Category Archives: Consumer Advocacy

PaPUC Approves Three Applications for Permanent Operating Authority as Transportation Network Companies

puc_sealOn February 9, 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved two applications for authority to operate as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) – increasing the total number of approved TNCs in Pennsylvania to three companies.

The Commission voted 5-0 to grant licenses to transport persons via TNC services to Lyft, Inc., which had previously been issued an experimental two-year authorization from the PUC.

The Commission also voted 5-0 to approve a license application submitted by Freed Man Autonomous Vehicles, LLC.

Previously, on Jan. 26, 2017, the Commission approved a TNC license application submitted by Rasier-PA, a wholly-owned affiliate of Uber Technologies, Inc.

The Commission oversees transportation services operating throughout Pennsylvania – including taxis, limousines and TNCs – with the exception of Philadelphia, where those activities are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. In December 2016 the Commission established an application process for new TNC licenses under Act 164 of 2016, which created the regulatory framework for TNCs to operate in Pennsylvania. Act 164 was signed into law by Governor Wolf in November 2016. Prior to that time, TNCs operated in most of Pennsylvania under experimental authority granted by the PUC.

In a joint statement issued at yesterday’s public meeting, PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Robert F. Powelson took note of the growing number of TNCs now licensed to operate across Pennsylvania as the result of Act 164, emphasizing that innovative services are good for consumers, good for the transportation industry and good for business in the Commonwealth.

All of the TNCs approved by the Commission are required to maintain consumer protections and comply with all driver integrity, vehicle safety and insurance requirements set forth in the Public Utility Code or the Commission’s orders and regulations, along with all requirements established by Act 164. Additionally, to the extent that any autonomous vehicles or vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems and technologies are used, such vehicles shall be and shall remain in continuous compliance with all current and future vehicle safety rules and regulations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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First Step to Starting Your Business

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Prince Law Offices, P.C. attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin will be presenting at “First Step to Starting Your Business” in cooperation with the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center.
First Step to Starting Your Business (Lancaster, PA)
Date:Fri, February 17, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Point of Contact: Kutztown SBDC (877) 472-7232
Fee: None
Location: 454 New Holland Ave Suite 300 Lancaster, PA 17602
This workshop covers a number of critical issues relevant to starting and operating a small business. Professional presenters include attorneys, insurance agents, accountants, financial specialists and zoning and codes staff. The workshop is designed for both entrepreneurs thinking about opening their first business and existing business owners looking for a “checkup”.
Desire more specific assistance regarding your business formation, agreements, intellectual property, trademarks, zoning, real estate law, cyber security, insurance, etc., contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business

ftcThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published an updated version of its Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business.

A sound data security plan is built on 5 key principles:

  1. TAKE STOCK. Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers.
  2. SCALE DOWN. Keep only what you need for your business.
  3. LOCK IT. Protect the information that you keep.
  4. PITCH IT. Properly dispose of what you no longer need.
  5. PLAN AHEAD. Create a plan to respond to security incidents.

Most companies keep sensitive personal information in their files—names, Social Security numbers, credit card, or other account data—that identifies customers or employees.

This information often is necessary to fill orders, meet payroll, or perform other necessary business functions. However, if sensitive data falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to fraud, identity theft, or similar harms. Given the cost of a security breach—losing your customers’ trust and perhaps even defending yourself against a lawsuit—safeguarding personal information is just plain good business.

Some businesses may have the expertise in-house to implement an appropriate plan. Others may find it helpful to hire a contractor. Regardless of the size—or nature—of your business, the principles in this brochure will go a long way toward helping you keep data secure.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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FTC Charges D-Link Put Consumers’ Privacy at Risk Due to the Inadequate Security of Its Computer Routers and Cameras

Device-maker’s alleged failures to reasonably secure software created malware risks and other vulnerabilities

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint today against Taiwan-based computer networking equipment manufacturer D-Link Corporation and its U.S. subsidiary, alleging that inadequate security measures taken by the company left its wireless routers and Internet cameras vulnerable to hackers and put U.S. consumers’ privacy at risk.

