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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Five Safety Breakthroughs in Five Years

On August 14, 2008, the CPSIA was signed into law after a deliberative process and overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law includes strong product safety reforms that revitalized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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An $18 Million Lesson in Handling Credit Report Errors

"Even after sending more than 13 letters to Equifax over the course of two years, Julie Miller could not get the big credit bureau to remove a host of errors that it inserted into her credit report. [...] So she tried suing. That worked. [...] “Big punitive penalties may help force the bureaus to upgrade their 20th-century algorithms and incompetent dispute reinvestigation processes,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “But C.F.P.B.’s authority to supervise the big credit bureaus is one of the most significant powers Congress gave it.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

New Study: 82 of Top 100 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2012

With Congress considering big cuts to public programs, U.S. PIRG released fresh evidence that the vast majority of large companies are dodging taxes by stashing money in offshore tax havens. In a study of the top 100 publicly traded companies, as measured by revenue, the study reveals that 82 maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Collectively, the companies report holding nearly $1.2 trillion offshore.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Offshore Shell Games

This study reveals that tax haven use is ubiquitous among the largest 100 publicly traded companies as measured by revenue. 82 of the top 100 publicly traded U.S. companies operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions, as of 2012. All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

CFPB Announces Further Investigation of Campus Debit Card and Student Loan Disbursement Practices, Asks for Student Stories

Banks and other financial firms contracted to disburse federal financial aid often charge high and unfair debit card fees. U.S. PIRG applauds the CFPB for redoubling its efforts today to protect students from being nickel-and-dimed out of their financial aid money.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: New Fees in the Cards from Credit Companies

Despite some new fees, cardholders are much better off then they were before protections ushered in by the card act, said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington, D.C.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG Commends President for Renomination of Richard Cordray to Head CFPB

The CFPB is the nation's first financial regulator with only one job — to protect consumers in the marketplace. The Senate should reject demands by opponents of consumer protection to condition Cordray's approval on the gutting of the agency's authority or on the removal of its independent funding.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

U.S. PIRG and Allies Mark Citizens United Anniversary, MLK Day With Dozens of Actions Across the Nation, New Data on Election Spending

This week U.S. PIRG joined with ally organizations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC with events drawing attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. Under the banner of Money Out/Voters In, organizers are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states on and around the weekend of January 19.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Demos | Democracy

"Billion-Dollar Democracy" The Unprecedented Impact of Big Money in 2012 Elections

It took just 32 billionaires and corporations giving Super PACs an average of $9.9 million apiece to match every single dollar given by small donors to Romney and Obama in the 2012 election cycle, according to “Billion-Dollar Democracy,” a new report by U.S. PIRG and Demos. Those small donations amounted to over $313 million from more than 3.7 million individuals.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Preying On Portlanders

In August of 2005, our staff surveyed 21 licensed payday lending storefronts in the City of Portland. Because many of the payday lending storefronts are owned and operated by the same payday lender, the survey is representative of approximately ninety-five percent (95%) of the licensed active payday lending storefronts in the City of Portland. The survey aimed to determine the interest rate most commonly charged in the City of Portland, based on a $300 loan principal for a 14-day term.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

The Right Start

A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy. Unfortunately, not all products marketed for children and babies are completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

College Students Faced More than $31 Billion in Unmet Financial Need in 2003-2004

The report finds that public college students from a family with a household income of $62,240 or less face an average of $3,986 a year in unmet need. On average public college students from families with a household income of $34,288 or less fare even worse, facing an average of $4,990 a year in unmet need.

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

Looking Forward After Katrina

We have developed a quick snapshot of some of the environmental health problems in the wake of the hurricane, as well as recommendations for governmental officials to take into account as they move forward.

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

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

B of A tests new fees, CFPB asks for your checking account complaints | Ed Mierzwinski

Reporters are calling about BofA's proposed new checking account fees, "Ed, what does it mean?" Meanwhile the CFPB says checking accounts can be "complex and confusing" and announced it is now  ready and waiting for your checking account complaints. Find out more.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Funding Cuts for Testing of Deadly Bacteria in Fresh Produce | Nasima Hossain

The USDA budget would eliminate the nation’s only program that regularly tests fruits and vegetables for deadly pathogens. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses and to speed up recalls of dangerous fresh produce.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

WH urges privacy rights, industry promises "Do Not Track Sometimes" while states investigate Google | Ed Mierzwinski

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Today, CFPB to announce overdraft fee investigation, unveil "penalty box" disclosure, possibly end $39 lattes. | Ed Mierzwinski

At a news conference in NYC today, Director Richard Cordray of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will announce a major investigation of bank overdraft fee practices and propose a model "penalty box" disclosure to appear on bank statements. The investigation could end the $39 latte-- $4 bucks for the coffee, $35 for the debit card overdraft fee.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following | Ed Mierzwinski

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices.

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