Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Naughty or nice? Con­sum­er Reports calls out businesses for slimy practices, good deeds

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A lot of industry watchers talk a good game but Consumer Reports just put its money where its mouth is and listed which companies in 2015 were Naughty or Nice. A dozen corporations earned a naughty designation while 14 were identified as nice. The full list appears below (with more details at consumerreports.org) but we'll first focus on just a few whose actions have inflicted particular pain, or gain, on the Tampa Bay and Florida markets.

First to those who were naughty:

• Allegiant Airlines, whose ever expanding flights of tourists from second-tier cities has pretty much turned St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport into a 1-airline airport, gets panned for its "nickel and diming." Consumer Reports identifies nine fee variations that combined might win some new award for excessive gouging. My favorites? The 3.2 percent processing fee for purchasing your ticket with a credit card, the additional $14.99 fee for booking your ticket using the airline's own call center and the up-to-$80 charge for a seat assignment. What Consumer Reports does not mention, but the Tampa Bay Times has covered multiple times, is the frequency of Allegiant problems in 2015 resulting in delayed, canceled or flights forced to turn around or land elsewhere due to potential safety concerns. None of this, it should be noted, prevented Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher this month from being named at a St. Petersburg event as the 52nd winner of the Tony Jannus award for high achievement in commercial aviation.

RELATED: Allegiant Air continues explosive growth despite the bad press

•FedEx and UPS are about to enjoy a banner holiday season of record shipping business. But why are both companies still imposing fuel surcharges when energy prices are so low? FedEx adds a 4.25 percent surcharge for ground shipping services. The UPS surcharge is even higher at 5.25 percent. Can somebody deliver a lump of coal to these two?

•The name Turing Pharmaceuticals may not ring a bell but the actions of its 32-year-old CEO Martin Shkreli will. He's the guy who purchased the prescription drug Daraprim only to increase its price 5,000 percent to $750 from $13.50 per tablet. The drug is used to treat potentially life threatening parasitic infections in people with compromised immune systems. Now that he's been slammed by everyone from presidential candidates to Congress, Shkreli is considering a 50 percent cut in the drug's price. So that would mean only $375 per tablet?

•How could we fail to call out Volkswagen for one of the more underhanded deceptions in recent years? Circumventing the emission control system on half a million diesel VWs sold in the United States with software may have sounded clever in somebody's corporate playbook. But now VW's trust among many consumers is in the cellar. There may be a few other auto makers there already, so I hope they can make room for VW.

Lest we get too Grinchy, let's congratulate a few companies who made Consumer Reports' Nice list.

•Kudos to Nomorobo, the cloud-based app and winner of the FTC Robocall challenge. It analyzes caller IDs and disconnects suspicious calls. So far it has blocked 40 million calls, according to Consumer Reports, which can only be good news to the 200 million Americans who signed up to be on the Do Not Call list only to find it does not help much.

•Two airlines won praise. JetBlue was credited for offering free Internet broadband (called Fly Fi) on flights at a time when most airlines charge an arm and a leg. And Southwest got high-fived for providing the most frequent-flyer award program trips of any big airline.

Bravo to those Nice-listed companies for going the extra mile. And to those on the Naughty list: Incessant gouging of consumers probably is not a sustainable business model. Get over it.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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