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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 | Budget, Tax

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Cuts Some Waste, but Misses Chance to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

With our nation facing tough budget choices, U.S. PIRG applauds Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan for naming a few names when it comes to wasteful programs and special interest giveaways. This is the first step to ending the arbitrary sequester approach to budgeting, which throws the baby out with the bathwater...Unfortunately, the budget plan fails to close a single corporate tax loophole. This is a huge missed opportunity...There’s much more room for lawmakers to find common ground by ending wasteful programs while preserving those that serve the public interest, and closing the loopholes that only benefit special interests.

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

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Tips for consumers deciding whether to keep their individual health insurance plan or switch to a new plan.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Volcker Rule Finally Out, Will Require Vigilant Enforcement and Tough Judges

Regulators today released the final so-called Volcker rule designed to prevent Wall Street banks from placing the kinds of risky bets that helped magnify the 2008 mortgage market collapse into a spectacular failure of the financial system leading to trillions of dollars in lost retirement income and the loss of millions of jobs and millions of homes. [...] The final rule is stronger than the proposed rule and stronger than the rule that the banks wanted, reflecting the outpouring of support from citizens across the country, in favor of a robust Volcker rule. [...]

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Senate Farm Bill Continues Giant Giveaways to Big Agribusiness

The farm bill, just passed by the Senate, would keep the gravy train flowing for big agribusiness, locking in their unjustified corporate handouts for the next five years. The House needs to make serious changes to this legislation or reject it entirely.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rates for 33,833 Student Loan Borrowers in Maine Set to Double on July 1

According to an issue brief released today by U.S. PIRG, the upcoming increase in student loan interest rates would hike the cost of Maine students’ loans by $31 million. That translates into a $910 increase in debt per student, per loan.

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Senate panel approves tighter oversight of compounding pharmacies but bill is under fire

Public health and consumer advocacy groups are attacking Senate legislation designed to tighten oversight of specialized pharmacies such as the one at the center of this past fall’s deadly meningitis outbreak, saying it does not adequately address health risks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

New Report Documents a Decade of Safety Violations by Compounding Pharmacies

The contaminated drug that caused last fall's fungal meningitis outbreak and killed 55 people is just the tip of the iceberg of an industry-wide problem, according to a new U.S. PIRG report. The meningitis outbreak was simply the latest and deadliest in a long line of errors and risky practices by compounding pharmacies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students’ Statement in Support of the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013

Today, Senators Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Patty Murray, and Jack Reed introduced the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013. This bill creates a workable solution to keep student loan interest rates low until 2015 while Congress seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and reach a comprehensive solution to the student loan crisis that is good for students.

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

College Students Faced More than $31 Billion in Unmet Financial Need in 2003-2004

The report finds that public college students from a family with a household income of $62,240 or less face an average of $3,986 a year in unmet need. On average public college students from families with a household income of $34,288 or less fare even worse, facing an average of $4,990 a year in unmet need.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Disempowered Bankers Start Super PAC, Reveal Plans for World Domination

While I am highly skeptical of the sentiment that "Congress is not afraid of bankers", given that banking lobbyists outnumber banking reform advocates 25-1 and that the Chairman of the Senate Financial Services Subcommittee seems to believe that "the banks own the place," the most ridiculous thing about members of the American Bankers Association's announcement of the industry's new Super PAC may be their willingness to reveal its strategy for skirting the non-coordination rules. This speaks volumes about how the industry thinks about its involvement in politics.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Corporate crime update: Phone companies stop cramming, but banks still run amok | Ed Mierzwinski

The industry trade paper American Banker is reporting  that "Bank of America Sold Card Debts to Collectors Despite Faulty Records" in 2009 and 2010. Good to know. It confirms previous consumer group studies that had documented that big banks were forcing consumers to arbitrate and pay "debts" that may not have been owed (some were due to identity theft or sloppy records). However, in the latest fallout from a U.S. Senate Commerce committee investigation of unauthorized third-party billing on phone bills (cramming), Chairman Jay Rockefeller has announced that ATT has joined other big telcos in finally promising to drop the tawdry practice of "cramming," which is a technical term meaning "making big bucks by allowing fly-by-night firms selling useless junky products consumers don't want and didn't buy to use phone bills as cash registers."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Bureau Compared to Peace Corps | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, in his column "Government's Not Dead Yet," Joe Nocera of the New York Times pays a visit to the PIRG-backed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he finds vision, idealism and people working to show that "government can make a difference in people’s lives."

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

FTC releases major report recommending privacy reforms | Ed Mierzwinski

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today released a major report on consumer privacy. From FTC -- "In the report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers,” the FTC also recommends that Congress consider enacting general privacy legislation, data security and breach notification legislation, and data broker legislation."

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Blog Post | Democracy

Making Super PACs Illegal

Polling shows that almost 7 out of 10 voters believe that super PACs, the independent expenditure only committees created in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, should be illegal. Unfortunately, due to the Court’s backwards interpretation of the first amendment, we cannot legislate away super PACs today. However, there are some very important steps that every level of government – from your city council to the White House - should take right now to mitigate the impact of super PACs before the 2012 election.

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