Business & Finance
Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports August 2017

Ratings, recommendations, reliability reports, safety and price comparisons from the world’s largest consumer testing center. Helps consumers make better choices for everything from cars to cell phone service. The only magazine of its kind: Expert, independent, nonprofit. 100% unbiased. Consumer Reports accepts no outside advertising.

United States
Consumer Union
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$7.01(Incl. tax)
$33.75(Incl. tax)
12 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
fighting for fairness on every front

AT CR WE ALWAYS keep our eyes peeled for marketplace issues that threaten core consumer principles like fairness, value, and privacy. Traditionally, that has meant raising the alarm when industries engage in unfair pricing practices or when companies play fast and loose with your personal information. But as more of our everyday purchases, our social conversations, and even our major life decisions take place online, it’s vital that consumers have a partner they can trust working to ensure that the same values we’ve always fought to instill in auto plants, grocery aisles, product development labs, and factory ­oors are being upheld in the digital world as well. This month we’re taking a hard look at a new wave of consumer issues that have big implications for the security and fairness of…

3 min.
building a better world, together

Save the Watchdog WHAT’S AT STAKE The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), launched in 2011, has returned almost $12_billion in refunds and relief to more than 29_million consumers victimized by unlawful and fraudulent ?nancial services. At a time when our government is marred by gridlock, these results are eye-popping. The CFPB is tasked with uncovering and stopping unfair, deceptive, and abusive ?nancial practices and keeping the rules that govern credit cards, loans, bank accounts, and other ?nancial services up-to-date. To accomplish that job, the CFPB was created as an independent agency to ensure that it could avoid pressure and capture by the ?nancial industries whose practices it was charged with overseeing. But Congress is now threatening to cripple the CFPB, and the consumer protections that go with it. Lawmakers are considering bills that…

7 min.
hitting close to home

Readers’ comments about our content, in email & social media I WAS DUSTURBED that you did not touch upon the ethical issues associated with using Airbnb. Far from being a service where people can just rent out empty spaces in their own homes, Airbnb has morphed into a service that has condoned and in many places encouraged the buying up of properties that would normally be rented out. This has the e­ect of taking properties o­ the housing market, driving up real estate prices. This has been a huge problem in places like New York City and San Francisco, where reasonably priced housing is desperately needed. Instead, people should spend their money on a (regulated) hotel or B&B and hire a good local tour guide. —Stephanie Leveene, San Jose, CA YOU WEAR…

6 min.
walk this way

The latest ratings from our labs Percentage of Americans who agree that using a fitness tracker helped them Source: Consumer Reports 2017 survey of 1,007 fitness-tracker users. From left: FITBIT SURGE $250 87 OVERALL SCORE TOMTOM SPARK 3 CARDIO + MUSIC $250 85 OVERALL SCORE GARMIN FORERUNNER 35 $200 85 OVERALL SCORE HUAWEI FIT $130 82 OVERALL SCORE WITHINGS STEEL HR $145 79 OVERALL SCORE FITNESS TRACKERS ARE getting better and better at what they’re primarily designed to do: count your steps and measure your heart rate. Twenty-two of the 27 trackers in our ratings now earn a top score in step counting, and nine of the 13 models that measure heart rate are excellent in that. What’s more, the step-count feature now built into many smartwatches and smartphones is generally accurate, too, we found. But beyond technical proficiency, will trackers help you reach the goals…

1 min.
will counting your zzz’s improve your sleep?

SOME TRACKERS claim to record how much and how well you sleep by measuring your bedtime tossing and turning, plus your heart rate. That information, the theory goes, can help sensitize you to your sleep patterns, and sleep better as a result. Fitbit, for example, worked with Stanford University scientists on software that uses your sleep data to estimate how much time you spend in light vs. deep sleep, and to develop advice designed for you. But experts we consulted aren’t convinced. For one thing, trackers don’t reliably “differentiate between quiet wakefulness and light sleep,” says Kelly Baron, Ph.D., at Rush University Medical School, who wrote about trackers in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. As a result, they may overestimate sleep. And even if the trackers are accurate, they may not always…

1 min.
is a smartphone or smartwatch a good enough tracker?

MANY SMARTPHONES now come with a built-in step counter. And smartwatches often track steps plus your heart rate. So why bother investing in a standalone fitness tracker? Consumer Reports tested step counting on an iPhone 7 and a Samsung Galaxy 8. The phones were carried in a front pants pocket, a shoulder bag, and a runner’s armband. When each phone’s scores were averaged, both counted steps about as accurately as an excellent stand-alone fitness tracker, we found. Still, Charles Davidman, who oversees CR’s fitness-tracker testing, cautions that smartphones may miss some steps, simply because many people don’t carry the devices everywhere. And most don’t offer heart-rate monitoring, an important feature for fitness buffs. Consumer Reports also tested the Leaf Silver Edition Health Tracker, a device geared to women that tracks steps but not heart…