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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | Ed Mierzwinski

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

Achtung Baby! German Bank Settlement Could Include $490 Million Loophole

As the German-based Commerzbank approaches a settlement agreement to resolve allegations surrounding the bank’s role in illegal money laundering with sanctioned states, the Justice Department will need to forbid tax deductions for this corporate wrongdoing or the bank will likely deduct the payments as an ordinary cost of doing business. In that case, ordinary taxpayers would ultimately shoulder up to $490 million of the deal.

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News Release | Public Health

McDonald’s announces plan to cut overuse of antibiotics in chicken

McDonald’s announced a new policy today to curb the overuse of antibiotics in raising the chickens that ultimately become McNuggets or other McDonald’s products, within 2 years.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As House Holds Oversight Hearing, 340 Groups Call For Defense of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray will present the CFPB's sixth semi-annual report to the House Financial Services Committee, whose majority members have been harsh critics of the successful consumer agency. Americans for Financial Reform, joined by the state PIRGs and a total of 340 national, state and local groups, sent Congress a letter explaining why the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Media Hit | Tax

Bill would boost disclosures in corporate settlements with U.S.

Concerned that targets of federal investigations are getting off lightly, two senators proposed legislation requiring the government to disclose all the details about settlements that allow companies to duck trials on allegations of wrongdoing.

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The biggest credit card complaint: your bill

Billing disputes, interest rate issues and fraud concerns are the most frequent complaints filed by credit card users, according to a new report issued this week by the Public Interest Research Group. The consumer advocacy organization examined all 175,000 complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since it began taking complaints in 2011, including 29,000 filed against credit card issuers, to determine the ranking.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

A Step In The Right Direction: Appropriations Bill Roots Out Some Waste, but Doesn’t Do Enough To Protect Public Priorities and End Special Interest Handouts

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Jaimie Woo on the Bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the House of Representatives. 

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Media Hit | Budget

Congress Sheds Light On Government Waste

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee discussed ways to reduce government waste at a hearing Thursday, with a group of think tanks offering recommendations that ranged from cutting military programs to stopping aid to states.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Capital One Most-Complained-About Credit Card Company

WASHINGTON – Consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that consumers in the District of Columbia and Delaware are most likely to file credit card complaints.

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Easy Money

Congress has the opportunity this year to increase student aid funding by billions of dollars at no additional cost to taxpayers. Bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that would increase federal student aid for those colleges and universities that utilize the more economically efficient of the two federal student loan programs. The Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced in March 2005, would increase student aid funding by redirecting the subsidies currently going to student loan companies to needy students.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Supposed settlement between merchants and credit card networks lurching toward collapse | Ed Mierzwinski

In July, news broke that merchants and the Visa and Mastercard payment networks had agreed to settle charges that "interchange" fees that the networks charged the merchants to accept credit and debit cards were unfair. Now, all the merchant associations involved have withdrawn from the deal because it wouldn't punish the banks, wouldn't reduce the fees that result in higher consumer prices and would bind merchants, including those not yet born, from any future lawsuits for unfair payment network practices.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB says 1 in 5 credit scores sold to consumers have "meaningful" differences from scores lenders use | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB has confirmed what consumer advocates have been saying all along. Credit scores heavily marketed to consumers aren't the same as those used by lenders; at least 1 in 5 consumer scores have "meaningful" differences and that "score discrepancies may generate consumer harm." That's why we call them FAKO scores.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Poultry Industry And USDA Wants to Put Dangerous Chicken on Your Plates | Nasima Hossain

The new USDA proposed poultry inspection rule is being hailed as a common sense, cost-saving rule by OIRA and the poultry industry. It will purportedly streamline antiquated poultry inspection requirements, allowing companies to choose a more flexible approach, with five-year savings apparently in excess of $1 billion.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Financial follies update: Discover Card pays deceptive marketing penalty | Ed Mierzwinski

Discover Card has paid a $14 million civil penalty to the CFPB and FDIC, plus refunded over $200 million to ripped-off consumers, in the latest case involving useless, junk credit insurance and credit monitoring add-ons that consumers didn't buy, but pay for, to credit card bills. Read more for that and other weekend financial follies.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB hearing today in House, expect more attacks | Ed Mierzwinski

As Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, prepares to testify this morning in the House, committee leaders have released statements showing they're not so much interested in oversight. They;ve already made up their minds that an agency with only one job, protecting consumers, is a bad idea.

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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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