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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 | 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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Where Students Stand To Lose the Most if Federal Loan Rates Double

U.S. PIRG released data today detailing the colleges and universities across the country where students would be the most adversely impacted by the looming rate hike on Subsidized Stafford student loans.

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

Looking Forward After Katrina

We have developed a quick snapshot of some of the environmental health problems in the wake of the hurricane, as well as recommendations for governmental officials to take into account as they move forward.

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

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Easy Money

Congress has the opportunity this year to increase student aid funding by billions of dollars at no additional cost to taxpayers. Bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that would increase federal student aid for those colleges and universities that utilize the more economically efficient of the two federal student loan programs. The Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced in March 2005, would increase student aid funding by redirecting the subsidies currently going to student loan companies to needy students.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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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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Blog Post | Public Health

Don’t Freeze our Public Health and Consumer Safety Protections | Nasima Hossain

Last year, in the 175 days that the U.S. House of Representatives was in session, it passed more than 190 anti-regulatory bills. They have been putting special interests over public safety and they are still at it. Next up is H.R. 4078, the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012,” a bill that wrongly calls for a halt on all public health and consumer safety protections until the unemployment rate reaches six percent. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the bill on Tuesday, March 20.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Investor rights on chopping block in U.S. Senate (updated) | Ed Mierzwinski

(See updates (click Keep Reading): Today, the U.S. Senate will consider the House-passed "JOBS" Act, which weakens investor protections -- many passed after the Internet bubble burst and Enron's follow-on bankruptcy destroyed jobs and retirement savings. Its supporters claim the bill to make it easier for small companies to navigate SEC rules and  thereby promote small company growth (which theoretically creates, you guessed it, jobs), has already been thoroughly vetted. Yet, the bill is opposed by some of the Senate's most thoughtful investor champions and opposed by U.S. PIRG and numerous consumer and investor organizations. We support a substitute to be offered by Senators Jack Reed (RI), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Carl Levin (MI) because it protects investors. But if the substitute fails to get 60 votes, the JOBS Act will be non-amendable under an ill-advised special fast-track system set up to speed it through.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Senate Wants to Pass Dangerous Just Open Bucket Shops Act (so-called Jobs Act) | Ed Mierzwinski

You may not remember any pre-2008 scandals -- dot.com bubble?; Enron scandal? --  since they are so yesterday's news. Don't worry. The House and Senate don't remember, either. If the Senate has its way with quick passage of the misnamed already-House-passed Jobs Act, -- better named by the New York Times columnist Gail Collins as the "Just Open Bucket Shops Act" -- conflicted analysts will make stuff up again, government watchdogs like the SEC and PCAOB will be chained, and small and novice investors will be looking at "crowd-funded websites" from good guys and bad guys, too, including often-fraudulent Chinese IPOs. Things are so bad that the Senate's leading investor champions aren't even sure they can get enough votes to modify the proposal -- let alone block it -- even with a compromise alternative (letter from PIRG-backed AFR/CFA). Only in Washington.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era | Ed Mierzwinski

I've got a new column at Huffington Post, "50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era." I discuss President Kennedy's visionary "Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest" announced on March 15, 1962. He declared that consumers have rights and government should protect them. Read the full column after the jump.

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