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

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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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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Blog Post | Food

Crop Insurance: A Taxpayer Giveaway by Another Name | Nasima Hossain

Just like other agriculture subsidies, the federal crop insurance program directs billions of taxpayer dollars to the biggest agribusinesses, with the payouts biased towards commodity crops that are often processed into junk food ingredients.  The program directly subsidizes agribusinesses’ insurance premiums on coverage they would buy anyway, making it yet another way taxpayer dollars pad Big Ag’s profits

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB seeks your views on prepaid cards, including campus cards featured in our latest report | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB wants your views on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Some of the campus cards featured in U.S. PIRG Education Fund's new report, the Campus Debit Card Trap, are prepaid cards, others are debit cards, and there is a difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House banking committee takes action to aid predatory rent-to-own firms today | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 1 June) This morning the House Financial Services Committee will likely approve HR 1588, legislation designed solely to allow the rent-to-own industry ("for only 104 weekly payments of $10.99, you can own this TV/computer/couch" for 3 or 4 times its total retail price) to preempt or override the laws of the several states that protect its consumers from predatory financial practices. Is that the role of the Congress?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NYTimes on growing tax fraud identity theft epidemic | Ed Mierzwinski

The New York Times has a story on the web "With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often" by reporter Lizette Alverez for Sunday's paper. It describes an "epidemic" of tax identity theft. Thieves file fraudulent tax returns and receive a legitimate taxpayer's refund before he or she does, often on a hard-to-trace prepaid card.  Losses are in the billions, losses are increasing and legitimate taxpayers are waiting a long time to get their refund. It's a very good story that explains how the crime works, how it disproportionately harms retirees and how, -- despite massive efforts by agencies from the IRS to the post office -- it's a growing mess. Unfortunately, the reform promoted by some policymakers quoted in the story -- increasing criminal penalties -- has never worked to stop identity theft. Bad guys don't have to carry guns and they rarely get caught, so the crime is booming. Sure, it doesn't hurt to increase penalties, but it is not enough. We need to protect personal data better. Relying on increasing penalties is a feel-good solution that won't work on its own. But the credit bureaus and other powerful special interests have resisted legislation to protect personal information better and spent heavily to convince policymakers that "blaming bad guys" is more important than fixing their own sloppy practices. The credit bureaus, of course, are wrong.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB holds field hearing on prepaid cards-- all the fees, none of the protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Several members of the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform are among the witnesses at a field hearing on prepaid cards that the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau holds at noon today in Durham, NC. While reloadable prepaid cards are growing fast as an option for convenience, for the unbanked and for distribution of government and student benefits, so-called general purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold under a variety of brands have fewer consumer protections than credit cards (gold standard), debit cards (fewer protections), and payroll, government benefit and gift cards (some protections).The CFPB will announce a advance notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the situation.

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