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

Bounced Checks Could Land You On A Banking Blacklist

"NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bounced checks and forgotten overdraft fees can happen to anybody. But now, some banks are using those money mistakes against customers. [...] Consumer advocates said that some of the people being shut out have records that were dinged accidentally." (Video and print story available)

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Five Safety Breakthroughs in Five Years

On August 14, 2008, the CPSIA was signed into law after a deliberative process and overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law includes strong product safety reforms that revitalized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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An $18 Million Lesson in Handling Credit Report Errors

"Even after sending more than 13 letters to Equifax over the course of two years, Julie Miller could not get the big credit bureau to remove a host of errors that it inserted into her credit report. [...] So she tried suing. That worked. [...] “Big punitive penalties may help force the bureaus to upgrade their 20th-century algorithms and incompetent dispute reinvestigation processes,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “But C.F.P.B.’s authority to supervise the big credit bureaus is one of the most significant powers Congress gave it.”

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Weird Big Bank Trick Raises Price of Beer and Soda | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: August 8. Many of Enron's schemes involved sham transactions with itself that the SEC alleged had "no economic substance."  Taking a page from Enron's book, mega-bank Goldman Sachs is now moving tons of aluminum around and around its Detroit warehouses in similar transactions without apparent economic substance except to increase Goldman profits while raising costs of beer, soda and other goods relying on aluminum, delaying deliveries and disrupting aluminum markets. At a Senate hearing on the practice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) said: "This movie will not end well."

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NYTimes Editorial: Debit Cards on Campus

According to a study by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, an advocacy organization, nearly 900 colleges and universities have card relationships with banks or other financial institutions, some of which manage student aid disbursements by turning student IDs into debit cards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Flawed Farm Bill Heads Toward Senate Floor

The Senate is moving to vote on the farm bill, S.3240, that would continue the current system of agricultural subsidies to large, profitable, agribusiness. Taxpayers’ hard earned dollars will be handed out needlessly in the billions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Senate Committee Approves New Taxpayer Giveaways to Big Ag

The Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposed Farm Bill would entrench taxpayer handouts to large agribusinesses and underwrite junk food ingredients

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Reuters: Bank Transfer Day saw 600,000 switch

Bank of America (BofA) Gets Hit By $5 Debit Card Fee, Consumers Move Their Money From Big Banks. Read the story. Then, get more info at U.S. PIRG's Bank Fee Tips. Check out our April 2011 report Big Banks, Bigger Fees for more details.

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Media Hit | Food

Fox News: New Report Links Agricultural Subsidies to Childhood Obesity

A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or U.S. PIRG, titled “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” found that between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. has spent more than $260 billion on agricultural subsidies.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

For its own first birthday, CFPB sends gifts to consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns one year old. To celebrate its own birthday, the CFPB sent consumers some gifts this week.

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Blog Post | Food

Everyone is Hopping Mad About the Farm Bill | Nasima Hossain

Earlier this month, the House Agricultural Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill with a 35-11 vote.  It was greatly anticipated, as the country needs a fair and common sense bill that cut wasteful spending. In years past, the Farm Bill has given out tens of billions in taxpayer dollars to large, mature agribusinesses, and subsidized commodity crops that are often processed into the junk food ingredients fueling the obesity epidemic. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Corporate crime wave! Do any big banks make money by earning it? | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB/OCC settlement with Capital One for deceiving credit card customers into purchasing junky ripoff add-ons comes hard on the heels of revelations that other banks have been caught or are being investigated for LIBOR bid rigging, mortgage discrimination and aiding money launderers. Do any big banks earn money by offering innovative, fair and sustainable products anymore?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Fines Capital One For Deceptively Marketing Junky Payment Protection, Credit Monitoring to Cardholders | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED): The CFPB, which turns one on Saturday, is coming of age with the announcement of its first enforcement action, against Capital One Bank, for deceptive marketing of junky payment protection and credit monitoring products to cardholders. Capital One will pay over $200 million in direct restitution and civil penalties.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Rule Regulating Big Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, as expected, the CFPB announced its first "larger participants" rule, giving itself the authority to supervise, or look inside the mysterious "black box" operations, of the biggest credit bureaus. This is a really big deal for consumers who've suffered through the mistakes made by these gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity.

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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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