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Consumers' CHECKBOOK Terms of Use
December 21, 2014

arrow_Introduction Introduction
arrow_website The Website
arrow_privacy Privacy Policy
arrow_privacy Security
arrow_billing Subscription Fees, Billing, & Renewals
arrow_limitations Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Limitations on Use
arrow_surveys Surveys
arrow_disclaimers Disclaimers
arrow_privacy Contact Us

Introduction

The content contained within the checkbook.org website and its associated web pages are presented by Consumers' Checkbook, a division of the Center for the Study of Services, with the intent of providing public service information on consumer products and prices, service provider quality and prices, and consumer health and health-related topics. Health care information and advice is not intended nor is implied to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

When you use this site, it is important that you are fully aware of our respective legal rights and obligations. For that reason, we have created these Terms of Use as the legally binding terms to govern your use of the Consumers' CHECKBOOK website, your obligations when you provide information for the website, your obligations as a CHECKBOOK subscriber, and CHECKBOOK's policies on privacy, security, and other matters. Please read these Terms of Use carefully.

By registering on this site, subscribing to this site, or using this site, you warrant that you have the legal capacity to enter into the agreement set out in these Terms of Use, that you agree to these Terms of Use, and accept the obligations of a CHECKBOOK user.

If you do not agree with any of these Terms of Use, please do not use this site.

Please note that these Terms of Use may be revised and reissued without notice at any time by updating this posting. You should visit this page regularly to review the current Terms of Use, since your continued use of the site will be deemed as acceptance of any revisions.

The CHECKBOOK Website

The CHECKBOOK website contains many products, sections, and area that may appear under different product names and domain names. For example, Guide to Top Doctors, Guide to Hospitals, Guide to Health Plans, Patient Central, CarBargains, LeaseWise, and others, are all part of Consumers' CHECKBOOK and contained within the checkbook.org domain regardless of their referring domain. These Terms of Use apply to all content contained within the checkbook.org domain regardless of referring domain or URL and the term CHECKBOOK may be used to refer to any product or information offering provided through the checkbook.org website.

Each area of CHECKBOOK may have unique considerations and expectations regarding Terms of Use. We will attempt to describe these areas below to make it easy for the user to find areas relevant to their activities on the CHECKBOOK website.

CHECKBOOK Privacy Policies

CHECKBOOK Subscribers

Double Opt-In

When you subscribe, Consumers' CHECKBOOK employs a stringent "double opt-in" method to both protect your privacy and to ensure that you are aware of, and agree to CHECKBOOK's Terms of Service. We do not include in our site any functionality allowing third parties to perform "reverse searches" to identify individuals from e-mail addresses or through "cookies."

Cookies

CHECKBOOK uses "cookies" to maintain your access privileges during an online session and as part of identity verification for those users who register to complete online surveys, among other user features. This is also one step of many that is taken to avoid ballot-box stuffing. We do evaluate site usage by analyzing user information in the aggregate, only in a way that does not typically identify any individual user. In light of these purposes, please note that you must accept cookies in order to use the CHECKBOOK website.

Note: Cookies are never used by third parties for marketing or tracking purposes.

Sharing Your Name with Other Publications & Nonprofit Organizations

Consumers' CHECKBOOK accepts no outside advertising, the lifeblood of all publications. In order to hold down our publicity and acquisition costs, we sometimes allow other publications and nonprofit organizations to use our mailing list. If you find such mailings annoying and do not want us to let others have your name, please indicate your preference in your subscriber registration information.

Emails from CHECKBOOK

Consumers' CHECKBOOK will occasionally send out announcements on CHECKBOOK products, requests for member input, and other news items we believe will be of interest. At the request of many subscribers, we have augmented our renewal notifications with delivery by email. We have also developed a secure, subscriber-friendly, survey area on the CHECKBOOK Website. The need for us to communicate with our members on this variety of topics does not allow us to exclude registered online members from emails that concern matters pertaining to your Consumers' CHECKBOOK subscription, so-called "transactional" email. If, however, you do not wish to receive announcements of new CHECKBOOK products or special CHECKBOOK news, you may indicate your preference in your subscriber registration information, by email at subscriptions@checkbook.org, or by telephone at 800-213-7283.