In a complaint filed in the Northern District of California, the FTC charged that D-Link failed to take reasonable steps to secure its routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, potentially compromising sensitive consumer information, including live video and audio feeds from D-Link IP cameras.

The complaint filed today is part of the FTC’s efforts to protect consumers’ privacy and security in the Internet of Things (IoT), which includes cases the agency has brought against ASUS, a computer hardware manufacturer, and TRENDnet, a marketer of video cameras.

“Hackers are increasingly targeting consumer routers and IP cameras — and the consequences for consumers can include device compromise and exposure of their sensitive personal information,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When manufacturers tell consumers that their equipment is secure, it’s critical that they take the necessary steps to make sure that’s true.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, D-Link promoted the security of its routers on the company’s website, which included materials headlined “EASY TO SECURE” and “ADVANCED NETWORK SECURITY.” But despite the claims made by D-Link, the FTC alleged, the company failed to take steps to address well-known and easily preventable security flaws, such as:

  • “hard-coded” login credentials integrated into D-Link camera software — such as the username “guest” and the password “guest” — that could allow unauthorized access to the cameras’ live feed;
  • a software flaw known as “command injection” that could enable remote attackers to take control of consumers’ routers by sending them unauthorized commands over the Internet;
  • the mishandling of a private key code used to sign into D-Link software, such that it was openly available on a public website for six months; and
  • leaving users’ login credentials for D-Link’s mobile app unsecured in clear, readable text on their mobile devices, even though there is free software available to secure the information.

According to the complaint, hackers could exploit these vulnerabilities using any of several simple methods. For example, using a compromised router, an attacker could obtain consumers’ tax returns or other files stored on the router’s attached storage device. They could redirect a consumer to a fraudulent website, or use the router to attack other devices on the local network, such as computers, smartphones, IP cameras, or connected appliances.

The FTC alleges that by using a compromised camera, an attacker could monitor a consumer’s whereabouts in order to target them for theft or other crimes, or watch and record their personal activities and conversations.

These tips can help you secure your router:

  • Before you buy or replace a device, do research online. Use search engines to find reviews, but be skeptical about the source of the information. Is it from an impartial security expert, a consumer, or the company itself?
  • Download the latest security updates. To be secure and effective, update the software that comes with your device. Check the manufacturer’s website regularly for new software and updates.
  • Change your pre-set passwords. Change the device’s default password to something more complex and secure.

There are additional steps you can take to help keep your IP camera secure.

The FTC has provided guidance to IoT companies on how to preserve privacy and security in their products while still innovating and growing IoT technology.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint against D-Link Corporation and California-based D-Link Systems, Inc. was 2-1, with Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen voting no. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

NOTE: The FTC files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by a federal district court judge.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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1 Billion Yahoo Accounts Hacked – What You Can Do Now

Yahoo announced that 1 billion of their accounts were hacked. These accounts are now sold by internet criminals to other bad guys which are going to use this information in a variety of ways. For instance, they will send phishing emails claiming you need to change your Yahoo account, looking just like the real ones.

The latest breach drew widespread criticism from security experts, several advising consumers to close their Yahoo accounts.  “Yahoo has fallen down on security in so many ways I have to recommend that if you have an active Yahoo email account, either direct with Yahoo of via a partner like AT&T, get rid of it,” Stu Sjouwerman, chief executive of cyber security firm KnowBe4 Inc, said in a broadly distributed email

Here is what I and Stu Sjouwerman suggest you do right away.

  • If you do not use your Yahoo account a lot. Close it down because it’s a risk. If you use it every day:
  • Open your browser and go to Yahoo. Do not use a link in any email. Reset your password and make it a strong, complex password or rather a pass-phrase.
  • If you were using that same password on multiple websites, you need to stop that right now. Using the same password all over the place is an invitation to get hacked. If you did use your Yahoo passwords on other sites, go to those sites and change the password there too. Also change the security questions and make the answer something non-obvious.
  • At home, use a free password manager like LastPass that can generate hard-to-hack passwords, keep and remember them for you.
  • Watch out for any phishing emails that relate to Yahoo in any way and ask for information.
  • Now would also be a good time to use Yahoo Account Key, a simple authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.

