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The government shutdown's info drain

Posted by Mitch Lipka  October 2, 2013 11:00 AM

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shutdown msg.jpgOne thing the federal government has been able to do for consumers has been to provide information to help folks figure out what's a scam and how to handle certain financial situations.

A series of web pages, most notably those put together by the Federal Trade Commission, are filled with important educational information that anyone can use to help determine if they're making a big mistake with their money. That is until the government shutdown.

Go to some of these sites today and you'll be met with an apology of sorts. Really, it's a sign that they're closed right now.

To add insult to that injury, the government also cut off the ability to file Do Not Call complaints. If you think you're getting a lot more phone solicitations this week, it might not be coincidence. Shady telemarketers are well aware the place consumers are supposed to go to complain about them is closed.

Perhaps it's part of a strategy to let us know what we're missing when the government isn't there. But, seriously, is blocking access to static information pages really necessary? Is it good government policy? Or is it just plain dumb?

It's one thing when you call the FTC and find out that no one's there. And it makes sense if you put up a banner -- as many other agencies have done -- on each page that says that due to the government shutdown the website won't be updated. It's quite another to prevent consumers from being diligent and doing research by seeing what information the agency already has put out regarding business opportunities, reverse mortgages or telemarketing.

Not every agency has engaged in this type of behavior. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which, thankfully, also has a lot of the information the FTC is now blocking, has its website up and running. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission isn't updating its site (which makes sense), except to provide safety information when there are "imminent risks," but it also didn't take away the rest of the information it has assembled over the years.

Politics is one thing. Common sense, apparently, is something entirely different.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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