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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

UK's "CFPB" Nails Big Brit Banks for Unfair Credit Card Add-on Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Emulating the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, London's Financial Conduct Authority has ordered 11 big UK banks, including a Capital One subsidiary, to return "hundreds of millions of pounds" to consumers over "mis-selling" of unnecessary "card security" insurance that duplicates protection by law. In the psat two years, the CFPB has ordered $1.5 billion in refunds to U.S. consumers duped by similar add-on subscription products. The products were sold by a Stamford, CT based "loyalty club" marketer, Affinion, that has been the subject of enforcement actions by a number of U.S. state attorneys general.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Statement on the President's State of the Union Address

The State of the Union address is the President's opportunity to articulate his priorities.  In a time of divided government, action on many of the President's priorities will require an agreement with Congress.  However, it is notable the range of issues raised by the President where he and his Administration can take action independent of Congress. We list our U.S. PIRG position on key highlights:

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

U.S. PIRG Applauds Reintroduction of Reform Legislation on the Fifth Anniversary of Citizens United

On the fifth anniversary of the wrong-headed Citizens United decision, the need to get big money out of our elections couldn’t be greater. U.S. PIRG applauds the reintroduction of critical reform legislation by over a dozen leaders in Congress today, including the Democracy for All Amendment, introduced by Senator Tom Udall, and the Government by the People Act, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New Study Identifies Eleven Highway Boondoggles Across the Country

A new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund identifies 11 examples of wasteful highway spending that are slated to cost at least $13 billion and are based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Will Bear Nearly $200 Million of Friday’s HSBC Settlement

Friday’s $550 million settlement between the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and HSBC North American Holdings Inc. can be treated as a tax write-off by the bank, shifting $192.5 million onto taxpayers. Because the FHFA did not specify that the settlement payment cannot be treated as a regular business expense, HSBC will be able to deduct the entirety of the $550 million payment.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

We urge CFPB to issue safeguards for mobile financial services and privacy

We urge (along with the Center for Digital Democracy) the CFPB to issue rules so consumers can use mobile financial services without placing their privacy at risk or exposing themselves to new forms of predatory lending and other unfair practices. We filed a joint comment in response to a CFPB information request.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Statement of Mike Russo, Federal Program Director with U.S. PIRG, on today’s Senate vote on the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United

Amending the Constitution was never meant to be easy, but we know that the public overwhelmingly supports getting big money out of politics. Today’s vote is just the beginning, and marks a big step forward in the movement to reclaim our democracy.

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With Apple Pay, the tech leader takes its shot at replacing the wallet

We comment in a Washington Post story describing Apple's big product announcements Tuesday. We don't talk about the two new iPhones or even the totally new and much ballyhooed Apple Watch. We talk about Apple Pay, a digital wallet. What are its implications for consumer data security, convenience and choice?

Excerpt: Yet Apple Pay could prove the bigger bet, given its potential to shake up two industries — retail and finance. [...] “Apple’s claiming it’s more secure. We’ll have to see,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report is our 26th annual survey of toy safety. In this report, we provide safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and provide examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems are spreading rapidly across the United States. As many as 700 local jurisdictions have entered into deals with for-profit companies to install camera systems at intersections and along roadways to encourage drivers to obey traffic signals and follow speed limits. Local contracting for automated traffic enforcement systems may sometimes be a useful tool for keeping drivers and pedestrians safe. But when private firms and municipalities consider revenues first, and safety second, the public interest is threatened.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Making the Grade

This report assesses the progress that the states have made, and for the states that have begun to set up their health care exchange, evaluates them on the myriad policies and criteria that will determine whether it is ultimately successful in improving health care for consumers.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Tax-Increment Financing

Tax-increment financing (TIF) has been a widely used tool for municipalities seeking private investment. TIF allows cities and towns to borrow against an area’s future tax revenues in order to invest in immediate projects or encourage present development. When used properly, TIF can promote enduring growth and stronger communities for blighted neighborhoods; but TIF can also end up wasting taxpayer resources or channeling money to politically favored special interests.

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Report | Food

Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will U.S. Trade Deal With Europe Eliminate Consumer Protections? | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Tuesday, on Election Day, Washington State voters will consider the question "Yes On 522: To Label Genetically-Modified Foods." The right to choose your food is a right that American consumers want and every European citizen already has. But at the behest of the powerful agribusiness industry, U.S. trade negotiators want to take it away from all of us on both sides of the Atlantic in a secret deal. U.S. PIRG is among the consumer groups pushing back.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Student Loan Forgiveness: Available for Many, Used by Few | Ethan Senack

More than 33 million Americans are eligible for student loan forgiveness, but only a tiny fraction to advantage of the program.

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Blog Post | Democracy

The People Strike Back

On October 8, as the Supreme Court debated lifting the aggregate limit on campaign contributions, a growing democracy movement was out in full force in front of the Court and in cities across the country.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency | Phineas Baxandall

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Shows Credit CARD Act Works | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, the CFPB released a report showing that the landmark PIRG-backed Credit CARD Act of 2009 is saving consumers billions of dollars by helping them avoid penalty fees and unfair interest rate increases. We joined CFPB director Richard Cordray and others in Chicago to discuss the report's findings.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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