Consumer Confidential
With David Lazarus
Net neutrality: Telecom firms prepare to unleash the lawyers

Here's what went down on Friday's Consumer Confidential segment on KTLA-TV:

Net neutrality. Now that the Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules for online content and privacy, phone and cable companies have wasted no time releasing the kraken. Comcast, AT

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What net neutrality decision isn't: A takeover of the Internet

Here's what went down on Thursday's Consumer Confidential segment on KTLA-TV:

Net neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission adopts rules making the Internet a level playing field for all content providers. It also makes a significant advance on the consumer privacy front. But it’s not taking over the Internet.

Edible coffee: KFC is testing an edible coffee cup in Britain. Basically, the cup is a chocolate-lined cookie. Yes, that means more calories, but it also means one less piece of trash littering the environment.

Smart bottle: A chip-equipped bottle of Johnny Walker Blue is being tested. It would allow shoppers to see if special offers are available by waving their smartphone in front of the bottle at the store. It also would send an alert if someone opens the bottle when you're not around.

For more, follow me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com

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FCC vote could be game changer for Internet privacy

Nearly all discussion of the federal rules for high-speed Internet service approved Thursday has focused on net neutrality — the idea that all online content be treated the same.

Largely overlooked has been another part of the regulatory change: Privacy.

This could be a game changer, requiring Internet service providers to seek customers' permission before monitoring or sharing personal information.

"Potentially, this could apply to every Web request you make," said Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"If the same safeguards that now apply to phone services are applied to broadband, this could have major implications for Internet service providers," he said.

At issue is Section 222 of the Communications Act. It requires that telecom companies protect customers' "proprietary information," such as how you use their services.

It defines such information as relating to "the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location and amount of use of a...

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Your Uber driver is quietly rating your Uber-worthiness

Here's the scoop from Wednesday's Consumer Confidential segment on KTAL-TV:

Uber ratings. Santa isn't the only one making lists for who's naughty and nice. Uber drivers are rating their passengers. And if you get low marks, you might find it hard to get a lift -- or you might find yourself blacklisted. What will get you in trouble? Drivers might penalize you being too chatty or not chatty enough or, God forbid, eating in their car.

Alli returns. A year after being recalled because of product tampering, Alli, the popular nonprescription diet pill, is returning to drugstore shelves. Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline says it's come up with new packages that are harder to tamper with and easier to spot if someone has messed with them.

Girl Scout cookies. If your hankering for Thin Mints or Samoas extends throughout the year, you're in luck. A company called Wicked Cool Toys has come out with an oven that makes the sweet treats. Think of it as a modern spin on the Easy Bake Oven. However,...

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Critics are wrong about Apple introducing racist emojis

Here's what went down on Tuesday's Consumer Confidential segment on KTLA-TV:

Racist emojis? Apple has introduced some diversity to its emojis, those little images meant to convey sentiment in emails and messages. Now you can use various skin tones. But is the yellow skin tone meant to depict Asians? That's what some critics say. They're wrong. This is a race-neutral way of expressing yourself. Just ask Homer Simpson.

Car brands. Consumer Reports has ranked car brands in terms of both reliability and how fun the vehicles are to drive. Top of the list: Lexus, followed by Mazda, Toyota, Audi and Subaru. The only American car brand in the top 10 is Buick. At the bottom of the list: Fiat.

Tax audits. Thinking about cheating on your taxes? You're in luck. The Internal Revenue Service says your chances of being audited this year are at their lowest level in a decade. There's now a less than 1% chance of being audited. The reason: Congress whacking more than a billion dollars from the tax...

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SoCal Gas, third-party insurer should disclose their sweetheart deal

Southern California Gas wants its customers to pay extra for insurance on gas lines in their homes and it wants them to buy coverage from a Connecticut company called Home Emergency Insurance Solutions.

At least that's the impression many people could get from a recent mailer to area households from Sempra Energy, SoCal Gas' parent company, or, at least, on the company's letterhead.

The packet includes a notice stating that customers can pay for "home protection policies from Home Emergency Insurance Solutions" on their monthly bills.

This billing service is offered for no other insurance provider, suggesting that Home Emergency Insurance Solutions is preferred by SoCal Gas because of its superior performance and pricing.

The reality is that Home Emergency Insurance Solutions, a.k.a. HomeServe USA, a subsidiary of Britain's HomeServe, cuts in the utility for a piece of its action as part of an exclusive marketing arrangement.

Neither SoCal Gas nor the insurer discloses that...

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