Non-Subscribing Users

Cookies

CHECKBOOK uses "cookies" to maintain your access privileges during an online session and as part of identity verification for those users who register to complete online surveys, among other user features. This is also one step of many that is taken to avoid ballot-box stuffing. We do evaluate site usage by analyzing user information in the aggregate, only in a way that does not typically identify any individual user. In light of these purposes, please note that you must accept cookies in order to use the CHECKBOOK website.

Note: Cookies are never used by third parties for marketing or tracking purposes.

Emails from CHECKBOOK

Consumers' CHECKBOOK will occasionally send out announcements on CHECKBOOK products, requests for user input, and other news items we believe will be of interest. Any emails you receive from CHECKBOOK will include a opt-out link should you decide you do not wish to receive announcements of new CHECKBOOK products, ratings, articles, or special CHECKBOOK news.

CHECKBOOK Website Security

Registration & Password Security

Security checkpoints are set up as part of your subscription/registration process. You are asked to establish a UserName and create a Password that only you know. This security is enhanced through your creation of a "secret question." The "secret question" is asked should your identity need to be verified. To enhance your security, our subscriber services support personnel will not be able to know your password. Should you forget your password, you will provided with a link to create a new one. You will be asked to answer your Secret Question and, if the answer is correct, you will be able to create a new password.

Encryption & Credit Card Information Policy

The credit card number you use when subscribing to CHECKBOOK, or a CHECKBOOK product, is protected by encryption, so it cannot be read as it is transmitted over the Internet. The encrypted data are transmitted using a secure socket layer (SSL) connection. When attempting to determine if information is being processed through an SSL connection on a CHECKBOOK web page, look for the web site's address to change to one that begins with "https" (check for the "s"). The encrypted data go to a secure site for processing. Your credit card information is encrypted and kept in restricted-access files only for the length of time required to service your transaction request and is then deleted. Credit card information requiring storage to satisfy future automatic renewal requests is encrypted and stored on a separate protected computer network, isolated from the Internet, to maximize security. The Consumers' CHECKBOOK website (http://www.checkbook.org/) is scanned quarterly by an independent external monitoring service to verify security compliance for Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements.

SSL Certification

Consumers' CHECKBOOK is certified by Thawte SSL certification. The Thawte Secure Site Program allows you to verify that the information registered for a particular website is consistent with the site you are visiting and promises a very strong level of encryption.

CHECKBOOK Subscription Fees, Billing, & Renewals

Consumers' CHECKBOOK will charge you a subscription fee in order to provide our subscription services. You acknowledge that Consumers' CHECKBOOK reserves the right to modify its subscription fees and billing methods at any time. Subscription fees are paid in advance through our website billing mechanism.

When "Convenience Renewal" option is selected

If you select the Convenience Renewal option for any subscription type where this option is offered, Consumers' CHECKBOOK will automatically renew your subscription at the subscription rate (such rate may be modified as stated above) using the credit card number on file at Consumers' CHECKBOOK that was last used on this account. If the renewal of your subscription fails, CHECKBOOK may attempt to process your renewal for a period of up to 90 days. Consumers' CHECKBOOK will provide you with notice of an upcoming renewal charge attempt through an email sent to your registered subscription email address on file at Consumers' CHECKBOOK. Notification of an upcoming renewal charge attempt will be sent via email either shortly before the publication of the issue of Consumers' CHECKBOOK with which your subscription expires or within seven days of your expiration date, depending on the type and term of CHECKBOOK product to which you subscribe. Subscriptions may be cancelled at any time through a link on your My Account page at http://www.checkbook.org/ or by calling 1-800-213-7283.

Encryption & Credit Card Information Policy

The credit card number you use when subscribing to CHECKBOOK, or a CHECKBOOK product, is protected by encryption, so it cannot be read as it is transmitted over the Internet. The encrypted data are transmitted using a secure socket layer (SSL) connection. When attempting to determine if information is being processed through an SSL connection on a CHECKBOOK web page, look for the web site's address to change to one that begins with "https" (check for the "s"). The encrypted data go to a secure site for processing. Your credit card information is encrypted and kept in restricted-access files only for the length of time required to service your transaction request and is then deleted. Credit card information requiring storage to satisfy future automatic renewal requests is encrypted and stored on a separate protected computer network, isolated from the Internet, to maximize security. The Consumers' CHECKBOOK website (http://www.checkbook.org/) is scanned quarterly by an independent external monitoring service to verify security compliance for Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements.

