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With Apple Pay, the tech leader takes its shot at replacing the wallet

We comment in a Washington Post story describing Apple's big product announcements Tuesday. We don't talk about the two new iPhones or even the totally new and much ballyhooed Apple Watch. We talk about Apple Pay, a digital wallet. What are its implications for consumer data security, convenience and choice?

Excerpt: Yet Apple Pay could prove the bigger bet, given its potential to shake up two industries — retail and finance. [...] “Apple’s claiming it’s more secure. We’ll have to see,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Democracy for All | Michael Russo

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate opened debate on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to big-money campaign cash. Passage of this constitutional amendment would allow limits to be set on large-dollar contributions and campaign spending.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP Could Take $6.3 Billion Tax Deduction For Gross Negligence In Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP could claim a $6.3 billion tax windfall from settling charges of its gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster unless the EPA prevents it

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Last week’s other big bank settlement also shifts burden to taxpayers

Goldman Sachs will be able to take a $420 million tax write off on the bank's FHFA settlement for its mortgage misdeeds. A similar settlement paid in 2010 to the SEC specifically prohibited such tax deductions.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We oppose merger between giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable | Ed Mierzwinski

Along with a number of state PIRGs, we have joined the Consumer Federation of America in a petition to deny the merger of cable/Internet giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable. The petition argues that the FCC must deny the merger, which would perpetuate unrestrained cable price increases, allow terrible service to deteriorate further and stifle innovation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

New Federal Bills Would Protect Students From High-Cost Campus Bank Accounts

Yesterday, House and Senate lawmakers introduced bills that would protect college students from being needlessly steered into campus bank accounts — accounts that often drive up students’ costs and deplete their financial aid. U.S. PIRG warned that if we the Department of Education can't protect students from high campus debit card fees, then we will "pursue this strong alternative approach put forth from the Hill.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

Thursday, May 22 is the fifth anniversary of the successful Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers billions of dollars in unfair credit card fees and interest that were collected based on tricks and traps. U.S. PIRG, and a broad coalition, urge policymakers to extend similar protections to debit and prepaid cards.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

The WISPIRG Foundation report examines whether Millennials might be leaving Wisconsin partly because the state continues to prioritize extravagant highway expansion projects while neglecting other means of travel that are so important to young people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Win, as Justice Department Blocks Credit Suisse Tax Write Off

The Justice Department saved taxpayers $233 million by preventing Credit Suisse bank from writing off its settlement for tax evasion. U.S. PIRG applauds the move and calls on agencies to make this standard practic. Agencies should also be more transparent about the deals they sign with corporations to resolve charges of wrongdoing.

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

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Top Twenty Pay-For-Delay Drugs

Our research revealed 20 major drugs that were subject to an industry practice called “pay for delay,” in which brand name pharmaceutical companies pay off generic drug manufacturers to keep lower cost equivalents off the market, forcing consumers to pay higher brand-name drug prices.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Debt in Maine

Without a new plan from Congress, on July 1 the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. In Maine, 33,883 federal student loan borrowers will be impacted if the rate doubles.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

Prescription for Danger

Compounding pharmacies are increasingly behaving like pharmaceutical companies by producing drugs in bulk, despite the fact that they are not inspected or regulated like the pharmaceutical industry. Due to this lack of oversight, many compounding pharmacies have not adhered to safe manufacturing practices, and shown little regard for consumer safety. According to an analysis of warning letters sent to other compounding pharmacies by the FDA from 2002 to 2012, there is a long history of violations that have in many cases led to unnecessary illness, injury, and even death.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over. The time has come for America to hit the “reset” button on transportation policy—replacing the policy infrastructure of the Driving Boom years with a more efficient, flexible and nimble system that is better able to meet the transportation  needs of the 21st century. 

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Report | PennPIRG, PennEnvironment | Democracy

Elections for Shale

Fracking corporation EQT and the rest of the industry spend millions on electoral politics at the state and federal level, elevating their interests and making it more difficult for ordinary citizens to have their voices heard. Concurrently, the industry exploits loopholes to pay extremely low taxes, receives thousands of permits to drill on public lands, and is exempted from many basic environmental standards.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Retailers appeal swipe fee settlement with Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, big retailers filed an appeal of last month's announced final settlement order in an antitrust case involving price-fixing by Visa and Mastercard. PIRG backs the merchants because non-negotiable swipe fees force all consumers, including cash customers, to pay more at the store and more at the pump.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers In December | Ed Mierzwinski

It's been a good month for consumers and a bad month for corporate crime, as the CFPB continued to hold financial firms accountable for unfair marketplace practices. Let's hope that in the New Year, banks and other financial companies get the message that cheating their customers is a bad business model.

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Shopping? We've got your back, online and in the store. | Ed Mierzwinski

Whether you're shopping for toys or anything else this holiday season, the state PIRGs have new resources to help you make better, safer choices. We also have tips to protect your privacy and your wallet from online scams and rip-offs.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will U.S. Trade Deal With Europe Eliminate Consumer Protections? | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Tuesday, on Election Day, Washington State voters will consider the question "Yes On 522: To Label Genetically-Modified Foods." The right to choose your food is a right that American consumers want and every European citizen already has. But at the behest of the powerful agribusiness industry, U.S. trade negotiators want to take it away from all of us on both sides of the Atlantic in a secret deal. U.S. PIRG is among the consumer groups pushing back.

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

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