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Consumer Confidential: Amazon fallout, hybrids galore, Ford recall

December 9, 2011 | 10:14 am

Here's your Brandy-you're-a-fine-girl Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--It's not just brick-and-mortar retailers who are unhappy about luring away shoppers with its Price Check app. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) called on the Internet heavyweight to drop its promotion because it gives consumers an incentive to gather price data from small retailers and leave stores without spending money. Amazon is offering a 5% discount on Saturday to entice users to try a new mobile app that compares its prices with real-world retailers. "Amazon’s promotion -- paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed -- is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities," Snowe says. "Incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far." (Bloomberg)

--There's likely a hybrid in your future. One of every two cars will be either a hybrid or some other alternative-fuel vehicle by 2040, oil giant Exxon Mobil predicts. Hybrids, which rely on both gas and electricity for power, currently account for less than 1% of all vehicles on the world's roads. They should move into the mainstream as governments boost fuel-efficiency requirements, Exxon says. Power for those hybrids, along with other vehicles and a growing number of households around the world, will increasingly come from natural gas, nuclear power and renewable energy sources like wind, Exxon believes. But the largest publicly traded oil company also makes clear that oil will remain king of the energy world for many, many years. (Associated Press)

--Speaking of wheels, heads up: Ford is recalling more than 128,000 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans from the 2010 and 2011 model years because the wheels can fall off the cars. The recall affects only cars with 17-inch steel wheels built from April 1, 2009, through April 30, 2009, and from Dec. 1, 2009, through Nov. 13, 2010. Federal regulators say that bolts holding the wheels on can fracture, causing a vibration. If the vibration is ignored, the wheels can separate from the car. Ford says it's not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem. (Associated Press)

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Sen. Olympia Snowe thinks Amazon should back off its price-check promotion. Credit:  Harry Hamburg / Associated Press