Monthly Subscriptions (not currently offered)

If you select a monthly subscription, each month Consumers' CHECKBOOK will automatically renew your Monthly Subscription at the Monthly Subscription rate (such rate may be modified as stated above) using the credit card information on file at Consumers' CHECKBOOK. If the renewal of your monthly subscription fails, CHECKBOOK may attempt to process your renewal for a period of up to 90 days. You acknowledge that Consumers' CHECKBOOK will not provide you with any notices prior to each monthly renewal payment. Monthly subscriptions may be cancelled at any time through a link on you're My Account page at www.checkbook.org. No partial month refunds will be made.

The user agrees to accept any charges to credit card accounts whose information you provide to Consumers' CHECKBOOK for the purchase of products or services.

Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights, & Limitations on Use

This Web Site and the information available through it are the property of Consumers' Checkbook, a division of the Center for the Study of Services, and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. By using this site, you agree not to reproduce, retransmit, distribute, disseminate, sell, publish, broadcast, print or circulate any of the information received through this Web Site to anyone without the express prior written consent of Consumers' Checkbook, and to accept any charges to credit card accounts whose information you provide on-line for the purchase of products or services. This Web Site, and any of its data, listings or other constituent elements may not be downloaded, republished, resold or duplicated, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes or for purposes of compiling mailing lists or any other lists. All information presented in this Web Site is intended for your personal, non-commercial use. Scraping of information from this website by automated or manual agents is prohibited. The use of this Web Site to establish independent data files or compendiums of statistical information is prohibited. Consumers' Checkbook and the Center for the Study of Services reserves the right to limit, restrict, or terminate access to this Web Site at our discretion, without notice.

Surveys

Participation in CHECKBOOK Surveys - General

CHECKBOOK solicits ratings of service firms and healthcare providers from CHECKBOOK subscribers, Consumer Reports subscribers, and other selected consumers. As a survey participant on this website, you agree that:

  • You will not provide comments or ratings or other information, directly or by links to other sources, that is defamatory, known by you to be false or inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, exploitative, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or in violation of any law.
  • Your comments or ratings provided to CHECKBOOK in response to surveys or polls will only report on your actual first-hand experiences with service providers.
  • You will report only on a service experience that you have had within about a year of the job completion (or a longer period if CHECKBOOK specifically asks about a longer period).
  • You confirm that you do not work for, are not in competition with, and are not in any way related to the service providers for which you submit comments or ratings.
  • You agree not to post any copyrighted material in comments areas unless the copyright is owned by you.
  • You are solely responsible for the content of your ratings and comments.
  • You will hold harmless CHECKBOOK and CHECKBOOK's employees and agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of your ratings or comments.
  • You agree not to post any advertising, URLs with affiliate IDs or tracking numbers, or anything which actively promotes a site or company.
  • You agree not to represent yourself as another person, company, or entity.

CHECKBOOK reserves the right to delete any message, to revoke your access to the CHECKBOOK website, or disable your posting ability for any or no reason.

CHECKBOOK's policy is not to routinely reveal the identity of individuals who provide ratings or comments for use in CHECKBOOK's ratings and comment areas so long as such information is provided in accord with these Terms of Use. But individuals who comment on firms should be aware that their identity might be able to be discerned by the subjects of comments based on information the commenter includes in the comments themselves, including contact email addresses. Further, individuals who rate or comment on firms should be aware that CHECKBOOK might provide identities of such individuals if required to do so, or if CHECKBOOK judges that it could be required to do so, by a court of law.

Response by a Firm or Provider to Subscriber Comments & Ratings

If a firm or provider feels the need to respond to a comment placed on the CHECKBOOK website, the procedure is as follows:

Send an email to support@checkbook.org containing a copy of the comment to which you are responding, along with the text of your response. Identify your firm and your position with the firm. The firm will be contacted by CHECKBOOK to verify that the response is genuine and upon verification, the firm's response will be posted with the original comment that has prompted the firm's response.

