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 | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG Applauds CFPB Call for Greater Disclosure

Washington, DC — Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) called on financial institutions to publicly disclose all of their card agreements with colleges and universities. Currently, institutions only need to disclose agreements regarding credit cards, but not debit, checking, or prepaid cards.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB getting results for consumers this week | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, a senior bank industry lawyer said he was "amazed" at the amount of work the CFPB had accomplished "in such a short amount of time." This week, the CFPB stepped up its game another notch, when it returned $34 million to consumers who'd been deceived by a medical debt credit card pitched by their doctors and dentists and their receptionists and also took a big step toward ending forced arbitration in consumer contracts. Had any victims of the medical credit card wanted to go to court because they'd been ripped off, they couldn't, since the small print on that card, like the small print on most others, would send them instead to arbitration, no better than a kangaroo court.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Advocates Decry Harm Done to Consumers by Forced Arbitration

On date of CFPB field hearing in Dallas to release report on forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform, National Consumer Law Center, National Association of Consumer Advocates and Public Citizen issue joint release. From the release: “Unfair arbitration clauses encourage unfair corporate practices and sloppy customer service,” said Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. PIRG. “If your customers cannot take you to court, why should you care about their complaints? We urge the CFPB to act quickly to ban forced arbitration clauses in financial products and services contracts.”

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Shopping? We've got your back, online and in the store. | Ed Mierzwinski

Whether you're shopping for toys or anything else this holiday season, the state PIRGs have new resources to help you make better, safer choices. We also have tips to protect your privacy and your wallet from online scams and rip-offs.

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

Trouble in Toyland 2013

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Selection of New Director for Federal Housing Finance Authority is Opportunity to Protect Consumers

The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) should be accountable to consumers, taxpayers and Congress as it works to stabilize housing markets. The selection of a permanent FHFA director is an important opportunity to restore this powerful office to a servant of the public, rather than a captured creature of moneyed interests.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

CFPB Ends Kickbacks by Mortgage Insurers

U.S. PIRG applauds CFPB’s enforcement action, including over $15 million in total penalties, against four mortgage insurers to end the practice of giving kickbacks to mortgage companies to get their business.

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Why consumer agency must go, and why it should be saved

"If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice? What is expected to be a contentious Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing [today] for Rich Cordray, who has been temporarily leading the bureau, offers an opportunity to examine the need for a federal agency designed to protect consumers in their financial dealings." Bob Sullivan of NBC's Red Tape Chronicles interviews U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski and George Mason's Todd Zywicki.

 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

During National Consumer Protection Week, Consumer Advocates Warn About Harms of Forced Arbitration

In celebration of National Consumer Protection Week, U.S. PIRG joins other consumer groups in calling for elimination of forced mandatory arbitration clauses. "More than ever, consumers are forced to surrender their rights every time they obtain a product or service, including credit cards, checking accounts, cell phone service and even jobs. To truly honor and recognize the importance of consumer protection laws, it is time for Congress and federal agencies to eliminate forced arbitration."

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Rent-A-Bank Payday Lending

The report provides a detailed and up-to-date summary of the legal and legislative status of the payday lending industry around the country. It places particular emphasis on analyzing the most important and controversial trend in payday lending: the growing use of banks to evade state usury laws, small loan rate caps, and, even, state payday loan laws. The report also includes detailed store-by-store and state-by-state results of a 2001 survey of 235 payday lenders in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 2001

Since bank deregulation began in the early 1980s, the PIRGs and other consumer groups have conducted numerous studies documenting skyrocketing consumer banking fees. This 2001 national survey, prepared by the state PIRGs with assistance from state and local member groups of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), updates our 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999 national surveys.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

The Credit Card Trap

The state PIRGs conducted two surveys for this report. In a survey of 100 credit card offers during the summer of 2000, the state PIRGs found two major themes: (1) credit card terms and conditions are becoming less favorable to consumers; and (2) credit card marketing practices are misleading and deceptive. In an on-campus survey of college students, conducted during the current school year, the state PIRGs found that the marketing of credit cards to college students is too aggressive.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Double ATM Fees, Triple Trouble

This PIRG national survey, done in March 2001, compares surcharging and other ATM fee practices at 333 banks and 43 credit unions to the results of six previous PIRG ATM surveys and reports since national surcharging began.

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

Trouble In Toyland 2000

This 2000 Trouble In Toyland report is the fifteenth annual PIRG toy safety survey. PIRG uses results from its survey to educate parents about toy hazards and to advocate passage of stronger laws and regulations to protect children from toy hazards. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Haunted by a shopping cart, tracking me across the web | Ed Mierzwinski

On Black Friday no less, I surfed a few of my favorite e-commerce sites. At one, I even started to fill a cart. Now, the contents of that cart track me and appear on every page I open.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC to hotels: Nuisance add-on fees deceptive | Ed Mierzwinski

The FTC has warned 22 hotel chains that add-on fees, such as resort fees, may be deceptive. Meanwhile, air passenger groups are asking consumers to petition the White House to require that the Department of Transportation's FAA require full disclosure of airline fees.

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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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TOY SAFETY TIPS ON-THE-GO

From toxic chemicals to choking hazards to dangerous magnets, see what dangerous toys to watch out for while you shop.

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