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

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Five Safety Breakthroughs in Five Years

On August 14, 2008, the CPSIA was signed into law after a deliberative process and overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law includes strong product safety reforms that revitalized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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An $18 Million Lesson in Handling Credit Report Errors

"Even after sending more than 13 letters to Equifax over the course of two years, Julie Miller could not get the big credit bureau to remove a host of errors that it inserted into her credit report. [...] So she tried suing. That worked. [...] “Big punitive penalties may help force the bureaus to upgrade their 20th-century algorithms and incompetent dispute reinvestigation processes,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “But C.F.P.B.’s authority to supervise the big credit bureaus is one of the most significant powers Congress gave it.”

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Weird Big Bank Trick Raises Price of Beer and Soda | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: August 8. Many of Enron's schemes involved sham transactions with itself that the SEC alleged had "no economic substance."  Taking a page from Enron's book, mega-bank Goldman Sachs is now moving tons of aluminum around and around its Detroit warehouses in similar transactions without apparent economic substance except to increase Goldman profits while raising costs of beer, soda and other goods relying on aluminum, delaying deliveries and disrupting aluminum markets. At a Senate hearing on the practice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) said: "This movie will not end well."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Ag Subsidies Pay for 20 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only Half of an Apple Apiece

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high-fructose corn syrup at a rate that would buy 20 Twinkies for each taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG's new report, "Apples to Twinkies 2013." Meanwhile, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy just one half of an apple per taxpayer per year. These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2013

At a time when America faces high obesity rates and tough federal budget choices, taxpayer dollars are funding the production of junk food ingredients. Since 1995, the government has spent $292.5 billion on agricultural subsidies, $19.2 billion of which have subsidized corn- and soy-derived junk food ingredients.

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Reuters: Bank Transfer Day saw 600,000 switch

Bank of America (BofA) Gets Hit By $5 Debit Card Fee, Consumers Move Their Money From Big Banks. Read the story. Then, get more info at U.S. PIRG's Bank Fee Tips. Check out our April 2011 report Big Banks, Bigger Fees for more details.

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Media Hit | Food

Fox News: New Report Links Agricultural Subsidies to Childhood Obesity

A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or U.S. PIRG, titled “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” found that between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. has spent more than $260 billion on agricultural subsidies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Representative Jeff Flake Introduces REAPS Act

Statement of U.S. PIRG Federal Legislative Office Director Gary Kalman on the introduction of the Reducing the Deficit through Eliminating Agriculture Direct Payment Subsidies Act.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Committee Approves Cut to Agriculture Subsidies

Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars are directed toward agribusiness -- artificially driving down the cost of fats and sugars by subsidizing commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, the prices of fruits and vegetables, grown with relatively little government support, have steadily increased by nearly 40% in the past 20 years.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer and Privacy Groups Warn Online Tracking at "Alarming Levels"

Warning that “tracking and targeting of consumers online have reached alarming levels,” a coalition of 11 consumer and privacy advocacy organizations today sent a letter to Congress outlining the protections any online privacy legislation must include.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Rule Regulating Big Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, as expected, the CFPB announced its first "larger participants" rule, giving itself the authority to supervise, or look inside the mysterious "black box" operations, of the biggest credit bureaus. This is a really big deal for consumers who've suffered through the mistakes made by these gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Visa/Mastercard settlement may allow surcharges, but some stores say unfair practices not ended | Ed Mierzwinski

A reported $5 billion settlement over anti-competitive practices by Visa and Mastercard that raise prices for all consumers at the store and at the pump will allow merchants to surcharge credit card transactions in some circumstances. But the convenience stores oppose the settlement as too weak to protect them.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB May Announce It Has "Guns, Lots of Guns" To Regulate Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB travels to Detroit Monday, July 16th, for a field hearing on credit reporting. It seems like a fine opportunity to announce a final anticipated rule giving it full authority -"guns, lots of guns" - to look inside the black box operations of Trans Union, Equifax and Experian-- the Big Three self-anointed and little-scrutinized gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity despite their long record of mistakes and failure to give consumers a chance to fix them.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arbitration: it's not just bad for you, it's bad for fair arbitrators, too | Ed Mierzwinski

A Bloomberg columnist is reporting that the securities industry's self-regulator FINRA has fired 3 arbitrators who ruled against BofA's Merrill Lynch in favor of a presumably grievously ripped-off investor (they rarely win). It's time for both the SEC, for investors, and the CFPB, for consumers, to step up and use their Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act powers to ban forced arbitration.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On the Internet, Everyone Knows If You're A Big Dog, Or Just A Dog | Ed Mierzwinski

A Wall Street Journal story today has everyone talking about how Internet sites use profiles and cookies to offer different customers different offers, or the same product for different prices. On the Internet today, everybody knows whether you're a big dog, or just a dog.

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TOY SAFETY TIPS ON-THE-GO

From toxic chemicals to choking hazards to dangerous magnets, see what dangerous toys to watch out for while you shop.

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