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

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

Report: Spirit Is Most Complained-About Airline

WASHINGTON – Spirit Airlines passengers are most likely to complain about their experience, according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Among major airlines, Spirit generates the most complaints for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines.

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

The Unfriendly Skies

Consolidation in the airline industry, along with pressures created by new security rules and the recent high cost of aviation gasoline, has changed the way we fly. It seems as if every consumer has an airline travel story—how they were trapped on the tarmac, tricked by fees, missed their connection, or lost their bag.

What many consumers don’t know is that they do have a number of new rights as well as a right to complain, both to the airline and to the government.

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

Consumer Groups Launch National Push for Supermarkets to Label GMOs

Consumers and health advocates launched a national campaign calling on local and regional supermarket chains to label their store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the one year anniversary of Whole Foods’ announcement that it will adopt labeling for all products in its stores.

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Why do we hate debt collectors? Mistaken identity

You expect to hear from a debt collector when you don't pay your bills. But what do you do when you get calls or letters from a collection agency for a debt you don't owe?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We testify on data breaches again | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, I testify in the House Financial Services Committee in the latest hearing on the Target data breach. As I did in the Senate last month, I will try to shift the debate from the supposed need for a "uniform national data breach notification standard" to more important issues, such as improving consumer rights when they use unsafe debit cards to ensuring that standards for payment card and card network security are set in an open, fair way that holds banks and card networks accountable for forcing merchants and consumers to rely on inherently unsafe, obsolete magnetic stripe cards.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About Most

WASHINGTON – Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the US PIRG Education Fund. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Food, Tax

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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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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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2004

The 2004 Trouble in Toyland report is the 19th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. PIRG’s research focused on four categories of toys: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that pose strangulation hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, and toys that contain toxic chemicals. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Mistakes Do Happen

Several studies since the early 1990s have documented sloppy credit bureau practices that lead to mistakes on credit reports—for which consumers pay the price. Consumers with serious errors in their credit reports can be denied credit, home loans, apartment rentals, auto insurance, or even medical coverage and the right to open a bank account or use a debit card. We asked adults in 30 states to order their credit reports and complete a survey on the reports’ accuracy.

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Report | Maryland PIRG | Consumer Protection

Graduating Into Debt

Complaints from students and parents in Maryland spurred several state legislators to introduce legislation to address credit card marketing to students. No legislation was enacted, and the hearings that were held to consider the legislation left unanswered questions about the extent of credit card marketing on Maryland public campuses and the policies, if any, of public colleges and universities regarding credit card solicitation. The results of this survey show that credit card marketing varies widely among Maryland colleges and universities.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2003

The 2003 Trouble in Toyland report is the 18th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. PIRG’s research focused on four categories of toys: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, toys that pose strangulation hazards or could form sharp projectiles, and toys that contain toxic chemicals.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

The Failure Of Cable Deregulation

The cable industry has used public rights of ways to access those homes and in turn made huge profits. This report makes clear that the cable industry has not lived up to its public and civic responsibilities as holders of valuable public franchises and licenses. Congress, the FCC, and state and local governments must examine the recommendations made in this report and take appropriate action to restore competition to the multichannel video market.

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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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Blog Post | Food

Will U.S. trade deal with Europe threaten our safety and pocketbooks? | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 15 June 2013) U.S. officials have begun discussing a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe. The deal poses a serious threat to strong U.S food safety laws, new U.S. rules designed to prevent another bank-induced economic collapse and many other public protections. The threat will be lessened if the U.S. reverses its plan to conduct negotiations in the full view of some 600 industry "advisors" but secretly from the rest of us.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Five Things The Credit Bureaus Don't Want You To Know | Ed Mierzwinski

If your name is Judy Thomas, you live in Ohio and you have good credit, you don't want to be mixed up with Judith Kendall who lives in Utah and doesn't have good credit. Last week, Judy explained her story to a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on credit bureau mistakes. We learned at least five things that the credit bureaus don't want you to know.

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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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