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

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB at Three: A Child Prodigy | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned just three years old Monday, July 21st, but when you look at its massive and compelling body of work, you must wonder: Are watchdog years like plain old dog years? Is the CFPB now a full-sized, 21-year-old adult? The answer is no, not yet. The CFPB is still growing and developing and adding programs and projects. The CFPB is, however, at three years old, certainly a child prodigy. Despite overwhelming public support, however, powerful special interests continue to attack it. Yet, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB at Three: A Child Prodigy | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned just three years old Monday, July 21st, but when you look at its massive and compelling body of work, you must wonder: Are watchdog years like plain old dog years? Is the CFPB now a full-sized, 21-year-old adult? The answer is no, not yet. The CFPB is still growing and developing and adding programs and projects. The CFPB is, however, at three years old, certainly a child prodigy. Despite overwhelming public support, however, powerful special interests continue to attack it. Yet, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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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.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Food, Tax

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2002

The 2002 Trouble in Toyland report is the 17th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) toy safety survey. PIRG uses its survey to educate parents and the general public about toy hazards. This report focuses on three main hazards associated with toys: choking, phthalates, and noise. We also conducted our second extensive survey of toys sold on the Internet.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Who's Watching The Watchdogs?

Conflicts of interest and lack of independent funding have doomed both the national and state level accounting oversight systems in the United States. The current Enron-Arthur Andersen debacle is illustrative of larger problems in the accounting oversight system. This report examines potential conflicts of interest in the 51 (50 states and the District of Columbia) state agencies with regulatory authority over accountants, known as the state boards of accountancy. It finds complicity between the boards’ lapdog bite and their overwhelming dominance by accounting insiders.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Playing It Safe 2002

The sixth nationwide investigation of public playgrounds by Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) found that a majority of American playgrounds pose hidden threats to our nation’s youngsters.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Deflate Your Rate

An estimated 55-60 percent of Americans carry credit card balances. One recent study found that nearly half of those with balances made just the minimum payment in February 2002.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Industry Associations Oppose Senate Legislation to Prevent "Another Enron"

The Senate should resist industry pressure and take immediate action to protect investors, employees and pensioners from future Enron-like collapses. At a time when we are wondering how Enron could keep so many analysts and accountants in the dark about their balance sheets, we need to re-shine the bright light of public scrutiny on these murky and complex energy derivative transactions.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB gets results for consumers, slams Chase for deceptive card add-ons | Ed Mierzwinski

Earlier this week, USPIRG Education Fund released "Big Banks, Big Complaints," a report documenting how the CFPB is helping bank customers with its public complaint database. Today, the CFPB announced it had imposed a $20 million civil penalty on JP Morgan Chase and ordered it to refund $309 million to over 2 million consumers for deceptively marketing junky credit card add-on products, some of which consumers didn't even receive. The CFPB is getting results.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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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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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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