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

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

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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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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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 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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

As Fall Financial Aid is Disbursed, Senator Issues Urgent Warning to Students Using Campus Debit Cards

Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institution and Consumer Protection, issued an urgent warning to students receiving financial aid in the next two weeks that predatory bank fees can quickly cut into their college money.

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New York Times: Secret E-Scores Chart Consumers’ Buying Power

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group in Washington, worries that federal laws haven’t kept pace with change in the digital age. “There’s a nontransparent, opaque scoring system that collects information about you to generate a score — and what your score is results in the offers you get on the Internet,” he says. “In most cases, you don’t know who is collecting the information, you don’t know what predictions they have made about you, or the potential for being denied choice or paying too much.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

U.S. PIRG Applauds House Leadership for Dropping One-Year Farm Bill Extension that Included Billions in Wasteful Subsidies

In this current economic climate the reauthorization of the farm bill should be a straight forward opportunity to end wasteful subsidies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only half of an Apple Apiece

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy half of an apple per taxpayer.

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Fox Business: Consumer Watchdog Gives Bite to Dodd-Frank

"The CFPB has been enormously successful in ramping up over its first year," says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups in Washington, D.C.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Industry lobbyists pre-launch 2013 assault on financial reform and other financial follies | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED (AGAIN)) Industry lobbyists, under cover of a "bi-partisan" center, have pre-launched their 2013 assault on financial reform. Meanwhile, as the FTC dings fake debt collectors, the CFPB heads to Seattle to presumably announce its authority to supervise or examine "larger" debt collectors. Read more for news of these and other financial follies.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC slams Equifax as Senate joins House inquiry into credit bureaus' data broker cousins | Ed Mierzwinski

This week the FTC ordered the massive credit bureau Equifax to disgorge $393,000 in profits and its customer, Direct Lending Source, to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty for selling lists of credit reports for illegal marketing purposes. Meanwhile, Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller has announced his own investigation into the practice of unregulated data brokers, the close cousins of the credit bureaus that are already the subject of a bi-partisan House inquiry.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State Attorneys General Oppose Payday Lender Protection Bill In Congress | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week a bi-partisan group of 41 state Attorneys General announced their joint opposition to misguided legislation to take both the CFPB and the states off the payday lender crime beat. Nevertheless, the payday lenders continue to invest in the political process.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new consumer group, Consumers Count, to fight for arbitration reform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, consumerscount.org launched as a website using "crowdsourcing" to help consumers band together to fight back when they have same complaint against the same company, but are limited by forced arbitration clauses and restrictions on class action rights from obtaining redress. At least until the CFPB bans forced arbitration, we need innovative ideas like consumerscount.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

It's the 30th anniversary of Connecticut's New Car Lemon Law | Ed Mierzwinski

Thirty years ago today, the nation's first new car lemon law took effect in Connecticut. I was ConnPIRG's director at the time, when we joined a freshman state legislator, John Woodcock, to take on both Detroit and the even-more-powerful (in Hartford, that is) Connecticut car dealers.

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