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

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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Ag Subsidies Pay for 20 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 at a rate that would buy 20 Twinkies for each taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG's new report, "Apples to Twinkies 2013." Meanwhile, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy just one half of an apple per taxpayer per year. These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Poised to Approve Bill Continuing Giant Giveaways to Big Agribusiness

U.S. PIRG urges the House to vote NO on the Farm Bill scheduled to be voted on today. Like the Senate’s Farm Bill, this legislation would keep the gravy train flowing for big agribusiness, locking in their unjustified corporate handouts for the next five years.

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Mortgage settlement will send billions to struggling homeowners

Almost 4 million homeowners might receive cash compensation and mortgage relief in a multi-billion-dollar settlement with 10 major banks, government regulators announced Monday. [...] “The money is grossly inadequate for homeowners, and the program will require careful oversight to ensure that all homeowners harmed get a fair chance at benefits,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for U.S. PIRG, a nonprofit advocacy group.

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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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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Playing It Safe 2000

The fifth nationwide investigation of public playgrounds by the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) found that a majority of American playgrounds pose hidden threats to our nation’s youngsters.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bumbo, CPSC Recall Baby Seat Linked To Skull Fractures | Ed Mierzwinski

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bumbo, maker of a baby seat linked to at least 21 skull fractures, have announced a repair recall to install a free safety belt. U.S. PIRG and other consumer groups had pressured them to act.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Ancient English football club Man U to launch "ugly" IPO under new US law for "emerging" companies | Ed Mierzwinski

The venerable English football club Manchester United, founded in 1878, is expected to file an IPO today under a new U.S. law, the JOBS Act, that passed overwhelmingly because it was intended to help newer, smaller companies go public. Over at The Motley Fool, they say: "Thank the JOBS Act for the Ugliest IPO of the Year."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Emergency-room debt collector pays penalty but says no patient had "problematic interaction"? | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson settled her case with Accretive Health, the debt collector that allegedly acts as a gatekeeper to obtaining emergency-room treatment. The AG's legal filing has  affidavits from 60 victims but in a press release, the debt collector says "the Attorney General did not and could not identify a single patient in Minnesota who experienced a problematic interaction with an Accretive Health employee." Hunh?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Privacy Hawks Demand Info From Data Brokers | Ed Mierzwinski

A bi-partisan group of members of Congress, led by the political odd couple of Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), have sent detailed information demands to a number of virtually unregulated data brokers. The firms buy and sell information gleaned from public record databases, social network sites and other sources; but unlike the Big Three credit bureaus, no one really knows what they are up to.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

OCC To Payday Lenders: "We don't want you here (paraphrase)." | Ed Mierzwinski

Good news from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the nation's national bank safety regulator, which in testimony today rejects a proposal by payday lenders to hide out at the OCC to avoid regulation by the CFPB or states. The OCC says it doesn't want to charter payday lenders, because they are "focused on consumer credit products of the very nature and character that the OCC has found unacceptable."

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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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