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Federal Consumer Agency Ponders Its Next Crusades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.[...] Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group, said this might be the single most important issue on the agency’s agenda. “The biggest thing we are hoping for in 2014 is to finish or at least make major progress with the arbitration rule and ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts,” he said. “In many of these cases you are ripped off for $10 or $100 each. But millions of consumers are ripped off. That’s why we think it’s a very big deal.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bipartisan Push to Make Government Settlements More Transparent

Today, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Coburn (R-OK) that would make government settlements with corporate wrongdoers more transparent and accountable to American taxpayers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Regulators Disallow Tax Deduction for JPMorgan’s $1.7 Billion Settlement, Saving Taxpayers Close to $600 Million

Regulators saved taxpayers as much as $595 million by preventing JPMorgan from writing off its $1.7 billion payment for allegedly enabling Madoff Ponzi scheme

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

"Clean Slate" Tax Debate Downplays Importance of Billions Worth of Offshore Loopholes

U.S. PIRG applauds Finance Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch for challenging lawmakers to justify dozens of tax breaks that benefit well connected special interests at the expense of average taxpayers. As the Senate scours the tax code for wasteful tax breaks for special interests, closing offshore tax loopholes should be at the top of every lawmaker's list.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Section of Voting Rights Act

Yesterday, in Shelby County v Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 was a critical piece of legislation that helped ensure the ability of eligible voters to cast a ballot regardless of race, age or gender, and the Court’s decision is a blow to voters’ rights.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Rejects Farm Bill Loaded with Subsidies to Big Agribusiness

The failure of this Farm Bill is a wake-up call: The House now has the chance to make serious changes to this legislation. Our elected leaders should stand up for taxpayers, not Big Ag, by ending wasteful subsidies once and for all.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Narrowly Rejects Modest Bipartisan Measure to Limit Subsidies for Largest Agribusinesses

U.S. PIRG opposes the House Farm Bill (H.R. 1947). Like the Senate’s proposed Farm Bill, this legislation would keep the gravy train flowing for big agribusiness, locking in their unjustified corporate handouts for the next five years. The House rejected even modest amendments to reduce subsidies for the most profitable agribusinesses. The Kind-Petri amendment, which would have cut off certain subsidies for agribusinesses with high incomes, failed with a narrow 208-217 vote. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Sens. Udall, Tester Introduce Constitutional Amendments to Overturn Citizens United, Get Big Money Out of Elections

To date, 15 states and nearly 500 municipalities have called upon Congress to overturn Citizens United and related cases by amending the Constitution. The introduction of these two joint resolutions today takes that call seriously and moves us two steps closer to ensuring that in our democracy the size of your wallet does not determine the volume of your voice.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Empty Pockets

After 25 years of experience, the Superfund program has evolved to protect Americans from toxic chemicals released when industry collides with nature, such as hurricanes and floods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now must use this experience to face its biggest challenge yet—cleaning up the toxic pollution left behind after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls plague the Superfund program and may hinder its ability to respond to Hurricane Katrina and address the thousands of other polluted sites littered across the country.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Undisclosed Pollution

Since 1987, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has been the nation’s premiere pollution disclosure program. By requiring companies to disclose the pollution they release to our air, water, and land, transfer off site, or dispose in a waste dump, the TRI program has ensured the public’s right-to-know about toxic pollution in communities. The TRI program is under attack. The Bush Administration has issued a series of proposed changes over the past few years, some of which would weaken the program by reducing the amount or quality of information available to the public.

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

Trouble In Toyland 2005

The 2005 Trouble in Toyland report is the 20th 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.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Preying On Portlanders

In August of 2005, our staff surveyed 21 licensed payday lending storefronts in the City of Portland. Because many of the payday lending storefronts are owned and operated by the same payday lender, the survey is representative of approximately ninety-five percent (95%) of the licensed active payday lending storefronts in the City of Portland. The survey aimed to determine the interest rate most commonly charged in the City of Portland, based on a $300 loan principal for a 14-day term.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

The Right Start

A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy. Unfortunately, not all products marketed for children and babies are completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Launches College Cost Tool; Its Investigations of Overdraft Fees and Auto Finance Escalate | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced a "thought starter" beta test version of a tool to make it easier to calculate college debt burdens. "The goal is to give students and their families an easy-to-understand view of how their decisions today impact your debt burden after graduation."  Meanwhile, banks and an auto finance company have confirmed that the CFPB is investigating both the marketing of overdraft protection schemes and the practices of "buy here, pay here" auto dealers.

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Blog Post | Food

FDA Sets Voluntary Limits of Antibiotic in Animal Feed, But What Does This Really Mean? | Nasima Hossain

The Food and Drug Administration announced last Wednesday that it had finalized a plan asking drug companies to voluntarily limit the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House launches latest "hypocritical" campaign to kill CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services will vote on a budget package that eliminates the budgetary independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) -- an effort to make it the only bank regulator subject to the political chicanery of the Appropriations process -- while simultaneously slashing its budget by 60%. Even the industry trade paper American Banker says: "Is GOP Push to Subject CFPB to Appropriations Hypocritical?"

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S., States Sue Apple, Publishers Over E-Book Price Conspiracy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the U.S. Attorney General and the Attorney Generals of Connecticut and Texas announced settlements with several publishers -- Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins --over an alleged conspiracy with Apple and other publishers to attack Amazon's pricing model, secretly set e-book prices and thereby harm consumers. However, Apple and the publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group USA have refused to settle and are being sued by the agencies.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB to announce mortgage servicing rules and other consumer news of the week | Ed Mierzwinski

(Update: phottos added.) Today, U.S. PIRG will be an invited guest as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes new mortgage servicing rules to prevent, among other things, a recurrence of the robo-signing scandal. Among the other important news items of the week, in case you missed it, Ohio has made it harder for aggrieved consumers to obtain redress when ripped off.

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The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices. 

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