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 30 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 avoiding dangerous 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

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Record $100 Million Fine on Wells Fargo For "Beyond Outrageous" Sales Practices

On September 8 the CFPB announced a record $100 million civil penalty plus consumer restitution against Wells Fargo, among the  nation’s largest banks, for a series of unfair and abusive sales practices by “thousands” of employees that included opening “secret” accounts for “hundreds of thousands” of existing customers, solely to meet sales goals to receive financial incentives. The CFPB action was joined by simultaneous orders announced by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ($35 million civil penalty) and the City of Los Angeles ($50 million civil penalty). Our statement follows.

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

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

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

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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News Release | U.S.PIRG | Consumer Protection

Strong National Payday Rule Could Save Consumers Billions

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its draft high cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title) loan rule for public comment. 

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LATimes: Obama's consumer protection legacy defined by aggressive agency

[This weekend, the Los Angele Times chronicled President Obama's consumer protection record, with heavy emphasis on the history and fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):]

"[...] Launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bureau is one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. [...] “I think you have to consider him a tremendous president for consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group."

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News Release | U.S.PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experts, Consumer Advocates, and Borrowers Release New Fact Sheet on Impact of Unregulated Payday Loans on Indiana Families

Indianapolis, IN. – National and in-state advocates released a new fact sheet today about the impact of payday lending on Indiana’s residents. Representatives from U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Indiana Catholic Conference, and Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF), a co-lead for the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network, participated in a joint press conference call.

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay, Transportation

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.

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Open Letter Calling on Procter & Gamble to be Toxic-Free

An Open Letter to the CEO of Procter & Gamble calling on the company to Pledge to be Toxic-Free

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Food Safety Scares 2013

This report offers a snapshot look, from October 2012 to October 2013, at multistate foodborne illness outbreaks identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous serious outbreaks over the past year that left many Americans sickened and at least 2 dead. The economic cost of just the multistate outbreaks caused by food products recalled over the past 12 months comes to more than $22 million.

 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2013

At a time when America faces high obesity rates and tough federal budget choices, taxpayer dollars are funding the production of junk food ingredients. Since 1995, the government has spent $292.5 billion on agricultural subsidies, $19.2 billion of which have subsidized corn- and soy-derived junk food ingredients.

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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. 

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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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Video Blog | Consumer Protection

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The retirement industry is a minefield -- but here’s the answer

In this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver called out three main problems hurting consumers when it comes to retirement: First, financial advisers aren’t currently required to work in their clients’ best interest. Second, high fees compound over time. Third, actively managed investment funds aren’t the answer. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Food recall season off to a big start | Anya Vanecek

Once again, the shift from spring to summer has carried with it a string of contamination-related food recalls. Twenty in the last month -- and that number is climbing.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

mcr-1 meets Mr. X | Matthew Wellington

A new strain of resistant E. Coli bacteria was found on a Chinese pig farm last November, then in countries worldwide. Last week, the U.S. joined that list. Now, a hypothetical post-antibiotic era has become all-too real.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Escalates Drive Toward Protections, Study Finds CFPB Enforcement Works | Ed Mierzwinski

This month the CFPB issued its proposed rule prohibiting class action bans in small-print mandatory arbitration clauses; in June it is expected to release its high-cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title loan) proposed rule. Meanwhile, as CFPB's industry opponents hide behind astroturf front groups and Congressional opponents use backdoor attacks, a law professor has released a major report finding that "from its inception [in 2011] through 2015 the agency had a 122-and-0 track record in its publicly announced enforcement actions" and that 93% (over $10.5 billion) of funds recovered for consumers have been for deceptive practices -- "[f]ar from a novel legal theory."

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Whiter button mushrooms cannot forgo testing | Anya Vanecek

The FDA is likely to approve newly-developed GMO mushrooms without testing them for human health and environmental safety. For just an aesthetic change, this all seems rather foolish.

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