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 30 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 avoiding dangerous 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

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Sues Alleged Corporate Wrongdoers Amazon & T-Mobile | Ed Mierzwinski

In the last few days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed lawsuits against the wireless company T-Mobile over cramming of "hundreds of millions of dollars" in junk charges on phone bills and the web seller Amazon over "millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children." What's interesting is not that the companies are alleged to have broken the law, it's that they've refused to settle and forced the FTC into court.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Urge FTC Action On "Unfixed Recalled" CarMax Cars | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer groups to urge the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the massive car retailer CarMax for deceptive practices. The petition argues that CarMax aggressively advertises that all cars get a "rigorous 125-point" inspection but "fails to ensure that safety recalls are performed prior to selling used cars to consumers."

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Blog Post | Food

EU-US Consumers Hold Meeting on Trade Threats | Ed Mierzwinski

Updated: On Tuesday, 24 June, U.S. and European Union members of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD.org) hold our 15th annual meeting, in Washington, DC. The capacity crowd (but the event will be live-streamed) will hear government and consumer experts debate whether the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is good for consumers, or threatens strong health, safety and privacy laws while unwisely granting corporations some rights and powers of sovereign nations.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Turns 5, A Big Success Story | Ed Mierzwinski

The Credit CARD Act of 2009,  has its 5th birthday today on May 22. It is a government success story that cleaned up a Wild West credit card marketplace by eliminating unfair tricks and traps without destroying the market. Let's celebrate by extending it to other card markets--debit and prepaid cards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

Thursday, May 22 is the fifth anniversary of the successful Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers billions of dollars in unfair credit card fees and interest that were collected based on tricks and traps. U.S. PIRG, and a broad coalition, urge policymakers to extend similar protections to debit and prepaid cards.

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Blog Post | Food

Crop Insurance: A Taxpayer Giveaway by Another Name | Nasima Hossain

Just like other agriculture subsidies, the federal crop insurance program directs billions of taxpayer dollars to the biggest agribusinesses, with the payouts biased towards commodity crops that are often processed into junk food ingredients.  The program directly subsidizes agribusinesses’ insurance premiums on coverage they would buy anyway, making it yet another way taxpayer dollars pad Big Ag’s profits

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB seeks your views on prepaid cards, including campus cards featured in our latest report | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB wants your views on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Some of the campus cards featured in U.S. PIRG Education Fund's new report, the Campus Debit Card Trap, are prepaid cards, others are debit cards, and there is a difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House banking committee takes action to aid predatory rent-to-own firms today | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 1 June) This morning the House Financial Services Committee will likely approve HR 1588, legislation designed solely to allow the rent-to-own industry ("for only 104 weekly payments of $10.99, you can own this TV/computer/couch" for 3 or 4 times its total retail price) to preempt or override the laws of the several states that protect its consumers from predatory financial practices. Is that the role of the Congress?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NYTimes on growing tax fraud identity theft epidemic | Ed Mierzwinski

The New York Times has a story on the web "With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often" by reporter Lizette Alverez for Sunday's paper. It describes an "epidemic" of tax identity theft. Thieves file fraudulent tax returns and receive a legitimate taxpayer's refund before he or she does, often on a hard-to-trace prepaid card.  Losses are in the billions, losses are increasing and legitimate taxpayers are waiting a long time to get their refund. It's a very good story that explains how the crime works, how it disproportionately harms retirees and how, -- despite massive efforts by agencies from the IRS to the post office -- it's a growing mess. Unfortunately, the reform promoted by some policymakers quoted in the story -- increasing criminal penalties -- has never worked to stop identity theft. Bad guys don't have to carry guns and they rarely get caught, so the crime is booming. Sure, it doesn't hurt to increase penalties, but it is not enough. We need to protect personal data better. Relying on increasing penalties is a feel-good solution that won't work on its own. But the credit bureaus and other powerful special interests have resisted legislation to protect personal information better and spent heavily to convince policymakers that "blaming bad guys" is more important than fixing their own sloppy practices. The credit bureaus, of course, are wrong.

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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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