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 30 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 avoiding dangerous 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 | Public Health, Consumer Protection

“What you don’t have can’t leak:” A political play in three acts | Carli Jensen

The scene: Washington, D.C. The cast of characters: the President, Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy, the chemical industry, communities, and advocacy groups across the nation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Hill Threats to CFPB Escalate As CFPB Protects Consumers, Servicemembers | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the House Appropriations Committee, at the behest of both Wall Street and predatory lenders seeking to run amok, will vote to eliminate the CFPB's independence from the politicized appropriations process. Meanwhile, over at the CFPB, important work to protect consumers, including servicemembers, from unfair and predatory financial practices continues.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Data Breach Here, Data Breach There, Data Breach Everywhere! | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 10 June Re DHS Breach: If you shop with plastic, have health insurance, pay taxes, work for the federal government, or (fill in blank) you’re at risk of a data breach. And with so much information about you already available on the Internet, it’s best not to select easy-search security questions like “Where were you born?” or answers like “Pizza.” What’s your best defense against identity theft? No, it isn’t credit monitoring, it’s a security freeze.

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How Companies Turn Your Facebook Activity Into a Credit Score

This story in The Nation explains our work challenging the way data brokers use "black box," or secret, algorithms to make scoring decisions that may violate the law and deny credit opportunities. This work was also the subject of our recent livestream event featuring Professor Frank Pasquale and his new book, "The Black Box Society." We've now posted an archive of that event, in 3 chapters on our Youtube page.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Who Flipped the Antibiotics Script? | Steve Blackledge

The "cold-blooded capitalists" have made strides for public health, while the "heavy-handed government" sit on those hands. Consumer power is changing the antibiotics script.

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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.”

> Keep Reading
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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Fox Business: Consumer Watchdog Gives Bite to Dodd-Frank

"The CFPB has been enormously successful in ramping up over its first year," says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups in Washington, D.C.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB gets results for consumers, slams Chase for deceptive card add-ons | Ed Mierzwinski

Earlier this week, USPIRG Education Fund released "Big Banks, Big Complaints," a report documenting how the CFPB is helping bank customers with its public complaint database. Today, the CFPB announced it had imposed a $20 million civil penalty on JP Morgan Chase and ordered it to refund $309 million to over 2 million consumers for deceptively marketing junky credit card add-on products, some of which consumers didn't even receive. The CFPB is getting results.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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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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Blog Post | Food

Will U.S. trade deal with Europe threaten our safety and pocketbooks? | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 15 June 2013) U.S. officials have begun discussing a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe. The deal poses a serious threat to strong U.S food safety laws, new U.S. rules designed to prevent another bank-induced economic collapse and many other public protections. The threat will be lessened if the U.S. reverses its plan to conduct negotiations in the full view of some 600 industry "advisors" but secretly from the rest of us.

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