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

House holds stacked hearing to attack retirement savings rule proposal | Ed Mierzwinski

The House Financial Services Committee is holding a typically stacked hearing -- one consumer-side witness against four Wall Street-backed lobbyists  -- to attack the important retirement savings rule proposed by the Department of Labor. The rule simply requires retirement advisors to put the customer's needs  -- not their own compensation -- first.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Reinstates Case Against Bank That Aided Senior Citizen Fraud | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the 3rd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that had denied class action status to victims of a scheme targeting senior citizens who were suing Zions Bank and its payment processor affiliates for aiding the fraudsters. U.S. regulators led by the Department of Justice have been fighting this and similar schemes, yet powerful special interests have managed to create a false narrative in Washington, DC that has been picked up by opponents of consumer protection laws. They falsely claim that the government's target is "legitimate" payday lenders and gun dealers. Wrong, the target is financial crimes against consumers, many consumers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Flying for Labor Day? Know Your Airline’s Extra Fees! | Mike Litt

On Labor Day weekend, make sure you know about non-ticket fees ahead of time to keep unexpected costs and hassles to a minimum.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

IRS Admits Data Breach Worse Than Thought, Will Congress Do Wrong Thing Anyway? | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the IRS has admitted that thieves accessed the personal information -- enough to allow them to take your tax refund -- of an additional 220,000 taxpayers, on top of the 114,000 reported in May. Meanwhile, we remain  concerned that Congress will use continued publicity about the Target breach and other breaches as an excuse to pass dangerous data security legislation. Dangerous? Yes, because it would only protect against limited financial identity theft harms, but eliminate stronger state protections against the harms posed by the IRS breach, the health insurance breaches and the OPM breach.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House To Vote On Godzilla-Sized Rule Blocker, As Financial Committee Considers Smaller Rollbacks | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: REINS Approved, near party line vote. Today, the House Financial Services Committee takes up a package of smaller rollback bills, many of which are opposed by Americans for Financial Reform and the PIRGs. Meanwhile, the House will bring up the Godzilla of all anti-health and safety bills, the REINS Act. Fortunately, the President has promised a veto.

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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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An error in your credit report? Complain to the feds

A mistake in your credit report can have serious consequences. It can hurt your ability to get a credit card, qualify for a loan, rent an apartment or even be hired for a job.
Find an error in your file and you want it corrected – quickly. But that doesn’t always happen. What do you do then? Complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

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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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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.”

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Analyzes Complaints About Credit Bureaus

WASHINGTON— According to new analysis from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, thousands of consumers with errors on their credit reports are getting relief through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The report also found that credit reporting agencies vary widely in how they respond to consumer complaints: Equifax responded to over half with relief, while Experian responded with relief to only 5 percent. 

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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.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

ATM Fee Backlash

The ATM surcharge has more than doubled the cost to consumers for using foreign ATMs. The surcharge contributes dramatically to the profits of ATM owners, lessens the benefit to consumers of shared ATM networks and encourages the growth of bigger banks.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Show Me The Money

This report updates a 1998 CFA survey on the consumer costs of payday lending and includes a survey of 230 payday lenders found in 20 states. It finds that payday lenders continue to make short term consumer loans of $100-400 at legal interest rates of 390-871% in states where payday lending is allowed. More disturbingly, the report finds that payday lenders are exploiting new partnerships with national banks to make payday loans in states, such as Virginia, where the loans are otherwise prohibited by usury ceilings or other regulations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 1999

Over 12 million American families can't afford bank accounts. The rest of us are paying too much, especially if we bank at big banks. Meanwhile, in 1998 banks recorded nearly $62 billion in profits, an eighth straight record year.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

President Issues Privacy Platform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the President announced support for a variety of privacy protections, most of which are laudable. However, it remains our view that Congressional consideration of a "uniform national breach notification standard" is unnecessary and, worse, will give powerful special interests an opportunity to use the proposal as a Trojan Horse to enact sweeping preemptive limits on state privacy protections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Gets Rare House Floor Defeat | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 12 Jan 2015 (adding opposition to Regulatory Accountability Act): House leaders miscalculated today when they attempted to pass a sweeping rollback of Wall Street reforms under a suspension of the rules procedure usually limited to bills naming Post Offices and praising Cub Scouts and Little League teams. Faced with strong opposition led by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), the proposal failed to get the necessary 2/3rds vote in favor to pass, but unfortunately it is expected to be back.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Data Breaches | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, 11/29, I'll discuss data breaches and card security on C-Span Washington Journal at 8:40 AM Eastern. It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday bracketing 2 more shopping days. If I shop, it'll be online, with credit, not debit, cards.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On Veterans Day, How The CFPB Helps Veterans, and All of Us | Ed Mierzwinski

Columnist George Will recently (and not for the first time) urged Congress to “abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” His reasons may seem to come from his conservative philosophy, but merely pander to the powerful Wall Street interests that left our economy in ruins just a few years ago. As a counterbalance, let’s discuss some recent speeches and statements by CFPB Director Richard Cordray on his vision for the bureau and some of its current work, including – on this Veteran’s Day – its efforts to protect military families from financial predators.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Why Didn't Chase Tell Customers About Breach, Before It Told Investors? | Ed Mierzwinski

News stories indicate that while JPM Chase, the nation's biggest bank, informed investors of the breach of up to 83 million customer records, it didn't, and won't, affirmatively reach out to warn actual customers. That's how the big banks roll, but it isn't good for consumer confidence. We discuss data security on NPR's Diane Rehm Show today at 10am ET.

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