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FTC says those ‘warranty void if removed’ stickers are illegal

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it had sent letters to six major companies informing them that the “warranty void if removed” stickers on specified parts aren’t just meaningless, they are also illegal.

>> Read more trending news 

Under the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, companies cannot place repair limits on warranties “unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC.”

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.

Related: This Facebook tool reveals whether Cambridge Analytica has your data

The major companies it contacted market and sell cellular devices, automobiles or video gaming systems in the United States -- products that commonly feature the warning stickers. In fact, both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One video game consoles come with the stickers.

Here are some examples of service claims that violate the 1975 law, according to the FTC:

  • The use of (company name) parts is required to keep your … manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product … is used with products not sold or licensed by (company name).
  • This warranty does not apply if this product … has had the warranty seal on the (product) altered, defaced, or removed.

The agency said it has asked the contacted companies to review their warranty notices and ensure that they don’t “state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services.”

Related: Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal affected up to 87M Facebook users, company says

Officials will then review the companies' websites after 30 days, and inform them that “failure to correct any potential violations may result in law enforcement action.”

Read the full announcement at the FTC website.

Smoke alarm recall: 500,000 Kidde detectors might not alert users to fire

Kidde recalled about 500,000 dual-sensor smoke alarms Wednesday because they pose a risk of people not being alerted to a fire in their home.

>> Nearly 600,000 pacifiers, teether holders recalled amid concerns about choking

A yellow cap left on during the manufacturing process can cover one of the two smoke sensors and compromise the smoke alarm’s ability to detect smoke.

About 452,000 devices were sold in the United States, in addition to 40,000 sold in Canada.

>> Johnsonville recalls 109K pounds of sausage after reports of plastic contamination

This recall involves models PI2010 and PI9010 of Kidde dual-sensor (photoelectric and ionization) smoke alarms. “KIDDE” is printed on the front center of the smoke alarm. The model number and date code are printed on the back of the alarm.

The recall includes:

Model: PI9010 (DC/battery powered)Date Code: September 10, 2016 through October 13, 2017

Model: PI2010 (AC/hardwired)Date Code: September 10, 2016 through October 13, 2017

>> 1.4 million Ford vehicles recalled after reports that steering wheel can come loose

People should remove the alarm from their wall or ceiling and look through the opening on the side of the alarm for a yellow cap. People should not attempt to take apart the alarm, open the casing, or otherwise remove the yellow cap themselves. If a yellow cap is present, people should immediately contact Kidde to receive instructions and request a free replacement smoke alarm. They should remove and discard the recalled smoke alarm only after they receive and install the replacement alarm. If no yellow cap is present, people should reinstall the smoke alarm and no further action is needed.

>> Read more trending news 

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has received one report of the yellow protective cap being present on a smoke alarm before it was installed in a home. No reports of incidents or injuries as a result of a yellow cap being present have been reported.

>> On Boston25News.com: Boston's bravest: Facing a hidden killer

The affected smoke alarms were sold at Home Depot, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, ShopKidde.com and other websites from September 2016 through January 2018 for between $20 and $40.

Read more here.

Want a free burrito? Here’s how to get BOGO Chipotle at local stores this week

Show your team spirit at local Chipotle stores on Friday, and you’ll get buy one, get one free burritos.

For #HockeyJerseyDay, Chipotle is offering a special deal for hockey fans. Rock your favorite hockey jersey on March 2 from 10:45am to 10 p.m. and get a buy-one, get-one free burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos in honor of USA Hockey’s Hockey Weekend Across America.

» TRENDING BUSINESS NEWS: Chipotle testing new ‘trendy’ menu option

The offer is valid from 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday at participating Chipotle locations.

The deal cannot be combined with other coupons, promotions, or special offers. A Chipotle spokesman told this news organization that all local stores will be participating.

FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS

Macy’s outlet store to open at shopping center in Dayton area

Toys “R” Us reportedly plans to close another 200 stores

Check out this $1 million home for sale in Clearcreek Twp.

Tyra Patterson: Every day is a second chance

Kroger sells off convenience store business for $2.15B

Company warns of Instant Pot overheating, melting

Instant Pot is warning customers of a potential hazard in one of its cooker models.

WTSP reported Thursday that the company made a post on Facebook Sunday saying it has received “a small number of reports” that its Gem 65 8-in-1 Multicooker overheats, causing melting.

>> Read more trending news 

“We believe the problem only affects batchcodes 1728, 1730, 1731, 1734, and 1746. To verify the 4-digit batchcode, locate the silver label on the underside of the product,” the company said in the post. “The batchcode is the 4-digit number located at the bottom right of the label. We want you to know that we take any problem with our products extremely seriously as safety and quality are our primary concern, and we are working cooperatively with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).”

The company asked customers with the Gem 65 8-in-1 Multicooker from batchcodes 1728, 1730, 1731, 1734, and 1746 to stop using the product immediately.

Customers with this model who have questions can call the Instant Pot customer care team at 1-800-828-7280.

#NationalChiliDay: These are the top 10 chili cities in the U.S.

Where should you celebrate National Chili Day? Cincinnati, of course.

A study by one of the world’s largest chili purveyors shows that residents of cities across the country love this classic comfort food as much or more than their Long Star State counterparts.

The internal analysis, conducted by Wienerschnitzel in honor of National Chili Day on Feb. 22, named the Top 10 Chili Cities in the United States. Residents in these markets eat more chili per person than residents of other cities, have access to more restaurants known for their chili and are more likely to enter or attend a chili cook-off.

