Consumer Protection

(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.

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.

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.

new consumer group, Consumers Count, to fight for arbitration reform

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today, consumerscount.org launched as a website using "crowdsourcing" to help consumers band together to fight back when they have same complaint against the same company, but are limited by forced arbitration clauses and restrictions on class action rights from obtaining redress. At least until the CFPB bans forced arbitration, we need innovative ideas like consumerscount.

It's the 30th anniversary of Connecticut's New Car Lemon Law

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Thirty years ago today, the nation's first new car lemon law took effect in Connecticut. I was ConnPIRG's director at the time, when we joined a freshman state legislator, John Woodcock, to take on both Detroit and the even-more-powerful (in Hartford, that is) Connecticut car dealers.

Consumer Reports: Ticketmaster worst of 52 online shopping sites

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

We are shocked, shocked to find in our latest Consumer Reports magazine that Ticketmaster came in last in a Consumer Reports member survey asking for online retailer ratings. Could it be the fees or maybe the "deceptive" sales tactics?

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.

Survey: Consumers happy with Credit CARD Act

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Over at Time Magazine, reporter Martha White says a JD Power survey finds consumers are happier with their credit cards. She adds "To give credit where it’s due in this case, look to the CARD Act, that big piece of financial reform legislation that was passed in the wake of  the financial crisis in 2009 over the strenuous objection of the banking industry."

The FTC today announced a $25 million settlement with the marketers of the Ab Circle Pro, an exercise machine that promises you can lose weight and get ripped abs in "just 3 minutes a day;" meanwhile, a federal judge has also approved a $478 million settlement in the FTC's case against a "get rich quick" infomercial king. A good day for consumers.

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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