Archive

Archive for the ‘consumer issues’ Category

OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs

March 29, 2015 Comments off

OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs
Source: arXiv.org

The rise of Uber as the global alternative taxi operator has attracted a lot of interest recently. Aside from the media headlines which discuss the new phenomenon, e.g. on how it has disrupted the traditional transportation industry, policy makers, economists, citizens and scientists have engaged in a discussion that is centred around the means to integrate the new generation of the sharing economy services in urban ecosystems. In this work, we aim to shed new light on the discussion, by taking advantage of a publicly available longitudinal dataset that describes the mobility of yellow taxis in New York City. In addition to movement, this data contains information on the fares paid by the taxi customers for each trip. As a result we are given the opportunity to provide a first head to head comparison between the iconic yellow taxi and its modern competitor, Uber, in one of the world’s largest metropolitan centres. We identify situations when Uber X, the cheapest version of the Uber taxi service, tends to be more expensive than yellow taxis for the same journey. We also demonstrate how Uber’s economic model effectively takes advantage of well known patterns in human movement. Finally, we take our analysis a step further by proposing a new mobile application that compares taxi prices in the city to facilitate traveller’s taxi choices, hoping to ultimately to lead to a reduction of commuter costs. Our study provides a case on how big datasets that become public can improve urban services for consumers by offering the opportunity for transparency in economic sectors that lack up to date regulations.

IRS Releases FY 2014 Data Book

March 26, 2015 Comments off

IRS Releases FY 2014 Data Book
Source: Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service today released the 2014 IRS Data Book, a snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year.

The report describes activities conducted by the IRS from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, and includes information about returns filed, taxes collected, enforcement, taxpayer assistance, and the IRS budget and workforce among others. The 2014 Data Book contains charts that show trends, such as the decline in the number of audits and the decline in telephone and in-person tax assistance and increases in the use of online resources and volunteer tax assistance.

During fiscal year 2014, the IRS collected almost $3.1 trillion in federal revenue and processed almost 240 million returns. About 65 percent of all returns were filed electronically. Of the 147 million individual income tax returns filed, 84 percent were e-filed. Over 116 million individual income tax return filers received a tax refund, which totaled over $330 billion. The IRS examined less than 1 percent of all tax returns filed. About 3 percent of all individual tax returns examined resulted in additional refunds.

The IRS provided taxpayer assistance through 437 million visits to IRS.gov and assisted over 69 million taxpayers through its toll-free telephone helpline or at walk-in sites.

CRS — Health Insurance Premium Credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015 (March 18, 2015)

March 25, 2015 Comments off

Health Insurance Premium Credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

New federal tax credits, authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), first became available in 2014 to help certain individuals pay for health insurance. The tax credits apply toward premiums for private health plans offered through exchanges (also referred to as health insurance marketplaces). The ACA also established subsidies to reduce cost-sharing expenses.

Health insurance exchanges operate in every state and the District of Columbia (DC), per the ACA statute. Exchanges may be established and administered by states, the federal government, or a combination of both. Exchanges are not insurers, but they provide eligible individuals and small businesses with access to private health insurance plans. Generally, plans offered through the exchanges provide a comprehensive set of health services and meet all of the ACA’s insurance market reforms, as applicable.

The new premium credits established under the ACA are advanceable and refundable, meaning tax filers need not wait until the end of the tax year to benefit from the credit and may claim the full credit amount even if they have little or no federal income tax liability.

Consumer Protection: A Beginner’s Guide

March 24, 2015 Comments off

Consumer Protection: A Beginner’s Guide
Source: Law Library of Congress

Consumer protection touches on a number of areas of law, and as such, has been broadly defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “[f]ederal and state laws established to protect retail purchasers of goods and services from inferior, adulterated, hazardous, and deceptively advertised products, and deceptive or fraudulent sales practices; these laws cover everything from food to cosmetics, from banking to fair housing.” Because laws that deal with consumer protection can be found in several different areas of law, starting one’s research in “consumer protection law” can be somewhat overwhelming. Through this Beginner’s Guide, we hope to provide some access points to this significant field of study.

It’s More than Just a Game: The Effect of Core and Supplementary Services on Customer Loyalty

March 24, 2015 Comments off

It’s More than Just a Game: The Effect of Core and Supplementary Services on Customer Loyalty
Source: Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Center for Hospitality Research

All service providers seek to provide a comprehensive experience for their customers, with the goal of cementing customer loyalty and encouraging future purchases. In most services, we can identify core aspects (e.g., a good night’s sleep at a hotel) and supplementary aspects (e.g., concierge and valet services). For professional sports, the core service is the sporting contest itself, but many other supplementary services may also be included. We use a comprehensive dataset of over 7,000 patrons of a major professional sport in the United States to determine how customers’ satisfaction with core and supplementary services influence their intent to repeat a ticket purchase. We find that satisfaction with both core and supplementary services are important for loyal customers, but first-time customers tend to focus only on core service satisfaction when considering whether to purchase another ticket. One implication of this study is that firms should focus on their customers’ full experience. Firms must first focus on their core services and then augment them appropriately with supplementary services.

Free registration required.

UK — Unlocking the sharing economy: An independent review

March 23, 2015 Comments off

Unlocking the sharing economy: An independent review (PDF)
Source: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The sharing economy allows people to share property, resources, time and skills across online platforms. This can unlock previously unused, or under-used assets – helping people make money from their empty spare room and the tools in their sheds they use once a year. It allows people to go from owning expensive assets, such as cars, to paying for them only when they need them. Individuals can make more from their skills, and work more flexibly.

There has been tremendous growth in the sharing economy in recent years, and this is set to continue. This is a huge opportunity for the UK, and our ambition should be to be the world’s leading sharing economy.

As with all disruption, we also need to be careful. Sharing economy businesses and traditional operators need to be treated fairly, particularly in terms of regulation. Consumers must be protected, and trust must be strengthened in online transactions. However, a degree of caution should not stop us from embracing the potential sharing offers for a new, more efficient and more flexible economy.

Complaints data show which credit cards pay refunds most, least often

March 20, 2015 Comments off

Complaints data show which cards pay refunds most, least often
Source: CreditCards.com

Synchrony Financial, the big store-card issuer behind Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Amazon cards, among others, gets more complaints at the federal government’s complaint window than its peers.

But it also pays refunds more often when customers grumble, 2014 data show.

CreditCards.com looked at the nearly 14,000 complaints people made about credit cards last year to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — up 6 percent from 2013. Rather than look at what causes complaints, we examined how companies dealt with them — an insight that is unavailable from other sources.

Looking at 12 major card issuers, we found big differences in the way they handle beefs:

  • Per dollar of card balances, Synchrony, formerly GE Capital, was about twice as likely to get a complaint than average among 12 large card issuers. However, it also paid refunds most often, issuing “monetary relief” — refunds or waivers — to more than one-third of grouches. The dollar value of companies’ refunds wasn’t available.
  • American Express, a frequent leader in card satisfaction surveys, shined less brightly in the complaint data. About one in four of its customers was still unhappy after AmEx dealt with their gripe. That was the highest rate of disputed solutions among the group, although TD Bank, Chase and Bank of America had dispute rates almost as high.
  • People in some states are substantially more likely to get refunds than others. More than one-third of complainers in Wyoming and South Dakota got credits, double the rate in West Virginia and Mississippi (see state refund rate chart).
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,023 other followers