This is the largest publicly disclosed hack ever, below is a graph fresh from an article in the Wall Street Journal that puts it in perspective.

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If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Need Internet? Lifeline Program Expanded to include Internet

puc_sealNearly 500,000 Pennsylvanians use Lifeline, which has now been expanded to include broadband internet service for low-income households, in addition to, or in combination with, landline or wireless voice telephone service.

“Lifeline is intended to help make communications more affordable and more accessible for low-income households, helping them stay connected to information about jobs, family, health care, schools and emergency services,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “It is essential that consumers understand the expanded options now available – including a variety of voice and internet services – and also make note of federal efforts to streamline the list of eligible assistance programs used to qualify for Lifeline.”

In an effort to increase awareness about the Lifeline program, the PUC developed a new informational brochure, “Stay Connected with the Lifeline Telephone Assistance Program.” Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling the PUC at 1-800-692-7380 or downloading the information from the PUC website. Consumers also are encouraged to reach out to their local telephone, wireless or internet companies, to see if they qualify for Lifeline and other available programs for limited-income telephone customers.

Additionally, all five Commissioners have reached out to the CEOs of Pennsylvania telecommunications companies, requesting their assistance in educating consumers about federal changes to the Lifeline program and enhanced opportunities for low-income households to connect to voice and internet service. Responses from those companies have been published on the PUC website, including information about outreach and education plans; any focused efforts to reach current subscribers about program and eligibility changes; and details regarding any additional discounts or promotional programs.

Effective Dec. 1, 2016, consumers have several communications choices under the Lifeline program:

  • Landline or wireless internet service only;
  • A combination of landline or wireless telephone and internet service; or
  • Landline or wireless telephone only (Lifeline support for voice-only telephone service will be phased out by the end of 2021).

Federal rules limit Lifeline participation to one discount per household, so it is important for consumers to carefully evaluate their options when applying for service. Lifeline provides a monthly $9.25 per household discount on telephone or internet service, from either landline or wireless providers. The discount appears in the form of a reduction to consumers’ monthly bills.

Lifeline services are available to consumers who are enrolled in the following eligible assistance programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension benefits, Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Additionally, Lifeline is available to households whose income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $32,805 for a family of four).

Additional information about Lifeline and other communications assistance programs, along with contact information for various telephone companies that participate in the Lifeline program, is available on the PUC website.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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You Can Save $$$ – PUC Announces Upgrades to Electric Shopping Website PAPowerSwitch

papowerswitchSwitching power is easier than ever.  You may be able to save money by switching your electric supplier.

In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your electricity – also known as your electric supplier. This means that you have the power to switch to a competing supplier who can offer the lowest price or provide a specific service you want, such as green/renewable energy.  See what options are available to you!  PAPowerSwitch.com

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently announced upgrades to PAPowerSwitch to make the site fully responsive no matter what kind or size of device they use, with updated cleaner and easier navigation; a more attention-grabbing way for visitors to learn more about individual offers on the shopping pages; consolidated pages; and enhanced security.  Over the last two years, nearly 1.9 million visitors have shopped for electric supply offers using PAPowerSwitch.

Chairman Brown pointed to the Commonwealth’s competitive electric market experiencing 14 consecutive months of sustained growth since early last fall.  As of the end of November, nearly 2.1 million Pennsylvania electricity customers (or 36.9 percent) currently receive their electric generation from a competitive supplier.  The November 2016 figure reflects a 3.5 percent increase in the total number of shoppers from September 2015, when the statewide monthly shopping number last dropped.

  • PAPowerSwitch.com, the PUC’s neutral source for power shopping information, is a trusted resource to which respondents turn for information about electric providers, and it will be an educational and helpful resource in the future when making electric provider decisions.

Of the consumers who visit PAPowerSwitch.com:

  • Ninety percent somewhat/strongly agree that the website provides helpful information.
  • Eighty-seven percent are very/extremely satisfied.
  • Seventy percent say that the website is very/extremely easy to navigate.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with PUC matters, lower rates or alternative energy projects, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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