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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 | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

CFPB Ends Kickbacks by Mortgage Insurers

U.S. PIRG applauds CFPB’s enforcement action, including over $15 million in total penalties, against four mortgage insurers to end the practice of giving kickbacks to mortgage companies to get their business.

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

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,026 a Year, Small Businesses $3,067

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. U.S. PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The report also found that the average small business would have to pay $3,067 to cover the cost of offshore tax dodging by large corporations.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Consider ASCE Report Card in Light of Stimulus Repairs and Reduced Driving

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG Senior Analyst, explaining how reactions American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card for America’s infrastructure should be interpreted in light of: (1) the short-term federal assistance from stimulus funds that have since expired; and (2) a persistent trend by Americans toward driving less.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Don’t Double Student Loan Interest Rates

Today, college student leaders from Kent State University, Florida International University, together with Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, and Ethan Senack from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, called on federal lawmakers to keep student loan interest rates from doubling. On Wednesday, the House Education and Workforce committee will debate the costs and benefits of the federal student loan program, including student loan interest rates.

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Why consumer agency must go, and why it should be saved

"If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice? What is expected to be a contentious Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing [today] for Rich Cordray, who has been temporarily leading the bureau, offers an opportunity to examine the need for a federal agency designed to protect consumers in their financial dealings." Bob Sullivan of NBC's Red Tape Chronicles interviews U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski and George Mason's Todd Zywicki.

 

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

Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Genetically Engineered Foods

Many genetically engineered crops on the market currently contain antibiotic resistance marker genes because of the imprecision of the gene insertion process. Scientists use these genes to determine whether a gene has inserted itself into a target organism. As a result of incorporating these antibiotic resistance genes, these crops threaten the already growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which the world medical community acknowledges as a serious public health concern.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

At What Cost?

As college costs rise many students are turning to working long hours to finance their education. Nearly half of all full-time working students are working enough hours to hurt their academic achievement and the overall quality of their education. At the same time the majority of these students (63%) reported that they would not be able to attend college if they did not work.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Deflate Your Rate

An estimated 55-60 percent of Americans carry credit card balances. One recent study found that nearly half of those with balances made just the minimum payment in February 2002.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Industry Associations Oppose Senate Legislation to Prevent "Another Enron"

The Senate should resist industry pressure and take immediate action to protect investors, employees and pensioners from future Enron-like collapses. At a time when we are wondering how Enron could keep so many analysts and accountants in the dark about their balance sheets, we need to re-shine the bright light of public scrutiny on these murky and complex energy derivative transactions.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Burden Of Borrowing

As college costs continue to swell, students are increasingly shouldering high levels of debt to pay for a college education. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of student borrowers now graduate with unmanageable levels of debt, meaning that their monthly payments are more than 8% of their monthly incomes. According to new data from the Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), not only are the majority of students turning to loans to finance college, but debt levels are also escalating.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Encouraging news on HUD/state AG settlement with big mortgage servicers | Ed Mierzwinski

Update: The terms of the settlement, which was announced this morning, are at the page http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. We are reading it now. Original: If I am reading the overnight news stories correctly (NY TIMES and Politico and Boston Globe), it appears that negotiators have clarified that the well-publicized settlement between HUD and state AGs and the nation's 5 largest mortgage servicers will not release the big banks from claims related to their activities with the mysterious entity known as MERS that aided and abetted their illegal foreclosures. If so, this is a big deal in ultimately holding the big banks fully accountable.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Airline passenger rights reforms finally take off, heading to President's desk | Ed Mierzwinski

PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate's statement).

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Blog Post | Transportation

House Transportation Bills Strikes First as Tragedy, Then as Dangerous Farce | Phineas Baxandall

The House introduced additional legislation proposing that new revenue for the Transportation Fund would come through increased volumes of oil drilling and that public transit would be kicked out of the transportation fund. This breaks with three decades of public transit being supported by a small portion of the federal gas tax. The House measure would instead funnel all these funds to highways, and leave mass transit to search for new money from Congress at a time when debt reduction rules require massive cuts to the general budget. If you were trying to make America as addicted to oil as possible, you might design legislation like this.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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