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Consumer Confidential: New watchdog agency, safer Toyotas, Kardashian sues

July 21, 2011 | 10:17 am

Karpic Here's your hold-that-tiger Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opens for business Thursday. This is arguably the most important advance for consumers from Uncle Sam in years. The bureau will incorporate regulatory powers from about half a dozen existing agencies but will focus exclusively on ensuring that consumers are getting a fair shake from credit-card issuers, mortgage lenders and other financial-services companies. President Obama has nominated former Ohio Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray to run the agency, but Republican lawmakers say they won't approve anyone until they get changes in how the watchdog bureau is run. Until a director is installed, some regulatory powers, such as oversight of payday loans, will remain sidelined.

-- This is kind of cool: Toyota is developing new technology that takes control of the steering so your car can veer away when it isn't able to stop before a crash. Cars that stop or slow down automatically before an object or person in anticipation of a possible crash are not new. But Toyota's latest precollision system adds a steering-control feature. In the new system, Toyota uses cameras and a super sensitive radar called "millimeter-wave," both installed in the front of the vehicle, to detect possible crashes such as a pedestrian crossing the road. The vehicle calculates how braking and steering must be applied to avoid a crash. No word on when the technology will be rolled out commercially.

-- Kim Kardashian probably won't be shopping at Old Navy anytime soon (if she ever did). The reality show starlet, who is famous for, well, whatever, is suing the clothing store and its parent company, Gap, in a Los Angeles federal court alleging their ads violate her publicity rights because they feature a woman who looks like Kardashian. A video of a broadcast ad featuring a smiling, dark-haired woman who bears a resemblance to the real Kardashian has been viewed more than 2 million times on Old Navy's YouTube channel. Kardashian's lawsuit says consumers may be confused by the ads and the model's actual endorsements, which include her own clothing store and shoe line. Meanwhile, there's no truth to the rumor that Kardashian and I are anything more than just friends. I just want to put that to rest.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: That's the real Kim Kardashian, and she's hopping mad at Old Navy. Credit: Paul Hackett/Reuters