Week 1 at the National Consumers League

This past week, I started my internship at the National Consumers League. The National Consumers League, or NCL for short, is the oldest consumer organization. NCL is dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers and workers through progressive legislative change. They are a nonprofit (501c3) located in Washington, D.C. For my internship, I am working both with the executive director, as well as the vice president of public policy. I am responsible for researching and supporting policy projects. I found this internship through the Hiatt Career Center. It was attached to the Social Justice World of Work grant.

My first week was a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and of course, new assignments. Everyone in the office was incredibly welcoming. On my first day, there was a staff meeting, so I was able to meet just about everybody. After the meeting, the executive director invited me and the other intern to see her speak at the Woman’s National Democratic Club. The Club treated us to lunch, and we met several members. After lunch, the executive director of NCL spoke on a range issues, including the role of women’s clubs and female leaders in the consumer movement and NCL’s history. As she discussed various consumer issues, from clear unit pricing in grocery stores to safety of electric table saws, one thing she said especially resonated with me: that safe products, safe food, clean drinking water should not just be for the rich and those who can afford it, it should be for everyone.

I will research a variety of consumer issues, including phone “cramming,” which involves a third-party adding additional fraudulent charges to phone bills that appear as normal charges, such as “additional fees” or “voicemail.” The FCC now protects consumers from wireline cramming, but does not yet protect for wireless cramming. With cell phones, this often appears as text messaging scams, such as horoscope or celebrity gossip sent to cell phones via text message without the customers agreement. The problem has been written about in the New York Times.

My desk in the NCL office

I also began research on ticketing issues. Over the past few years, two coalitions have emerged arguing that they protect consumers’ rights. Fan’s First supports paperless tickets, in which one cannot receive an actual paper ticket, but must present his or her credit card and ID at the event in order to gain entrance. Paperless tickets essentially prohibit the resale of tickets in the secondary-market, such as on websites such as StubHub, or even to a friend. NCL stands with the Fan Freedom Project, which asserts that there should always be a paper ticket option and that paperless tickets promotes the monopolization of the market by Livenation/Ticketmaster, who controls the prices, and they continue to raise prices and add additional service fees. This video illustrates the problem:

“The Real Story Behind Paperless Tickets” 

This summer I’m excited to learn a lot about various consumer issues that I did not know about before. In addition, I will learn more about the political processes, and have an opportunity to focus on issues of interest to me, such as labor issues and food safety.

– Lili Gecker ’13

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