» TRENDING BUSINESS COVERAGE: Toys “R” Us reportedly plans to close another 200 stores

The survey ranked Los Angeles atop the list, followed by Dallas; Phoenix; Houston; San Francisco/Oakland; Chicago; Baton Rouge, La.; Springfield, Mo.; Cincinnati; and San Antonio who is credited with first popularizing chili in the 1890s, rounded out the top 10.

“Despite being the official dish of Texas, chili has grown to become America’s dish,” said Doug Koegeboehn, chief marketing officer for Wienerschnitzel. “At Wienerschnitzel, we’ve known that for years. In fact, we’d like to think that there are really only two types of people in the world: chili lovers and those who still haven’t tasted really great chili yet.”

FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS

Check out this $1 million home for sale in Clearcreek Twp.

Tyra Patterson: Every day is a second chance

Kroger sells off convenience store business for $2.15B

Bass Pro Shops offering buyouts to Cabela’s employees

Move over, bitcoin. GE researching blockchain technology

Hand-me-down toys could pose serious health risks for kids, study says

Do you accept second-hand toys? Beware, because they could pose serious health risks for children, according to a new report. 

Researchers from the University of Plymouth recently conducted an experiment, published in Environmental Science and Technology, to determine the dangers of passed-down toys. 

>> Toys 'R' Us to close up to 182 stores nationwide; see the full list

To do so, they used X-ray fluorescence technology to examine 200 plastic toys, such as cars, trains, figures and puzzles, which were found in nurseries, thrift shops and homes across England. They were inspecting the items for nine hazardous elements, including antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium.

After analyzing the results, they found that 20 toys had traces of all nine elements, which can be chronically toxic if children are exposed to them at low levels. If the kids put the products in their mouths, they can be introduced to the toxins faster.

>> Consumer safety group W.A.T.C.H. unveils 'most dangerous' toys list

"Consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mouthable and brightly coloured old plastic toys or components,” coauthor Andrew Turner told BBC. "Without that, the attractive cost, convenience and recyclability of previously used toys has the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children."

Furthermore, a few of the toys didn’t comply with standards set by the European Council's Toy Safety Directive. In fact, red, yellow or black plastics were the worst, because they had too much too much bromine, cadmium or lead.

>> Read more trending news 

While scientists said second-hand toys “are an attractive option,” parents should use with caution. They also believe risky toys should be taken off the market altogether. 

Sam’s Club locations reportedly closing without notice

Sam’s Club store locations are reportedly closing across the nation, including some in Ohio.

Two Sam’s Club stores in Cincinnati have permanently closed without notice, WCPO reports.

The Loveland store on Fields-Ertel Road and the Oakley store on Marburg Avenue both permanently closed Thursday, WCPO reported. No locations in the Dayton region have been impacted. Sam’s Club has locations in Dayton, Beavercreek and Centerville.

The closures come as Walmart, which owns and operates Sam’s Club, announced it is increasing its starting salaries for U.S. workers. Employees will now make $11 an hour.

» RELATED: Walmart to roll out ‘Scan & Go’ technology in another 100 stores

Sam’s Club issued the following statement about the closures on Twitter:

“After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”

A Sam’s Club location in the Dayton region will add new technology that will help customers get through the checkout lanes even quicker. Sam’s Club, located at 1111 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, recently filed a permit to add new self-checkout registers in the store. A spokeswoman for Sam’s Club told this news organization that the club is slated to have six updated traditional checkouts and eight, new self-checkout registers.

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• At Home store to open in Dayton area this month

• Currency of the future? Some argue it’s bitcoin

New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.

>> Read more trending news 

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).

>> How to keep your New Year’s resolutions this time

“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”

>> PHOTOS: Most controversial figures from 2017

DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:

1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.

2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.

3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.

4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract. 

Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

>> Read more trending news

American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

Aldi, Kroger recalls some apples due to possible listeria contamination

Low-cost grocery store chain Aldi and supermarket Kroger have issued voluntary recalls of some of its apples.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which posts voluntary recalls, Jack Brown Produce, Inc., based in Sparta, Michigan, is recalling Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples because of listeria concerns.

>> Read more trending news 

“In cooperation with Jack Brown Produce Inc., and out of an abundance of caution, Aldi has voluntarily recalled an assortment of apples that were available for purchase in stores starting  on December 13, 2017, due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination,” Aldi said in a news release Tuesday.

The recall came after one of Jack Brown Produce’s suppliers, Nyblad Orchards Inc., notified the businesses of the affected products.

The affected products were sold at some Aldi stores in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and North Carolina. 

“To date, no illnesses related to these products have been reported. No other Aldi products are affected by this,” the company said.

Kroger said it recalled lunchbox-size Fuji and Galas sold between Dec. 12 and Tuesday, according to USA Today.

The products affected are sold under the brand name “Apple Ridge” and are as follows: 

  • Honeycrisp apples in 2-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious apples in 3-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Fuji and Gala apples in 5-pound red-netted mesh bags; and
  • Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples that were tray-packed/individually sold.

Products that may be affected can be identified by the following lot numbers printed on the bag label or the bag-closure clip:

Fuji: NOI 163, 165, 167, 169, 174

Honeycrisp: NOI 159, 160, 173 Golden Delicious: NOI 168 Gala: NOI 164, 166 on either the product labels and/or bag-closure clip

Affected customers should immediately discard the products or return them to a local store for a full refund. Customers with questions can callJack Brown Produce Inc. at 616-887-9568, Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

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