Consumer Protection

PROTECTING CONSUMER SAFETY—Toys should not be toxic or dangerous for children to play with. Our food should not make us sick. The terms for banking and credit accounts should be clear and easy to understand.

LOOKING OUT FOR CONSUMERS

U.S. PIRG’s consumer program works to alert the public to hidden dangers and scams and to ban anti-consumer practices and unsafe products.

TROUBLE IN TOYLAND

For 27 years, U.S. PIRG’s "Trouble In Toyland" report has surveyed store shelves and identified choking hazards, noise hazards and other dangers. Our report has led to at least 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years.

Get our tips for buying safer toys.

BIGGER BANKS, BIGGER FEES

In April, U.S. PIRG released a report in which we surveyed more than 350 bank branches and revealed that fewer than half of branches obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers, while one in four provided no fee information at all. We also found that despite widespread stories about the “death” of free checking, free and low-cost checking choices are still widely available, if consumers shop around.

Find out how to beat high bank fees.

SEE ALL CONSUMER RESOURCES

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB at Three: A Child Prodigy | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned just three years old Monday, July 21st, but when you look at its massive and compelling body of work, you must wonder: Are watchdog years like plain old dog years? Is the CFPB now a full-sized, 21-year-old adult? The answer is no, not yet. The CFPB is still growing and developing and adding programs and projects. The CFPB is, however, at three years old, certainly a child prodigy. Despite overwhelming public support, however, powerful special interests continue to attack it. Yet, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Sues Alleged Corporate Wrongdoers Amazon & T-Mobile | Ed Mierzwinski

In the last few days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed lawsuits against the wireless company T-Mobile over cramming of "hundreds of millions of dollars" in junk charges on phone bills and the web seller Amazon over "millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children." What's interesting is not that the companies are alleged to have broken the law, it's that they've refused to settle and forced the FTC into court.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Urge FTC Action On "Unfixed Recalled" CarMax Cars | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer groups to urge the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the massive car retailer CarMax for deceptive practices. The petition argues that CarMax aggressively advertises that all cars get a "rigorous 125-point" inspection but "fails to ensure that safety recalls are performed prior to selling used cars to consumers."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

EU-US Consumers Hold Meeting on Trade Threats | Ed Mierzwinski

Updated: On Tuesday, 24 June, U.S. and European Union members of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD.org) hold our 15th annual meeting, in Washington, DC. The capacity crowd (but the event will be live-streamed) will hear government and consumer experts debate whether the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is good for consumers, or threatens strong health, safety and privacy laws while unwisely granting corporations some rights and powers of sovereign nations.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Turns 5, A Big Success Story | Ed Mierzwinski

The Credit CARD Act of 2009,  has its 5th birthday today on May 22. It is a government success story that cleaned up a Wild West credit card marketplace by eliminating unfair tricks and traps without destroying the market. Let's celebrate by extending it to other card markets--debit and prepaid cards.

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Why do we hate debt collectors? Mistaken identity

You expect to hear from a debt collector when you don't pay your bills. But what do you do when you get calls or letters from a collection agency for a debt you don't owe?

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

Report: Mistaken Identity Tops Debt Collection Complaints

WASHINGTON –Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report also found that debt collection, the newest category in the database, is already a top source of complaints to the CFPB, outpacing common consumer products such as credit cards and bank accounts.

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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.

> Keep Reading
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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Federal Consumer Agency Ponders Its Next Crusades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.[...] Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group, said this might be the single most important issue on the agency’s agenda. “The biggest thing we are hoping for in 2014 is to finish or at least make major progress with the arbitration rule and ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts,” he said. “In many of these cases you are ripped off for $10 or $100 each. But millions of consumers are ripped off. That’s why we think it’s a very big deal.”

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer. 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees. 

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Report | Food

Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.

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Report | OSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Tricks and Traps

As Oregonians continue to endure the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, OSPIRG set out to discover what consumers are really paying to maintain basic banking services in Oregon, and what sorts of fees and financial institution policies have the biggest effect on consumers' bottom line. OSPIRG staff and volunteers analyzed 64 checking accounts offered by ten banks and eight credit unions in Portland, Eugene and Ashland.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Urge FTC Action On "Unfixed Recalled" CarMax Cars | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer groups to urge the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the massive car retailer CarMax for deceptive practices. The petition argues that CarMax aggressively advertises that all cars get a "rigorous 125-point" inspection but "fails to ensure that safety recalls are performed prior to selling used cars to consumers."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

EU-US Consumers Hold Meeting on Trade Threats | Ed Mierzwinski

Updated: On Tuesday, 24 June, U.S. and European Union members of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD.org) hold our 15th annual meeting, in Washington, DC. The capacity crowd (but the event will be live-streamed) will hear government and consumer experts debate whether the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is good for consumers, or threatens strong health, safety and privacy laws while unwisely granting corporations some rights and powers of sovereign nations.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Turns 5, A Big Success Story | Ed Mierzwinski

The Credit CARD Act of 2009,  has its 5th birthday today on May 22. It is a government success story that cleaned up a Wild West credit card marketplace by eliminating unfair tricks and traps without destroying the market. Let's celebrate by extending it to other card markets--debit and prepaid cards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We testify on data breaches again | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, I testify in the House Financial Services Committee in the latest hearing on the Target data breach. As I did in the Senate last month, I will try to shift the debate from the supposed need for a "uniform national data breach notification standard" to more important issues, such as improving consumer rights when they use unsafe debit cards to ensuring that standards for payment card and card network security are set in an open, fair way that holds banks and card networks accountable for forcing merchants and consumers to rely on inherently unsafe, obsolete magnetic stripe cards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senators Support Improving Debit Card Fraud Rights | Ed Mierzwinski

At a hearing Monday on Target and other data breaches, Senators endorsed our longtime platform that all plastic -- debit or credit -- should have the same consumer protections. Right now, Debit card users have "zero liability" promises from their banks, but credit card users have strong protections by law.

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TOY SAFETY TIPS ON-THE-GO

From toxic chemicals to choking hazards to dangerous magnets, see what dangerous toys to watch out for while you shop.

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