Participation in CHECKBOOK Surveys - Patient Experience of Care

This section sets out the Checkbook Terms of Use related to surveys, sponsored by Checkbook, in which patients are surveyed about their experience of care with their physicians ("Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians" or "Our Surveys"). This Section does not apply to any of our other surveys or other products or services. Specifically, this Section does not apply to surveys we conduct as a contractor for any third party; instead, we will comply with the privacy practices established by the third party on whose behalf we are conducting such a survey.

We are a not-for-profit organization that strives to provide consumers with information to help them get high-quality services and products at the best possible prices. One of our initiatives has been to survey patients to find out what they have to say about the care they get from their doctors. We are conducting these Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians with the assistance of certain healthcare providers and health plans. We hope that the survey results can be of use to you and others when choosing a doctor and can help patients and doctors improve their interactions.

Personal information we collect

In order for us to conduct Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians, we need to receive information from providers or health plans so that we can identify patients who have visited certain doctors so that we can ask these patients to complete the Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians about their experiences. The information we receive from providers or health plans about individual patients or members ("Plan-Provided Information") may include, for example, information such as the name of the patient, the name of a responsible adult for a child patient, the patient's postal and/or e-mail address, the name and/or other identifier of the doctor seen by the patient, certain service/procedure codes that might be included in a patient's insurance claim, the date of the patient's claim or service, and the patient's gender, date of birth, and health plan. We receive this information from providers and health plans under a confidentiality agreement and do not share or use it except as described in this Privacy Policy.

When you participate in the Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians, we also may collect personal information that you report to us ("Participant-Provided Information"). For example, in responding to the questions in the survey, you may provide information about how often you visit or otherwise access your doctor or how often you have undergone a particular medical test. We also may collect other personal information that you provide when completing a survey, such as your gender, ethnicity, and educational background.

How we use this information

Collection Procedures

We use the Plan-Provided Information to identify persons who can be surveyed; to select a sample to be surveyed; and to supply a unique identifier to each doctor whose patients might be surveyed. For those patients we ask to answer a Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians, we place some of the Plan-Provided Information (such as address, age, gender, health plan, etc.) into a "Survey Sample File." Each patient who is asked to answer a Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians is assigned a unique, numeric "Patient Code" in the Survey Sample File.

The Patient Code is included in survey cover letters and on all questionnaires. The letters and/or questionnaires also include the name of the physician the patient is asked to evaluate and, in some surveys, the name of the health plan of the surveyed patient. The letters may also invite the surveyed patient to complete the survey online using the Patient Code to identify herself or himself on a website.

When a participant responds to a Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians, their answers are entered into a "Survey Response File" and identified by the participant's Patient Code. In addition to survey responses, the Survey Response File includes some demographic information imported from the Plan-Provided Information, but it does not include the participant's name and address. We generally do not link Patient Codes with names or addresses except to confirm if a participant has responded to a request to complete a Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians or to re-send the survey to non-responders. If we collect e-mail addresses from participants in a Checkbook-Sponsored Survey about Physicians, we keep those addresses in segregated files that contain the Patient Code for respondents but do not contain answers to other questions on the survey.

Doctor Reports

We may use the Survey Response File to create reports about certain doctors, which we call "Doctor Reports." The Doctor Reports may show how a certain doctor is rated by his or her patients who responded to the survey on an aggregated basis. In preparing these reports, we combine all patient responses for a particular doctor, and the Doctor Reports will not include any personally identifiable information about a particular patient or reference any particular survey participant or any Patient Codes.

Some versions of Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians invite patients to leave text comments describing their experience with, or evaluation of, their doctor. Where this is done, participants are notified that any such comments may be shared with doctors or with the public. If you choose to provide such a comment, you should be careful not to write anything that will identify you as the source of the comment if you do not wish to be so identified.

Other Uses

We may use Plan-Provided Information or Participant-Provided Information for some other uses including: providing you with information or services that may be of interest to you; responding to your questions and comments; soliciting information and feedback from you, including through surveys and questionnaires, and for other editorial purposes; performing consumer research and internal analyses; improving the quality of Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians and our other products and services; and as otherwise described to you at the point of collection or pursuant to your consent.

