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

Federal Consumer Agency Ponders Its Next Crusades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.[...] Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group, said this might be the single most important issue on the agency’s agenda. “The biggest thing we are hoping for in 2014 is to finish or at least make major progress with the arbitration rule and ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts,” he said. “In many of these cases you are ripped off for $10 or $100 each. But millions of consumers are ripped off. That’s why we think it’s a very big deal.”

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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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An error in your credit report? Complain to the feds

A mistake in your credit report can have serious consequences. It can hurt your ability to get a credit card, qualify for a loan, rent an apartment or even be hired for a job.
Find an error in your file and you want it corrected – quickly. But that doesn’t always happen. What do you do then? Complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Retailers appeal swipe fee settlement with Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, big retailers filed an appeal of last month's announced final settlement order in an antitrust case involving price-fixing by Visa and Mastercard. PIRG backs the merchants because non-negotiable swipe fees force all consumers, including cash customers, to pay more at the store and more at the pump.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG Applauds CFPB Call for Greater Disclosure

Washington, DC — Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) called on financial institutions to publicly disclose all of their card agreements with colleges and universities. Currently, institutions only need to disclose agreements regarding credit cards, but not debit, checking, or prepaid cards.

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Bounced Checks Could Land You On A Banking Blacklist

"NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bounced checks and forgotten overdraft fees can happen to anybody. But now, some banks are using those money mistakes against customers. [...] Consumer advocates said that some of the people being shut out have records that were dinged accidentally." (Video and print story available)

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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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Poised to Approve Bill Continuing Giant Giveaways to Big Agribusiness

U.S. PIRG urges the House to vote NO on the Farm Bill scheduled to be voted on today. Like the Senate’s Farm Bill, this legislation would keep the gravy train flowing for big agribusiness, locking in their unjustified corporate handouts for the next five years.

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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 | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2004

The 2004 Trouble in Toyland report is the 19th 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. PIRG’s research focused on four categories of toys: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that pose strangulation hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, and toys that contain toxic chemicals. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2004

The 2004 Trouble in Toyland report is the 19th 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. PIRG’s research focused on four categories of toys: toys that pose choking hazards, toys that pose strangulation hazards, toys that are dangerously loud, and toys that contain toxic chemicals. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Mistakes Do Happen

Several studies since the early 1990s have documented sloppy credit bureau practices that lead to mistakes on credit reports—for which consumers pay the price. Consumers with serious errors in their credit reports can be denied credit, home loans, apartment rentals, auto insurance, or even medical coverage and the right to open a bank account or use a debit card. We asked adults in 30 states to order their credit reports and complete a survey on the reports’ accuracy.

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Blog Post | Food

Will U.S. trade deal with Europe threaten our safety and pocketbooks? | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 15 June 2013) U.S. officials have begun discussing a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe. The deal poses a serious threat to strong U.S food safety laws, new U.S. rules designed to prevent another bank-induced economic collapse and many other public protections. The threat will be lessened if the U.S. reverses its plan to conduct negotiations in the full view of some 600 industry "advisors" but secretly from the rest of us.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Five Things The Credit Bureaus Don't Want You To Know | Ed Mierzwinski

If your name is Judy Thomas, you live in Ohio and you have good credit, you don't want to be mixed up with Judith Kendall who lives in Utah and doesn't have good credit. Last week, Judy explained her story to a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on credit bureau mistakes. We learned at least five things that the credit bureaus don't want you to know.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senator McConnell says we shouldn't have a CFPB at all | Ed Mierzwinski

Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) told Wall Street and other bankers yesterday that "If I had my way, we wouldn't have the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] at all." Here's a list of some of the protections the rest of us -- consumers, veterans, students, and seniors -- wouldn't have at all if McConnell and Wall Street had their way and we didn't have a  CFPB at all.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Time to break up the big banks? | Ed Mierzwinski

"Too big to fail, too big to jail." For far too long, that's been the government's attitude toward Wall Street banks. Regulators refuse to hold banks accountable both out of fear of Wall Street's political clout and also a misplaced perception that real enforcement might hurt the economy, even though a lack of enforcement recently wrecked it. But things are changing.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senators Hold CFPB Director Hostage, Roil Markets | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, most Senate Republicans again sent the President a letter saying they would not confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as CFPB director unless the agency's powers and independence were first gutted. Their intransigence contributes to market uncertainty that ignores at least three things: The CFPB is here to stay; the public wants the CFPB; and, banks lose to payday lenders if the director is not confirmed.

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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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