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The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 to promote consumer education, consumer awareness, and consumer protection in the state of North Carolina.

According to NCCCs website, the organization was formed by a group of individuals who were disappointed by the lack of consumer representation across the state and was one of the first groups of its kind and the first such group in North Carolina. The group assists consumers with complaints and referrals to other agencies. NCCC publishes a website and newsletter in addition to maintaining a Facebook and LinkedIn news feed. NCCC attends and testifies at government meetings as consumer experts, author newspaper articles and editorials, writes to and meets with members of the North Carolina General Assembly and the United States Congress, drafts and revises consumer legislation, and petitions consumer safety organizations specializing in product recalls. NCCC is a member organization of the Consumer Federation of America and holds an annual meeting of members every March.[2]

NCCC has a wide range of activities and interests that center around keeping consumers informed of noteworthy news and general consumer information. The organization publishes news articles on topics such as automobiles, recalls, infant and child safety, health and wellness, utilities, banking, finance and credit and advocates for consumer awareness, consumer education and consumer protection.

NCCC is based in Raleigh, North Carolina and has been given tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, though it operates and is incorporated with the State of North Carolina as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity educational organization. It ceased political advocacy in April, 2006 and has since focused primarily on education instead of direct advocacy.

Origins and Leadership

NCCC incorporated on March 7, 1968[3] after receiving a grant from the One North Carolina Fund, which is a special revenue fund in the Department of Commerce used to recruit and expand quality jobs in high value-added, knowledge-driven industries and to provide financial assistance to those businesses or industries deemed vital to a healthy economy that are making significant efforts to expand in North Carolina.

NCCC currently has six members on its Board of Directors, down from the initial Board of Directors twenty-five, according to the original copy of the Articles of Incorporation on file with the North Carolina Secretary of State.[4] The current President is Sandra Bullock of Zebulon, North Carolina. The Vice-President is Brian Reitter of Cary, North Carolina. The Secretary and Treasurer is Johnny Beal of Raleigh, North Carolina. The organization is led by Executive Director Matthew Oliver, who started with the organization in 2001.

Funding

NCCC’s funding base has typical been a combination of member dues, contributions and grants according to annual filings. The majority of its funding comes from membership dues and assessments.

Advocacy

NCCC is a current supporter of the Just Label It Campaign, which aims to promote consumer awareness by mandating labeling requirements for all foods that contain genetically engineered components.[5] NCCC claims that it does not have an opinion, though, as to the safety of such components and merely supports the labeling requirement so that consumers can make their own informed decisions.[6] The Campaign is still ongoing as of July 2012.

In 2010, NCCC researched and reported to North Carolina consumers about reports received from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) about fraudulent e-mails consumers were receiving that had the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The e-mails and attachments in these e-mails were fraudulent and not sent by the FDIC. NCCC advised that recipients of such e-mails should consider the intent as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, or to load malicious software onto end users’ computers.

The North Carolina Consumers Council was a supporter of an effort by the North Carolina Alliance for Health to raise the North Carolina cigarette tax in 2005[7] in an effort to reduce tobacco use and to increase state revenue.[8] The efforts were successful and the cigarette tax increased by twenty five cents in September 2005 and then another five cents in July 2006. In the first year of the increased tax, North Carolina Division of Public Health officials said there was an 18.5 percent drop in cigarette sales and the North Carolina Department of Revenue reported $157 million in increased revenue.[9]

NCCC, working with Representatives Pricey Harrison, Jennifer Weiss, Grier Martin, and Paul Luebke, introduced changes to the North Carolina Lemon Law in 2005 with House Bill 1295, which was known as "An Act to clarify the maximum weight of a motor vehicle that is subject to the New Motor Vehicles Warranties Act and to promote the expeditious settlement of claims when the consumer requests the manufacturer to repurchase the motor vehicle." The bill passed and became effective December 1, 2005. Gearino, G.D. (22 November 2005). "Lemon Aid is Overdue" (Fee Required). The News & Observer. p. E1. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=RLOB&p_theme=rlob&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=%28lemon%20aid%20is%20overdue%29&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=%28%22lemon%20aid%20is%20overdue%22%29&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no. Retrieved 8 November 2012.  The changes included adding a limitation of mileage penalties incurred by consumers after the third attempt or twentieth day in the shop to repair a defect on a vehicle and clarified that a vehicle's weight was calculated by the actual vehicle weight, not the Gross vehicle weight rating.

