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

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Retailers appeal swipe fee settlement with Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, big retailers filed an appeal of last month's announced final settlement order in an antitrust case involving price-fixing by Visa and Mastercard. PIRG backs the merchants because non-negotiable swipe fees force all consumers, including cash customers, to pay more at the store and more at the pump.

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

Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 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, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy half of an apple per taxpayer.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new consumer group, Consumers Count, to fight for arbitration reform | Ed Mierzwinski

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.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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

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.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Reports: Ticketmaster worst of 52 online shopping sites | Ed Mierzwinski

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?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Survey: Consumers happy with Credit CARD Act | Ed Mierzwinski

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."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC recovers over $500 million from "get rich" and "lose weight in 3 minute abs workout" scammers | Ed Mierzwinski

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.

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