The Office of Consumer Affairs
December 1998-January 1999 Report
DOC Consumer-Related Activities


The following agencies are included in this report:

  • Bureau of the Census
  • Economics and Statistics Administration
  • International Trade Administration
  • Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Technical and Information Service (NTIS)


    -- Large property owners indicated the Americans with Disabilities Act, rent control, and waste disposal requirements were equally troublesome as their leading complaints.

    -- Medium-sized property owners ranked rent controls third.

    -- Small property owners complained about lead-based paint requirements.

    For questions about the data, contact Howard Savage (301-457-3199). For copies of the report, What We Have Learned About Properties, Owners and Tenants from the 1995 Property Owners and Managers Survey (H121/98-1), contact Customer Services (301-457-4100). The Internet address is

    -- Mining, manufacturing, wholesale, and selected retail establishments shipped $7.6 trillion of commodities weighing over 11 million tons in 1997.

    -- Trucking accounted for 72 percent of the value of shipments and approximately 69 percent of the overall tonnage.

    -- More than 50 percent of all tonnage traveled less than 50 miles.

    -- The value of shipments via the U.S. Postal Service, parcel delivery services, and couriers increased about 53 percent from 1993.

    For questions about the data, contact John Fowler (301-457-2108). For copies of the report, 1997 Commodity Flow Survey Preliminary U.S. Report, contact Customer Services (301-457-4100). The Internet address is

    -- The number of businesses in Maricopa County, AZ, increased by 3,052 and 77,612 employees were added to the county between 1995 and 1996 C more than any other county in the country.

    -- Other counties with the biggest gains in the number of businesses were Clark, NV; Broward, FL; Los Angeles, CA; and Tarrant, TX.

    -- Other counties with the biggest employee gains were Santa Clara, CA; New York, NY; Clark, NV; and Oakland, MI.

    For questions about the data, call 301-457-2580. Data can be accessed on the Internet at:

    -- The number of single fathers has grown 25 percent, from 1.7 million in 1995 to 2.1 million in 1998, while the number of single mothers (9.8 million) has remained constant.

    -- One-parent families comprise 27 percent of family households with children, up from 24 percent in 1990 and 11 percent in 1970.

    -- The average U.S. family household consists of 3.18 people, down from 3.58 in 1970, but unchanged from 1990. Hispanic families have an average of 3.92 members, African-American families average 3.42 members and non-Hispanic White families average 3.02 members.

    For questions about the data, contact Lynne Casper or Ken Bryson (301-457-2416/2465). Data can be accessed on the Internet at:

    -- California, the nation=s most populous state, grew by 1.5 percent during the year ending July 1, 1998, well above the national rate of 1.0 percent.

    -- The West remained the fastest-growing region, its population increasing 1.6 percent, followed by the South (1.3 percent), the Midwest (0.4 percent), and the Northeast (0.3 percent).

    -- While Nevada=s growth rate slowed, it remained the nation=s fastest-growing state for the 13th straight year (4.1 percent). Nevada=s population has grown 45.4 percent since April 1, 1990. Arizona was second in population growth (2.5 percent), followed by Georgia and Colorado (2.0 percent) and Texas (1.9 percent).

    -- In the Midwest, Kansas was the fastest-growing state (1.1 percent) and New Hampshire was the fastest-growing state in the Northeast (1.1 percent).

    For questions about the data, contact Marc Perry (301-457-2419). Data can be accessed on the Internet at:



    Selected Consumer-Related Information

    $ Income after taxes (also referred to as disposable personal income) increased 0.4 percent in November following a 0.5 percent rise in October.

    $ Consumer spending increased a slight 0.1 percent in November after strong gains of 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, in October and September. Modest spending increases in services and nondurable goods were largely offset by a decline in durable goods outlays.

    $ Automobile sales dropped 9.2 percent in November, due to lower sales of domestic makes, following an increase of 6.1 percent in October. Light truck sales eased 2.6 percent following an increase of 8.2 percent in October and a sharp rebound of 10.6 percent in September. Domestic sales of light trucks outpaced automobile sales for the first time in November.

    $ Housing starts declined 2.7 percent in November on sharp declines in the multi-unit structures component following an upward-revised 8 percent jump in October. Interest-rate-sensitive single-family starts, however, rose 5 percent to a level slightly above their 1.3 million unit annual rate peak in July.

    $ Mortgage commitment interest rates remained below the 7 percent level in early December and on into January as they have since late June.



    Healthcare Services Roundtable: The Office of Service Industries of the ITA organized a AHealthcare Services Industry Roundtable@ for Wednesday, February 3, 1999 at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is a follow-up to the AServices 2000: A Conference and Dialogue on Global Policy Developments and U.S. Business,@ sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Coalition of Service Industries held in October 1998.

    The primary purpose of this Roundtable is to meet with representatives of the healthcare services sector and discuss with them what issues should be included in the World Trade Organization=s (WTO) services negotiations beginning in 2000. The Roundtable will review the current status of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and consider important issues for the U.S. healthcare services sector in shaping the agenda for the next round of WTO negotiations. This is an informal gathering to help the U.S. Government plan the agenda for the Services 2000 negotiations.



    Direct Selling Education Foundation=s (DSEF) Consumer Advocate/Marketing Professor Joint Seminar, AEthics in Today=s High-Tech Marketplace: Issues, Challenges, Solutions.@ The Director presented an overview of the Consumer Bill of Rights & the Electronic Marketplace to keynote the 2-day seminar. As a follow-up to the meeting, DSEF will conduct an on-line shopping survey to identify gaps in consumer protection.

