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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Senator Levin Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Tax Haven Abuse

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), joined by cosponsors Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would save $220 billion over the next ten years. U.S. PIRG draws attention to the abuse by shipping more than 700 postcards to a Bank of American P.O. box in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Receive Tax Windfall for London Whale Penalty

Unless regulators forbid JPMorgan Chase from writing off an $800 million settlement as a tax deduction, taxpayers could end up shouldering 35 percent of the cost of the settlement.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About Most

WASHINGTON – Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the US PIRG Education Fund. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Food, Tax

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Texas Fertilizer Plant Tragedy Reminder of Need for Better Chemical Safety Rules

Wednesday night’s tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant is a catastrophic reminder of the threat posed by hazardous chemicals used in thousands of facilities across the nation, and the need for us to take every step to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Consumers Need Stronger Public Health Protections to Ensure Compounded Drugs Are Safe

Our drug approval system for medicines manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and regulated through the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act is the one of the strongest and safest in the world. However, for the last 20 years the rapidly evolving compounding pharmacies industry has been successful in thwarting regulations at every opportunity.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG, PennPIRG | Democracy

PennPIRG to EQT: Elections Are Not for Shale

This morning, PennPIRG, PennEnvironment, Public Citizen, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh, Common Cause PA, University of Pittsburgh students and others held a press conference outside gas drilling company EQT’s annual shareholder meeting to call on it to end the practice of spending corporate money in elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Credit Card Trap 2008

This study is an in-person survey of a diverse sample of over 1500 students, primarily single undergraduates, at 40 large and small schools and universities in 14 states around the country conducted between October 2007 and February 2008. It analyzes how students pay for their education, how many use and how they use their credit cards and, finally, their attitudes toward credit card marketing on campus and whether or not they support principles to rein in credit card marketing on campus.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Better Way to Go

This report shows why rail, rapid buses and other forms of public transit must play a more prominent role in America's future transportation system. America has grown more dependent on car travel with each passing year.

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

Mixed Signals

In an effort to determine America’s preparedness for the transition, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund conducted a “secret shopper” survey at 132 locations of five leading national electronics retailers in ten states. The survey found that retail electronic store staff are largely uninformed and are not adequately preparing consumers for the impending transition to digital television.

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

Trouble In Toyland 2007

The 2007 Trouble in Toyland report is the 22nd 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. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Derailed By Debt

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) faces an uncertain financial future over the next five years. With debt service payments increasing, along with other costs, the MBTA will face sizable budget gaps forcing the Authority to choose among unhealthy options to close these structural deficits. These options primarily include: further dramatic fare increases, service reductions, or more borrowing.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB holds field hearing on prepaid cards-- all the fees, none of the protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Several members of the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform are among the witnesses at a field hearing on prepaid cards that the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau holds at noon today in Durham, NC. While reloadable prepaid cards are growing fast as an option for convenience, for the unbanked and for distribution of government and student benefits, so-called general purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold under a variety of brands have fewer consumer protections than credit cards (gold standard), debit cards (fewer protections), and payroll, government benefit and gift cards (some protections).The CFPB will announce a advance notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the situation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NY Investigates Banks "Forcing" Consumers To Buy Overpriced Mortgage Insurance | Ed Mierzwinski

It's called force-placed insurance for a reason. Your mortgage lender buys it for you and you are forced to pay for it, even if it isn't the best deal for you. When lenders purchase a product to "benefit" consumers, they often have numerous incentives to make the more expensive, not less-expensive, choice due to what's called reverse competition. That's a bad deal for you and a bad deal for the economy, but a good deal for the kind of sordid crony capitalism that relies on kickbacks, not better products. Fortunately, the New York Department of Financial Services (both banking and insurance) and the CFPB are both taking a deep dive into the forced-place-insurance mess.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

JP Morgan Chase Losses Could Speed Volcker Rule, Slow Other Rollbacks | Ed Mierzwinski

The silver lining in the JP Morgan Chase gambling (they call it "hedging") losses now predicted to reach $3-5 billion, not just $2 billion, is that Congress has slowed misguided efforts to slow or repeal important reforms to derivatives trading. Also, you can "like" or comment on my recent debate position  over at US News and World Report urging the Federal Reserve to use this latest big bank mess to implement a strong Volcker rule against risky bank betting with other people's money.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

JP Morgan Chase: $2 Billion Debacle Shows It May Be Too Big To Manage | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week the nation's largest -- and to date least vulnerable to attack for stupid bank tricks  -- bank, JP Morgan Chase, lost two billion dollars in a very bad derivatives bet. Now Chase's until-now-Teflon-coated CEO Jamie Dimon faces increased scrutiny over his own and his firm's loud and arrogant opposition to the Volcker rule and exchange trading of derivatives -- two Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms not yet implemented due to the obstinacy of bankers like him that might have prevented the loss. The episode also raises the question: Are the big banks too big to manage?

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Blog Post | Public Health

Medical Implant Recalls Raises Questions about 510K Review Process. | Nasima Hossain

Medical devices can range from bandages and medical clamps to surgical mesh and hip replacements. The medical devices industry is a $100 billion-a-year industry and works aggressively with the FDA to push thousands of devices onto the market every year.

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