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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB getting results for consumers this week | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, a senior bank industry lawyer said he was "amazed" at the amount of work the CFPB had accomplished "in such a short amount of time." This week, the CFPB stepped up its game another notch, when it returned $34 million to consumers who'd been deceived by a medical debt credit card pitched by their doctors and dentists and their receptionists and also took a big step toward ending forced arbitration in consumer contracts. Had any victims of the medical credit card wanted to go to court because they'd been ripped off, they couldn't, since the small print on that card, like the small print on most others, would send them instead to arbitration, no better than a kangaroo court.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Cuts Some Waste, but Misses Chance to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

With our nation facing tough budget choices, U.S. PIRG applauds Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan for naming a few names when it comes to wasteful programs and special interest giveaways. This is the first step to ending the arbitrary sequester approach to budgeting, which throws the baby out with the bathwater...Unfortunately, the budget plan fails to close a single corporate tax loophole. This is a huge missed opportunity...There’s much more room for lawmakers to find common ground by ending wasteful programs while preserving those that serve the public interest, and closing the loopholes that only benefit special interests.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Advocates Decry Harm Done to Consumers by Forced Arbitration

On date of CFPB field hearing in Dallas to release report on forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform, National Consumer Law Center, National Association of Consumer Advocates and Public Citizen issue joint release. From the release: “Unfair arbitration clauses encourage unfair corporate practices and sloppy customer service,” said Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. PIRG. “If your customers cannot take you to court, why should you care about their complaints? We urge the CFPB to act quickly to ban forced arbitration clauses in financial products and services contracts.”

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

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Tips for consumers deciding whether to keep their individual health insurance plan or switch to a new plan.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Volcker Rule Finally Out, Will Require Vigilant Enforcement and Tough Judges

Regulators today released the final so-called Volcker rule designed to prevent Wall Street banks from placing the kinds of risky bets that helped magnify the 2008 mortgage market collapse into a spectacular failure of the financial system leading to trillions of dollars in lost retirement income and the loss of millions of jobs and millions of homes. [...] The final rule is stronger than the proposed rule and stronger than the rule that the banks wanted, reflecting the outpouring of support from citizens across the country, in favor of a robust Volcker rule. [...]

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report: Reduction in Driving Likely to Continue

As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue. Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while driving-averse Millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down for decades. Download our infographic for a visual presentation of the report’s chief findings.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Statement from Student and Youth Groups on Rep. Kline’s Student Loan Proposal

Yesterday, Rep. Kline introduced a student loan reform package, H.R. 1911, which pegs student loan interest rates to the market, moving away from the fixed rates that are set by Congress. Under this plan, student debt levels will increase. While we are pleased that the proposal includes a cap on interest rates, a critical feature to indicate to borrowers that their loans will not rise past certain limits, the interest rates on some loans could still rise to double digits - far too high.  

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Media Hit | Democracy

USA Today: Make companies disclose political spending

If the Supreme Court is intent on allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of shareholders' money on political causes, the least shareholders can expect is the information they need to raise a stink.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Selection of New Director for Federal Housing Finance Authority is Opportunity to Protect Consumers

The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) should be accountable to consumers, taxpayers and Congress as it works to stabilize housing markets. The selection of a permanent FHFA director is an important opportunity to restore this powerful office to a servant of the public, rather than a captured creature of moneyed interests.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Representatives Bass and Courtney Speak on Legislative Solutions to Student Debt Crisis

U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (CT) and Karen Bass (CA) were joined today by student advocacy groups to highlight legislative solutions to rein in student loan debt. One year ago today, the United States' total amount of student debt crossed the $1 trillion mark.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The Wealth Primary 2004

Building on our analyses of the 2002 congressional primary and general elections, we examined campaign finance data compiled by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for the 2004 congressional primaries. Predictably, we found that money continued to play a key role in determining election outcomes and that the majority of campaign contributions came from a small number of large donors (many of whom reside out-of-state).

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Paying the Price 2004

In late summer of 2004, the PIRGs conducted a survey of more than 400 pharmacies in 19 states across the country and Washington, DC to determine how much uninsured consumers are paying for 12 prescription drugs commonly used by adults under age 65. We then compared these prices with the prices the pharmaceutical companies charge one of their “most favored” customers, the federal government, and also with the prices paid by consumers in Canada.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Toward a Small Donor Democracy

Long before voters register their preferences on Election Day, the flow of political money determines which candidates are able to mount viable campaigns for federal office. Providing public incentives for small political contributions could help average Americans play a more meaningful role in influencing who has the resources to run effective campaigns and win public office.

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

Duty To Disclose

Scientists in the United States and abroad continue to raise serious concerns about the environmental and human health risks associated with growing and consuming genetically engineered crops. As a result, genetically engineered foods may pose financial risks to the food companies buying and selling genetically engineered crops.

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

Voters in Seven California Counties Consider Banning Genetically Engineered Agriculture

In March 2004, despite industry spending $700,000 in opposition, Mendocino County passed Measure H, which makes it unlawful to cultivate or raise any genetically engineered crops or animals. As a result of Mendocino County’s success, seven other counties in California are poised to make decisions to also prohibit genetically engineered agriculture this fall.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Congress in zombie-like push to weaken investor laws and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, PIRG-opposed bi-partisan effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist Kathleen Pender and the NY Times ed board both rip the idea. While Congress appears trapped in a zombie-like fugue state, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG (WHO-TV Des Moines) marched against nuclear power this weekend. All this and more consumer  news of the week, in case you missed it.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer fraud summit today will be webcast | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATE: LINK TO C-SPAN WEBCAST ARCHIVE (My PANEL here and entire event here.)

In times of financial calamity, fraudsters come out to take your last dollar. This afternoon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will host a consumer financial fraud summit (agenda) at Georgetown Law School near Union Station bringing together enforcers from the DOJ, FTC, state agencies and consumer groups. I'll be on a panel discussing business opportunity frauds. Other panels will be on elder fraud and tax scams. The event is free and open to the public and will be webcast.

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Blog Post | Public Health

BuckyBall Magnets Still A Danger to Children | Nasima Hossain

Magnets posing as a serious health hazard to children keep appearing in the news. Now with this latest incident in Portland, Oregon, where a three year old girl was rushed into emergency surgery after swallowing 37 tiny magnets, we urge parents if they have had a scary incident with a magnet to alert the Consumer Product Safety Commission through their website.

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Blog Post | Democracy

After Super Pac Tuesday: Dominant Donors, Apathetic Voters

A new WashingtonPost-ABC News poll shows that on Super Tuesday, those going to cast their ballots in the presidential primary are not particularly enthusiastic about any of the candidates. Why? There is a fundamental problem that explains much of the disconnect between the candidates and the rank-and-file voters: the fact is, voters did not choose these candidates -- donors did.

It has become clear over the course of this primary season that a candidate's super PAC's prowess in knocking down the competition is key to staying in the race. Yet a recent U.S.PIRG/Demos study found that of all itemized contributions to super PACs, 96% came in contributions of $10,000 or more from just 1,097 donors.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Has Congress Forgotten Enron, Dutch Tulip Bubble Scandals? | Ed Mierzwinski

A misnamed package of legislation to weaken investor protection laws -- the so-called Jobs Act -- is speeding through the House this week. While some Senators are for parts of the package, the Senate is taking a closer look at whether rolling back the landmark investor protections known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act enacted after the Enron and related accounting scandals is really the way to go.

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