormones.

LabCorp wants a piece of the direct-to-consumer lab test action. “t’s a growth opportunity for us. It’s something consumers increasingly want to have access to, and it’s something we’re doing already and our capabilities are being utilized without us getting the benefit from a branding perspective,” the company’s CEO, David King, explained to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

What he’s talking about is that LabCorp already provides lab services for some of the companies that sell tests to consumers, and now they’ll be getting in the direct lab testing business themselves. They already offer a portal where patients can access the results of tests that their doctor ordered: allowing patients to order their own tests online simply removes a step from that process. What the company hopes to do is partner with a drugstore chain, something that competitor Quest Diagnostics tried in the past.

It could be that the Quantified Self movement and increased availability of health information online could make more people interested in these services than in the past…but they could also draw conclusions from these blood tests that an actual medical professional wouldn’t necessarily agree with. Recently, businessman Mark Cuban posted a series of tweets (which have since been deleted) where he recommended that all people have a full panel of health-screening blood tests every three months. The problem, as actual doctors and other experts pointed out, is that such testing is expensive and likely to result in scary false positives, or people being medicated for temporary fluctuations in how their bodies function. If frequent screening tests are good, that doesn’t mean that even more frequent screening tests are necessarily better for your health.

The Doctor Is Out: LabCorp to Let Consumers Order Own Tests [Bloomberg News]


by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

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DOJ Sues Quicken Loans Over Improperly Underwritten Mortgages

quickengrabIf you thought that we were done with lawsuits related to the mortgage meltdown, think again. The U.S. Dept. of Justice is suing Quicken Loans, alleging that the lender improperly underwrote hundreds of FHA-insured home loans before and during the housing market crash, resulting in substantial losses for the federal government.

The complaint [PDF], filed in a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges violations of the False Claims Act, which allows the government to seek treble damages and penalties from companies that knowingly defraud the administration.

According to the DOJ, between Sept. 2007 and Dec. 2011, Quicken knowingly submitted claims for hundreds of improperly underwritten FHA-insured loans. Company employees allegedly ignored the underwriting rules and requirements for these loans, in an effort to push through as many mortgages as possible while knowing they could make an insurance claim to FHA if the loan went south.

The complaint accuses Quicken of violating FHA rules by falsely inflating appraised values of homes to make sure a loan was approved. The company allegedly granted “management exceptions,” in which managers allowed underwriters to break FHA rules to get a loan approved.

The DOJ contends that these practices were not relegated to a few rogue managers but were something that top company executives were aware of.

“I don’t think the media and any other mortgage company… would like the fact we have a team who is responsible to push back on appraisers questioning their appraised values,” wrote a Quicken VP for Underwriting in an e-mail cited in the complaint.

A second e-mail claims that 40% management exceptions on FHA-insured loans should not have been approved.

“[W]e make some really dumb decisions when it comes to client service exceptions,” reads the e-mail. “Example, purchase loan we pulled new credit and the client stopped paying on almost everything and the scores fell by 100 points, we [still] closed it.”

As a result of this allegedly deceptive underwriting, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development paid out millions in insurance claims to Quicken over loans that should not have been approved.

Like the one loan applicant who had made multiple overdrafts on his bank account during the application process and who requested that Quicken refund his $400 application fee so he could feed his family. The government contends that this applicant was obviously in no financial shape to take on a mortgage, but his loan was approved anyway. According to the DOJ, this homeowner only made five mortgage payments before falling behind. HUD ultimately paid nearly $94,000 in insurance to Quicken over this mortgage.

Additionally, the complaint contends that there are many more loans from this time period that are currently 60 days delinquent and in danger of foreclosure, meaning Quicken will be filing insurance claims on these mortgages.

“Quicken violated HUD’s quality standards when obtaining HUD insurance for mortgage loans,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh of the District of Colorado, whose office helped to lead the investigation. “Quicken issued hundreds of defective mortgage loans, and left HUD – and the taxpayer – to pay for the loans that defaulted. Quicken’s alleged fraudulent conduct affected communities nationwide. This case is the latest step in our commitment to hold accountable mortgage lenders who profit by taking advantage of HUD insurance and issuing defective loans that do not meet HUD’s standards.”

The NY Times notes that Quicken recently filed a lawsuit of its own against the DOJ and HUD, claiming the lender was pressured into making admissions that were “blatantly false” and was required to pay an allegedly unjustified penalty.


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Recalls All Products, Closes Scoop Shops Over Possible Listeria Contamination

Ohio-based Jeni's Ice Cream has recalled all of its products and closed retail shops because of possible listeria contamination.

Ohio-based Jeni’s Ice Cream has recalled all of its products and closed retail shops because of possible listeria contamination.

For the second time this week, an ice cream maker has issued a voluntary recall of all products for fear they may be contaminated with listeria bacteria. While the first recall centered on major manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries, the most recent belongs to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which sells desserts at its own boutique stores and retail stores such as Whole Foods.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is closing its shops and pulling all of its products from retailers’ shelves until it can be sure the treats are safe to consume.

The Ohio-based ice cream maker initiated the voluntary recall after the Nebraska Department of Agriculture found listeria in a random sample of the company’s products.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we made the swift decision to cease all ice cream production and sales until we can get to the very root of the problem,” the company says in a statement. “We are enlisting the help of experts so we can identify the cause, eliminate it, and return as quickly as possible to the business of making ice cream.”

The recall covers all Jeni products including ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches sold at boutique stores in seven states and at retailers such as Whole Foods and Target.

So far, the company says it is unaware of any consumers falling ill from the products.

The company says they have called in experts to help find the root cause of the contamination and plans to work with suppliers to determine if the bacteria was introduced by a specific ingredient.

“We will not reopen the kitchen until we can ensure the safety of our customers,” the company says on its website.

Customers who have purchased any of the products are urged to dispose of them or return them to the store where they were purchased for an exchange or full refund, and consult with their physician regarding any medical questions.

Jeni’s ice cream recall comes just three days after Blue Bell Creameries announced it would pull all products from retailers nationwide.

Blue Bell has been in the midst of a months-long battle over listeria contamination that has included three recalls and the temporary closure of several production plants. In all, the company’s products have been linked to three deaths and at least 10 illnesses. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the contamination may go back as far as 2010.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams Voluntarily Recalls All Frozen Desserts [The Wall Street Journal]


by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

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