    Call for Action--As a result of the Director=s efforts, MBDA plans to link with Call for Action=s web site as a resource for minority businesses. Call for Action helps small businesses avoid being victimized by fraud in their relationships with vendors and suppliers. Their new brochure, Small Businesses Targeted by Big Scams, is available on-line at

    Direct Selling Association (DSA)--Director discussed Y2K with Jennifer Dunleavey, Manager of Operations and Y2K, and provided Departmental Y2K self-assessment information. Director also discussed e-commerce with Veronica Jacques, Manager of Government Relations, and distributed DSA=s new AGuidelines for Internet Use@ to DOC officials. The DSA Guidelines will be used by direct sellers in the United States to complement the existing DSA Code of Ethics.

    OCA Web Site--OCA revamped its web site to provide consumers with easily accessible and well-organized information. See for more information.

    Constituent Contacts: From December 1998-January 1999, OCA responded to 465 requests from constituents. The top three areas of complaint concerned banking and credit, automobiles, and miscellaneous topics.



    NIST and the National Conference on Weights and Measures developed the inspection procedure which state weights and measures inspectors used to assess price scanning accuracy. NIST also provided training in the inspection procedure which is also available to businesses to check their own accuracy.

    Price Check is a follow-up to a 1996 report about the accuracy of prices in stores with electronic checkout scanners. The 1998 study is a larger, more comprehensive review that compares scanned prices with the lowest posted or advertised price of a randomized sample of items in food, department, mass merchandise, drug, hardware, and other stores.

    More details are available on the NIST World Wide Web site at affairs/releases/scanner.htm. Copies of the 1998 and 1996 Price Check studies, as well as consumer and business education materials, are available from the FTC=s web site at and also from the FTC=s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580, (202) FTC-HELP (382-4357).

    The new guide also includes the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, as amended in 1988, 1995, and 1996. NIST coordinates Federal government policy on metric conversion for Federal agencies and on the use of the metric system by U.S. industry.

    More information on SI units is available at SP 814 is available from the NIST Inquiries Office by calling (301) 975-NIST (6478), faxing a request to (301) 926-1830, or sending e-mail to





    FEDWORLD7: In the January 1999 issue, Yahoo Internet Life magazine described NTIS= FedWorld as the Abest government information site@ in an article entitled ATop of the Net >98.@ Consumers can connect to FedWorld=s web site at and may also visit the NTIS home page at


    (Unless otherwise indicated, call the NTIS Sales Desk at 1-800-553-NTIS to order these products.)

    NOAA Diving Manual: Diving for Science and Technology (4th Edition): (PB 99-102600NEN, soft cover, $53; PB99-500191NEN, CD-ROM, $68, plus a handling fee. Note: These are special pre-publication prices. Orders must be received by March 31, 1999, to take advantage of this special pricing.) This new version of the NOAA Diving Manual has been greatly expanded and completely revised. It contains instructions, recommendations, and general guidance on the broadest possible range of underwater living conditions and diving situations. Although primarily directed toward NOAA and the scientific diving community, the broad coverage of this manual makes it a leading, comprehensive diving reference and even more useful than previous editions for all working and recreational divers. More than 100 well-known members of the diving community have contributed to this edition. The manual is the result of a collaborative partnership among NOAA, NTIS, and Best Publishing.

    CIA World Factbook (PB98-928006, $59 plus a handling fee) This 1998 update to the popular Central Intelligence Agency reference manual offers consumers current information on countries around the world. It contains a wealth of information on geographic entities, including independent states, areas of special sovereignty, and major bodies of water. Entries are listed alphabetically from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Topics covered include geography, economy, transportation, people, communications, military, climate, exports, ethnic groups, telephone systems, and highways.

    Stream Corridor Restoration: Principles, Processes, and Practices (PB98-158348NEN, $71 plus a handling fee): Stream corridors, or stream valleys, are complex ecosystems of great economic, social, cultural, and environmental value. They supply drinking water and support recreational opportunities, fish and wildlife habitats, and agricultural lands. Human intervention and natural disturbances have taken their toll on the approximately 3.5 million miles of streams in the United States, but help is on the way. A landmark cooperative effort among 17 Federal agencies has produced this 618-page technical reference manual which contains stream corridor restoration technology. This manual provides expert advice and field-tested methods to help protect and improve the Nation=s stream corridors. It is useful to academia, government agencies, conservation groups, builders biologists, contractors, landowners, engineers, geologists, and private consultants. For more information, call the NTIS Sales Desk and request NTISPR1068. (The CD-ROM version of the manual is expected in mid-March.)

    Strategies for Aggressive Driver Enforcement (PB99-104150NEN, $23 plus a handling fee): This report discusses this new traffic safety phenomenon which has emerged as an issue of the 90's--a major concern to the motoring public and to the police. It focuses on roadway congestion as the major cause of the problem and cites aggressive driving practices such as tailgating, unsafe lane changes, and speeding as examples of behavior that often leads to fatalities. The report also describes steps police are taking to encourage compliance with traffic laws and to inform the public about the dangers of aggressive driving.

    PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL (Call the NTIS Sales Desk at 1-800-553-NTIS to order this free material.)

    PR-1042 - 1999 U.S. Export Administration Regulations

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