Viewpoint

Consumer Reports

The issue: Moving automatic bill payments and direct deposits to a new bank is a needlessly complicated, confusing process that can drag on for months. Closing a bank account can bring other obstacles, including unfair fees.

Our take: You shouldn’t feel trapped at your bank. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., have sponsored new legislation in Congress to change that. The Freedom and Mobility in Consumer Banking Act, endorsed by Consumers Union, includes a number of reforms that will make it simpler for consumers to switch banks. They include prohibiting fees for closing accounts and requiring banks to provide clear closing procedures and assistance in rerouting direct deposits and bill payments.

The new legislation will also improve competition and consumer choice within the banking system. Contact your lawmakers at senate.gov and house.gov to urge them to pass the bill. For our advice on moving your money to a new checking account, go to DefendYourDollars.org.

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Chicken from three of his company’s processing plants sickened more than 360 people in 21 states. The poultry was contaminated with dangerous strains of salmonella. Foster Farms never issued a recall, but the company said it implemented some safety procedures. We recommend avoiding raw chicken labeled with plant codes P-6137, P-6137A, or P-7632.

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Backing up a car can be a lethal maneuver. Two hundred pedestrians are struck and killed each year in “backup” crashes and more than 18,000 are injured. Almost half of the fatalities involve children younger than 5. That’s because even if drivers use all three of their car’s mirrors, a blind spot several feet high often exists directly behind the vehicle.

Five years ago, Congress passed a law that directed the Department of Transportation to issue a rule for automakers that would improve rear-view visibility. The new rule, expected to make backup cameras a standard feature, was to go into effect in 2011.

The DOT has postponed the rule four times, most recently pushing it back to 2015. As a result, Consumers Union has joined safety advocates in filing a federal lawsuit against the agency to stop the delays and force the rule to be implemented. Rear-view cameras can prevent backup crashes and save lives, but many cars still don’t have them. The time for action is long overdue. A court date is pending.

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That’s the number of confirmed influenza-related deaths in children between 2004 and 2012, according to a new report in the journal Pediatrics. Death often occurred within three days of the flu’s onset. More than a third died before being admitted to a hospital. Flu season historically peaks in February, so there’s still time to get your children (and yourself) vaccinated.

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This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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