The group was also a strong supporter for instituting the National Do Not Call Registry and supported making it permanent in 2008. NCCC, while advocating for the federal law, attended a number of public hearings in 2002 for the North Carolina version of the law, proposed by Attorney General Roy Cooper and introduced by Senator Fountain Odom and Representatives E. David Redwine and Phil Baddour, that would tighten restrictions imposed by the federal law. NCCC spoke publicly on the issue, likening unwanted telephone calls to telephone terrorism. Bethea, April (10 July 2002). "Hanging Up Telemarketers" (Fee Required). The News & Observer. p. B5. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=RLOB&p_theme=rlob&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=%28telephone+terrorism+and+we+don%27t+need+that+in+our+state+consumers+council%29&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=%28telephone+terrorism+and+we+don%27t+need+that+in+our+state+consumers+council%29&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no. Retrieved 14 July 2012. ""When you feel assaulted in your home, that's not a nuisance," said Brad Lamb, president of the N.C. Consumers Council. "That's telephone terrorism and we don't need that in our state.""  NCCC spoke on the frequent complaints from consumers who were suffering a barrage of unwanted telephone calls in their homes and pushed to get the bill passed in the face of fierce opposition from industry lobbyists. Sheehan, Ruth (18 July 2002). "Ending the Locust Plague" (Fee Required). The News & Observer. p. B1. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=RLOB&p_theme=rlob&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=%28Ending%20the%20locust%20plague%29&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=%28%22Ending%20the%20locust%20plague%22%29&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no. Retrieved 9 November 2012. ""I'm not finding anybody who wants to be constantly barraged with unwanted calls," said Brad Lamb, President of the N.C. Consumer Council. "I talk to people whose elderly parents feel besieged in their homes."" 

Concerned about a rise in child strangulation due to power windows with toggle and rocker switches, NCCC supported actions to prevent child deaths by requiring safer level style window switches in all vehicles sold in the United States. Dismayed by a delay before the switches became mandatory in 2008, NCCC began an educational campaign in North Carolina advising consumers of the dangers of the old design switches and offered a program to retrofit vehicles with new switches.

Between 2000 and 2003, NCCC participated in a national survey of playgrounds with the Consumer Federation of America and the US Public Interest Research Group to promote awareness about the inherent dangers of many playgrounds.[10][11] Parents were educated and made aware of the safety concerns that put their children at risk on public playgrounds. Additionally, a push for federal, state, and local regulation to ensure the safety of playgrounds and playground equipment was put before legislators. Following this initiative, a national set of standards were enacted to ensure that public playgrounds and playground equipment fall within specific guidelines.

In 2000, NCCC was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit (Case No: 99 CVS 13020) against the State of North Carolina regarding allegations that primary elections in the state required potential candidates to have a minimal net worth if they were to run for office. NCCC was active in supporting its stance that many qualified candidates would not be eligible to run for office in NC given that such requirements remained effective and voiced strong support of NC Senate Bill 381 introduced by Senator Wib Gulley. In his Clean Elections bill he has proposed an alternative to the chase for big money donors, namely giving only limited public funding for all candidates who show a reasonable level of support by means of low-dollar contributions from registered voters in their campaign districts.

As part of a grant in 1998, NCCC worked with the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) to look into a finding that the majority of used car dealers were in violation of federal laws aimed at protecting car buyers.[12] CFA and its member organizations surveyed 208 used car dealers in 11 states. In North Carolina, NCCC surveyed dealers and determined that franchised dealers had the fewest violations, followed by large independent dealers and finally by small dealers. North Carolina was found to have the second lowest failure to post FTC Buyers’ Guides.

NCCC has gone on the record with the United States Congress as supporting the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act[13] and the Commonsense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act of 1995[14] as evidenced in official Congressional filings.

NCCC has supported the repeal of the North Carolina Food Tax since its founding in 1968 through 1999.[15] The group was successful in lowering the food tax rate by one cent in 1996 in alliance with the League of Women Voters, NC Fair Share, and NC Citizen Action.

The group unsuccessfully advocated for a bottle bill in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s that would require a deposit on all beverage containers. The effort was not successful despite public support and the support of other organizations, such as the NC Farm Bureau Association, the NC Association of County Engineers, the NC League of Women Voters, the NC Wildlife Federation, the NC Sierra Club, and the NC Association of County Commissioners, among others.

Credit Union Affiliation

NCCC affiliated with several credit unions in North Carolina, including Coastal Federal Credit Union, Members Credit Union, Premier Federal Credit Union and most recently Lorillard Federal Credit Union, as a way to encourage its members to use low cost financial services from a credit union as a way to avoid heavy bank fees. Their members are eligible to join any of the affiliated credit unions. NCCC considers credit unions to be equivalent to banks in the services they provide but superior to banks in their lower fees and better interest rates.[16]

Services

The group offers several member-only benefits in addition to credit union affiliation. The Auto Recall Alert Service allows members to register vehicles for recall and defect investigation alerts on their vehicles. Its members can also elect for no-cost complimentary registration on the National Do Not Call Registry and on a Do Not Junk Mail registry. The group also offers a Lawyer Referral Program for the general public, which allows consumers to locate attorneys who have committed to a set of the groups consumer standards.

