A hard look at
■ PC recycling
■ What’s organic?
Online sales tax
TITLE INSURANCE IS often a confusing home- no firm definition for this category. However, the
buying requirement that costs buyers about $17 industry’sconsensusisthat“natural”productsmust
billion each year. contain no artificial preservatives, sweeteners or
Lenders require title insurance when financing a coloring, chemical additives or hydrogenated oils.
home mortgage as protection against potential own- Certified Organic Ingredients. This indicates
ership claims or liens on the property. Premiums for that ingredients are certified by the USDA as or-this service can account for as much as one-third of ganic. However, the entire product is not “organic”
the closing costs of escrow. The more expensive the because it may contain or use nonorganic materials
property, the higher the premium. and processes.
Instead of comparison shopping, most home
buyers simply use the title insurance agent recom- Online shoppers due for shock
mended by the mortgage lender, real estate agent or Shoppers who buy on the Internet or by mail
lawyer. As a result, kickback schemes have prolifer- order because they don ’t have to pay sales tax are
ated, leading to vastly inflated costs of title insurance due for a dollar shock. States are
for many innocent home buyers. moving closer to collecting taxes
In addition, title insurance companies are often on these transactions.
fully or partly owned by real estate lenders and Nineteen more states have
brokers. Such an arrangement, federal regulators say, now agreed, as part of what is
can create conflicts of interest. That’s why Congress, called the Streamlined Sales Tax
prompted by allegations of kickbacks and other Project, to remove the sales-abuses, is taking a hard look at how this industry is tax difficulties of small
currently functioning. and medium-sized
businesses over the
The toxic side of recycling Internet. The project’s
Computer companies are expanding take-back proposals include
offers by offering U.S. customers free shipping and tax-law simplification
recycling of their outdated hardware, but there are and more efficient
still problems with the system. administrative tech-
The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition says increas- nologies as a way to
ing numbers of computers are being recycled, and reduce the burden
about 80 percent of the electronic waste slated for of tax collection.
recycling in the United States is being shipped over- The bottom
seas. But when these products reach their destina- line is that 45 states
tion, they are usually dismantled by low-wage andthe Districtof
workers who are exposed to the toxic chemicals and Columbia will finally
other electronic elements without any protection or be able to collect out
oversight from U.S. or local governments. of consumers’ pockets
Something needs to be done before this recy- the mega-dollars due
clable material is shipped out of the country to make them in sales and
sure that people who handle it abroad are protected. use taxes. C
If you prefer to buy natural body-care products AMY CAN TRELL
in the United States, be aware there is no definitive David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
way to identify the “organic” nature of products that His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
do not carry the U.S. Department of Agriculture the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
(USDA) seal. check the radio page at www.fightback.com.
Instead, shoppers find an assortment of confus- © 2006 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
ing labels on organic body-care products, which can
mean any of the following definitions.
MY DAUGHTER made
credit mistakes in college. She’s now paid
off the bills, but needs
to improve her credit
rating. In order to erase
the bad marks, the credit
bureaus insist that her
creditors contact them—
but the creditors won't
budge. Many companies
advertise they can help
us, but they charge a lot.
What should she do?
Rancho Murieta, CA
CHERYL, an outside
party can’t help. Credit
violations can legally
remain in the file for
seven years. Paying off a
debt does not mean that
the mark will be erased.
could ask again,
but if an account
has already been
paid, there is
for creditors to
delete it. If it
paid, she might
try to negotiate
ment in exchange
Her best bet is to
build a new history by
credit references, with
timely payments. Experts
suggest four active credit
accounts with a clean
payment history. This is
not a quick fix, but recent
history is the most impor-
tant. The good references
will eventually outweigh
the negative ones.
USDA Organic. This official seal guarantees Do you have a question for David?
that the ingredients in a product are free of antibi- Just log on to www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond to
otics, synthetic pesticides and genetically modified your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco members
organisms. Products containing the USDA seal con- receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest interest to
tain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the contributor