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Federal Consumer Agency Ponders Its Next Crusades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.[...] Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group, said this might be the single most important issue on the agency’s agenda. “The biggest thing we are hoping for in 2014 is to finish or at least make major progress with the arbitration rule and ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts,” he said. “In many of these cases you are ripped off for $10 or $100 each. But millions of consumers are ripped off. That’s why we think it’s a very big deal.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bipartisan Push to Make Government Settlements More Transparent

Today, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Coburn (R-OK) that would make government settlements with corporate wrongdoers more transparent and accountable to American taxpayers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Regulators Disallow Tax Deduction for JPMorgan’s $1.7 Billion Settlement, Saving Taxpayers Close to $600 Million

Regulators saved taxpayers as much as $595 million by preventing JPMorgan from writing off its $1.7 billion payment for allegedly enabling Madoff Ponzi scheme

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Media Hit | Tax

Tax Breaks for Corporate Wrongdoing, Part 1: The FTC

The Federal Trade Commission should be set up to ensure that corporate wrongdoers don't get a tax break for their misdeeds.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan’s Tax-Deductible Settlement is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The corporate practice of taking a tax deduction for settlement payments made to federal agencies is ubiquitous

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Tips for Bypassing Healthcare.gov Glitches and Getting Enrolled

While experts work to fix the problems with the federal health insurance marketplace website, U.S. PIRG urges consumers to take advantage of other ways to enroll.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

WASHINGTON – Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Sallie Mae, the student lending giant, generated the most private student loan complaints nationally, and ranked first or tied for first in every single state. Student loan borrowers in the U.S. carry $24,803 on average in total student loan debt.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Get Tax Break for “London Whale” Settlement

JPMorgan could get a $35 million tax deduction from its $100 million settlement with Commodity Futures Trading Commission unless the regulator explicitly forbids it.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Do Roads Pay For Themselves?

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering – or nearly covering – the full cost of highway construction and maintenance. They are wrong. To have a meaningful national debate over transportation policy – particularly at a time of tight public budgets – it is important to get past the myths and address the real, difficult choices America must make for the 21st century.

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

Trouble in Toyland

The 2010 Trouble in Toyland report is the 25th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety.  In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Track Record of Success

As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country, we have much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what the United States can expect from high-speed rail and how we can receive the greatest possible benefits from our investment.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Toward Common Ground 2010

U.S. PIRG and National Taxpayers Union have joined together to propose a list of 30 specific recommendations to reform our future spending commitments. If enacted in their entirety, these changes would save taxpayers over $600 billion in total by 2015, the target date for the Fiscal Commission to reduce our publicly-held debt-to-GDP ratio to a more sustainable level of 60 percent.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Recipe for Disaster

To assess one cost of that delay, Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group studied recalls of foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from August 1, 2009, to the present.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Supreme Court hears case on textbook prices with implications for all secondary markets (Amazon, eBay) | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard an important case concerning whether publishers can restrict owners of books from reselling their used copies, raising massive implications not only for the prices of textbooks but also for the very existence of important secondary markets like Amazon and eBay.  U.S. PIRG joined others in urging the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's view that consumers lose longstanding rights to resell copies of copyrighted books, if the books were made outside the US.

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Blog Post | Transportation

A Trillion Fewer Driving Miles? | Phineas Baxandall

Transportation policy needs to focus on whether the youth-trend toward less driving since 2004 is the new normal.

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Blog Post | Health Care

Here’s that Rx refill you didn’t order | Laura Etherton

Is your pharmacy refilling your prescription without your knowledge or approval, and billing your insurance company for the cost? If so, it’s the latest example of waste we shouldn't tolerate in our health care system.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Industry lobbyists pre-launch 2013 assault on financial reform and other financial follies | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED (AGAIN)) Industry lobbyists, under cover of a "bi-partisan" center, have pre-launched their 2013 assault on financial reform. Meanwhile, as the FTC dings fake debt collectors, the CFPB heads to Seattle to presumably announce its authority to supervise or examine "larger" debt collectors. Read more for news of these and other financial follies.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Five Factors Will Determine Whether TIFIA Will Fund Transit | Phineas Baxandall

"TIFIA," the federal transportation loan program was super sized in the recent transportation law. New rules make the program even more of a slush fund for private toll roads, while others provide possibility for long-overdue public transit expansion. This blog appeared in slightly condensed form at StreetsBlog.

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The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Food and Drug Administration to put an end to the worst practices.

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