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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bipartisan Push to Make Government Settlements More Transparent

Today, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Coburn (R-OK) that would make government settlements with corporate wrongdoers more transparent and accountable to American taxpayers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Regulators Disallow Tax Deduction for JPMorgan’s $1.7 Billion Settlement, Saving Taxpayers Close to $600 Million

Regulators saved taxpayers as much as $595 million by preventing JPMorgan from writing off its $1.7 billion payment for allegedly enabling Madoff Ponzi scheme

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

No Madoff Write-Off for JPMorgan

JPMorgan will reportedly pay a $2 billion settlement to resolve charges related to its role as the bank for Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Unless regulators prevent it, ordinary taxpayers may end up paying for as much as $700 million of that amount.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report: Reduction in Driving Likely to Continue

As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue. Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while driving-averse Millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down for decades. Download our infographic for a visual presentation of the report’s chief findings.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Statement from Student and Youth Groups on Rep. Kline’s Student Loan Proposal

Yesterday, Rep. Kline introduced a student loan reform package, H.R. 1911, which pegs student loan interest rates to the market, moving away from the fixed rates that are set by Congress. Under this plan, student debt levels will increase. While we are pleased that the proposal includes a cap on interest rates, a critical feature to indicate to borrowers that their loans will not rise past certain limits, the interest rates on some loans could still rise to double digits - far too high.  

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Media Hit | Democracy

USA Today: Make companies disclose political spending

If the Supreme Court is intent on allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of shareholders' money on political causes, the least shareholders can expect is the information they need to raise a stink.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Selection of New Director for Federal Housing Finance Authority is Opportunity to Protect Consumers

The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) should be accountable to consumers, taxpayers and Congress as it works to stabilize housing markets. The selection of a permanent FHFA director is an important opportunity to restore this powerful office to a servant of the public, rather than a captured creature of moneyed interests.

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

The Truth About Toxic Waste Cleanups

The Bush administration has failed to include reinstatement of the polluter pays fees in its budget proposals, and Superfund’s trust fund is now bankrupt. The Bush administration also has under-funded the program, cleaned up fewer toxic waste sites, and forced taxpayers to pick up more of the bill for the cleanups that are happening. In order to deflect criticism of the administration's record on toxic waste cleanups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided confusing, misleading, and even false information to the news media.

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

Body of Evidence

New evidence indicates that the chemical flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca) may threaten the health of Americans. Unfortunately, the story of Deca is not unique. Deca is one of many potentially hazardous chemicals that are in widespread use, due to a failed national policy that presumes chemicals are safe until proven beyond a doubt to cause harm.

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Report | Maryland PIRG | Consumer Protection

Graduating Into Debt

Complaints from students and parents in Maryland spurred several state legislators to introduce legislation to address credit card marketing to students. No legislation was enacted, and the hearings that were held to consider the legislation left unanswered questions about the extent of credit card marketing on Maryland public campuses and the policies, if any, of public colleges and universities regarding credit card solicitation. The results of this survey show that credit card marketing varies widely among Maryland colleges and universities.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2003

The 2003 Trouble in Toyland report is the 18th 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 pose potential safety hazards. PIRG’s research focused on four categories of toys: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, toys that pose strangulation hazards or could form sharp projectiles, and toys that contain toxic chemicals.

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

Weird Science

Genetic engineering is an imprecise and haphazard technology—something completely different from traditional plant breeding. Since the inception of the technology, biotechnology companies have clearly demonstrated that scientists cannot control where genes are inserted and cannot guarantee the resulting outcomes. Unexpected field results highlight the unpredictability of the science, yet combinations previously unimaginable are being field tested and used commercially.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Congress in zombie-like push to weaken investor laws and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, PIRG-opposed bi-partisan effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist Kathleen Pender and the NY Times ed board both rip the idea. While Congress appears trapped in a zombie-like fugue state, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG (WHO-TV Des Moines) marched against nuclear power this weekend. All this and more consumer  news of the week, in case you missed it.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer fraud summit today will be webcast | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATE: LINK TO C-SPAN WEBCAST ARCHIVE (My PANEL here and entire event here.)

In times of financial calamity, fraudsters come out to take your last dollar. This afternoon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will host a consumer financial fraud summit (agenda) at Georgetown Law School near Union Station bringing together enforcers from the DOJ, FTC, state agencies and consumer groups. I'll be on a panel discussing business opportunity frauds. Other panels will be on elder fraud and tax scams. The event is free and open to the public and will be webcast.

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Blog Post | Public Health

BuckyBall Magnets Still A Danger to Children | Nasima Hossain

Magnets posing as a serious health hazard to children keep appearing in the news. Now with this latest incident in Portland, Oregon, where a three year old girl was rushed into emergency surgery after swallowing 37 tiny magnets, we urge parents if they have had a scary incident with a magnet to alert the Consumer Product Safety Commission through their website.

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Blog Post | Democracy

After Super Pac Tuesday: Dominant Donors, Apathetic Voters

A new WashingtonPost-ABC News poll shows that on Super Tuesday, those going to cast their ballots in the presidential primary are not particularly enthusiastic about any of the candidates. Why? There is a fundamental problem that explains much of the disconnect between the candidates and the rank-and-file voters: the fact is, voters did not choose these candidates -- donors did.

It has become clear over the course of this primary season that a candidate's super PAC's prowess in knocking down the competition is key to staying in the race. Yet a recent U.S.PIRG/Demos study found that of all itemized contributions to super PACs, 96% came in contributions of $10,000 or more from just 1,097 donors.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Has Congress Forgotten Enron, Dutch Tulip Bubble Scandals? | Ed Mierzwinski

A misnamed package of legislation to weaken investor protection laws -- the so-called Jobs Act -- is speeding through the House this week. While some Senators are for parts of the package, the Senate is taking a closer look at whether rolling back the landmark investor protections known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act enacted after the Enron and related accounting scandals is really the way to go.

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