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

Coalition Launched To Protect Retirement Savings from Wall Street Loopholes | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups to support an imminent Department of Labor rule to require retirement advisors to put consumers first. Wall Street brokerages and insurance companies have already launched a fierce lobbying attack, since they've been using loopholes to put themselves first to the tune of an estimated $17 billion/year by pocketing what should be your retirement income.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

UK's "CFPB" Nails Big Brit Banks for Unfair Credit Card Add-on Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Emulating the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, London's Financial Conduct Authority has ordered 11 big UK banks, including a Capital One subsidiary, to return "hundreds of millions of pounds" to consumers over "mis-selling" of unnecessary "card security" insurance that duplicates protection by law. In the psat two years, the CFPB has ordered $1.5 billion in refunds to U.S. consumers duped by similar add-on subscription products. The products were sold by a Stamford, CT based "loyalty club" marketer, Affinion, that has been the subject of enforcement actions by a number of U.S. state attorneys general.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

House Passes Two Bills Favored By Wall Street, Harmful to the Public

Statement of Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski: "This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two awful bills on behalf of Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One bill weakens important 2010 financial system reforms designed to prevent another financial system collapse like the one in 2008 that occurred due to Wall Street malfeasance. The second imposes massive roadblocks in front of any agency, from EPA and FDA to the financial regulators, seeking to protect the public's health, safety or wallets. We will seek to block these bills in the Senate and at the White House."

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

USPIRG LAUDS CFPB SAFE STUDENT BANKING INITIATIVE

WASHINGTON, DC --   Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an initiative to protect students from the high banking fees and aggressive marketing surrounding campus bank accounts.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

President Issues Privacy Platform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the President announced support for a variety of privacy protections, most of which are laudable. However, it remains our view that Congressional consideration of a "uniform national breach notification standard" is unnecessary and, worse, will give powerful special interests an opportunity to use the proposal as a Trojan Horse to enact sweeping preemptive limits on state privacy protections.

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Wall Street Journal: Consumer Watchdog Readies to Bare Its Teeth

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is entering 2013 poised to flex its muscles more vigorously than ever before. [...] The CFPB is "going to be more confident and more aggressive," said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-advocacy organization.

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senator McConnell says we shouldn't have a CFPB at all | Ed Mierzwinski

Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) told Wall Street and other bankers yesterday that "If I had my way, we wouldn't have the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] at all." Here's a list of some of the protections the rest of us -- consumers, veterans, students, and seniors -- wouldn't have at all if McConnell and Wall Street had their way and we didn't have a  CFPB at all.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Time to break up the big banks? | Ed Mierzwinski

"Too big to fail, too big to jail." For far too long, that's been the government's attitude toward Wall Street banks. Regulators refuse to hold banks accountable both out of fear of Wall Street's political clout and also a misplaced perception that real enforcement might hurt the economy, even though a lack of enforcement recently wrecked it. But things are changing.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senators Hold CFPB Director Hostage, Roil Markets | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, most Senate Republicans again sent the President a letter saying they would not confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as CFPB director unless the agency's powers and independence were first gutted. Their intransigence contributes to market uncertainty that ignores at least three things: The CFPB is here to stay; the public wants the CFPB; and, banks lose to payday lenders if the director is not confirmed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will Consumers Face Credit Card Surcharges? No. | Ed Mierzwinski

On behalf of the big banks, the credit card companies Visa and Mastercard charge unfair fees to merchants. Some are speculating that as a result of a court settlement over these "swipe fees" that consumers will end up paying more when they make a credit card purchase. We don't think surcharging will spread. Here's why.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Current and former Fed officials urge greater efforts against risky big bank practices | Ed Mierzwinski

In the past week, two leading Fed officials issued stark warnings against risky practices of the big banks and called for greater oversight. Both Professor Alan Blinder, a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, and Richard Fisher, the current Dallas Fed president, called for solutions that match U.S. PIRG's reform platform.

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