Consumer Product Recalls

The group has become a champion of automobile safety and has filed a number of defect petitions on behalf of consumers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NCCC filed a defect petition in 2005 regarding repeated failure of brake and tail lights in Saturn L-Series vehicles that could increase the likelihood of a rear-end collision. Subsequently, the NHTSA recalled 291,652 vehicles from the 2000-2004 model years in the United States and Canada after determining that a portion of the plastic tail lamp assembly can melt after extended brake light application leading to no rear illumination.[17]

NCCC filed a defect petition[18] in 2005 that resulted in a recall in 2007 for 20,514 Saturn L-Series vehicles experiencing catastrophic engine damage due to a design flaw in the timing chain.[19] The NHTSA did not force a recall of all vehicles with this timing chain defect and consequently NCCC filed a petition in 2008 asking for a recall expansion as consumers with vehicles built outside this narrow range continue to experience failures. NHTSA decline to expand this recall as noted in an official government response to the request.[20] NCCC issued a statement in July 2012 officially recommending that consumers not purchase this vehicle as they are still receiving complaints regarding timing chain failures and subsequent complete and catastrophic engine failures.

NCCC unsuccessfully petitioned in 2005 for recalls into bouncing headlights on the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix and for repeated parking brake failures on 1999-2003 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks, 2002-2003 Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Avalanche sport-utility vehicles, and 2000-2003 Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe and GMC Yukon sport-utility vehicles.

NCCC filed a defect petition in 2011 for headlight failures in 2007-2009 Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia vehicles. The vehicles have been the subject of 415 complaints of the wiring and bulbs melting. The investigation is ongoing.[21]

NCCC filed a defect petition in 2012 for transmission failures related to defective radiators that allowed engine coolant to mix with transmission fluid in 2005-2010 Nissan Pathfinder, Frontier and Xterra vehicles after more than 500 complaints of damages in excess of $7000. The investigation is ongoing and Nissan denies a problem exists despite extending the warranty on the part in question in 2010.[22][23]

NCCC filed a defect petition in 2012 for throttle body failures in 2005-2012 Ford Escape vehicles. The organization reports that it has received complaints from consumers reporting a throttle either stuck open or stuck closed in this line of vehicles. The investigation is ongoing.[24][25]

References

  1. North Carolina Consumers Council Official website
  2. Find A State and Local Member: Southeast, Consumer Federation of America website. Retrieved June 2012.
  3. The Danville Register Dated March 8, 1968, NewspaperArchive Website. Retrieved July 2012.
  4. Document Filings, North Carolina Secretary of State website. Retrieved June 2012.
  5. Partners, Just Label It website. Retrieved June 2012.
  6. Consumers Have a Right to Know What Goes Into Their Food, Official North Carolina Consumers Council website. Retrieved June 2012.
  7. Organizations Supporting a Significant Increase in North Carolina’s Cigarette Excise Tax, Community Catalyst website. Retrieved July 2012.
  8. Excise Tax Resolution, North Carolina Alliance for Health website. Retrieved July 2012.
  9. Organizations Supporting a Significant Increase in North Carolina’s Cigarette Excise Tax, Community Catalyst website. Retrieved July 2012.
  10. Playing It Safe, Consumer Federation of America website. Retrieved June 2012.
  11. PIRG: Playing It Safe Survey Results: NC, US Public Interest Research Group website. Retrieved November 2012.
  12. Used Car Buyers Beware: Look for Buyer's Guides, WRAL News website. Retrieved October 2012.
  13. Congressional Record Dated April 5, 2001, Official United States Government Printing Office website. Retrieved July 2012.
  14. Congressional Record Dated May 2, 1995, Official United States Government Printing Office website. Retrieved July 2012.
  15. Finding the will to drop the N.C. food tax, Charlotte Business Journal website. Retrieved June 2012.
  16. North Carolina Consumers Council Expands Its NC Credit Union Affiliations, Yahoo News website. Retrieved July 2012.
  17. The Florida Times-Union, The Florida Times-Union website. Retrieved July 2012.
  18. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration DP08002, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Retrieved July 2012.
  19. NHTSA Recalls Saturn L Series, Consumer Affairs website. Retrieved July 2012.
  20. Defects Investigations Results, Official National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Retrieved July 2012.
  21. Feds Probe 2007-'09 Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia After Complaints of Headlight Problem, Edmunds Inside Line website. Retrieved July 2012.
  22. Request for Nissan Probe, The Republic website. Retrieved June 2012.
  23. The Nuts and Bolts of Whatever Moves You, The New York Times website. Retrieved July 2012.
  24. 2005-2012 Ford Escape Under NHTSA Investigation for Throttle Issues, Torque News website. Retrieved November 2012.
  25. Ford Escape SUVs May Have Throttle Problems, Say Safety Agencies, Consumer Reports website. Retrieved November 2012.

External links

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