With whom we share this information

We may make our Doctor Reports available to the public at the "What Patients Say About Their Doctors" portion of our Site (www.checkbook.org/patientcentral) and/or through the websites and other materials of the organizations with whom we enter into a relationship. We also may publish the Doctor Reports in our magazines, books, and other websites and materials.

As described above, we segregate your personal information from non-personal information that we collect by assigning you a Patient Code. We will be able to match your Patient Code back to your name, but, in order to help protect your privacy, we will not match your answers back to your name in our published Doctor Reports. Additionally, Checkbook does not intend to share your answers on an identifiable basis with your doctor or anyone involved with your care, unless you choose to provide comments that identify you as the source of such comments.

We may provide information or data from Survey Sample Files or Survey Response Files to our service providers to assist in mailings, data capture, and analysis (but we will require our service providers to comply with this Privacy Policy). In addition, we may provide information from Survey Response Files to organizations such as the National CAHPS Benchmarking Database (NCBD), an organization funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to maintain a database that can be used by researchers to make general research findings about the performance of, and possible changes or improvements in, the types of surveys we frequently employ. If respondent-level data are provided to the NCBD or similar entity, we will take reasonable steps to ensure that the data cannot be used to identify patients who have given responses about the doctors evaluated.

We will not disclose information that we collect in connection with Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians to other third parties, except as described above or in these limited circumstances:

  • to respond to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process, in response to a request for cooperation from law enforcement or another government agency, to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding actual or suspected illegal activities, actual or suspected fraud, or to protect our rights or the rights of others;
  • with other entities affiliated with Checkbook;
  • in connection with a transaction, such as a divestiture, merger, consolidation, or asset sale; and
  • as otherwise described to you at the point of collection or pursuant to your consent.

We do not share personal information that we collect about you in connection with Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians with third parties for direct marketing purposes.

How you can access your information

You can ask to view the personal information that you have provided to us about yourself by contacting us at the address listed below.

How we protect your information

We have implemented security procedures to help protect the personal information that you provide to us. However, no method of transmitting or storing electronic or other data is ever completely secure, and we cannot guarantee that such information will never be accessed, used, or released in a manner that is inconsistent with this policy.

Children's Privacy

The Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians is not intended for individuals under the age of 13, and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13. Should we learn that a child under 13 has provided us with personal information, we will delete that information from our database.

Third Parties

This Privacy Policy describes our practices with regard to the personal information that we collect about you in connection with the Checkbook-Sponsored Surveys about Physicians, but it does not cover the practices of your health plan, or other third parties, such as entities that operate websites to which we link or entities with which we share information as described above. We recommend that you examine the privacy statements posted by other third parties to understand their procedures for collecting, using, and disclosing personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Policy

We may update this Privacy Policy in the future. We will notify you about material changes to this Privacy Policy by placing the updated Privacy Policy on the Site and/or contacting you using any contact information that you have provided us, and we will indicate in the Privacy Policy the date on which it was most recently updated. Any personal information that you provide to us after we modify this Privacy Policy will be governed by the practices described in the updated Privacy Policy.

Disclaimers

Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services cannot and does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, correctness, non-infringement, merchantability, or fitness for a particular purpose of the information or views available through this web site, or the site itself. Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services shall not be liable to you or anyone else for any loss or injury caused in whole or in part by its negligence or contingencies beyond its control in procuring, compiling, interpreting, reporting or delivering this web site and any information through this web site. In no event will Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you in reliance on such information or views or for any incidental, consequential, special, or similar damages even if advised of the possibility of such damages. You agree that the liability of the Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services, if any, arising out of any kind of legal claim (whether in contract, tort or otherwise) in any way connected with the web site or the information in the web site shall not exceed the amount you paid to Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services for use of the web site or subscription or purchase of Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services publications. Some states do not allow the limitation or exclusion of liability for incidental or consequential damages, so the above limitations or exclusions may not apply to you. The above warranties are the only warranties of any kind either expressed or implied including warranties of merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose.

How you can contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about these Terms of Use, you may write to us at:

Privacy Office
Checkbook/CSS
1625 K Street, NW, Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20006