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Consumer Confidential: Cellphone fees, new-home sales, Pac-Man eats hours

May 26, 2010 | 10:38 am

Here's your waste-not, want-not Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Stop the presses: One in six cellphone users has encountered unexpected fees from their wireless service provider, according to a new report from the Federal Communications Commission. And almost half of cellphone customers were surprised by how much they had to pay for canceling their service early. "There is still more that can be done to help customers navigate what is sometimes a confusing marketplace," says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, adding that consumers need "simple and easy to understand" contracts. Something tells me that if wireless companies can't do this on their own, federal regulators will be more than happy to assist.

-- We saw the other day that sales of existing homes received a big boost last month from buyers rushing to take advantage of a tax credit. Now it's new homes' turn. The Commerce Department says sales of new homes hit a two-year high in April -- again because of that tax credit, which shaved about $8,000 off many purchases. New-home sales were up almost 15% last month, helping put a dent in inventory and boding well, experts say, for the long-term prospects of the housing market.

-- It was fun that Google celebrated the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man by sticking a playable version of the game on its homepage. Turns out, though, that the little birthday present chewed up about 4.8 million hours of people's collective time. A study by RescueTime finds that it cost the U.S. economy more than $120 million in lost productivity as workers dawdled over little smiley guy and his ghost pals. Well, at least we weren't downloading porn, right?

-- David Lazarus

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