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

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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

U.S. PIRG Applauds House Leadership for Dropping One-Year Farm Bill Extension that Included Billions in Wasteful Subsidies

In this current economic climate the reauthorization of the farm bill should be a straight forward opportunity to end wasteful subsidies.

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

Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 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, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy half of an apple per taxpayer.

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Fox Business: Consumer Watchdog Gives Bite to Dodd-Frank

"The CFPB has been enormously successful in ramping up over its first year," says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups in Washington, D.C.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

SENATE TO VOTE ON FARM BILL AND GIVEAWAYS TO BIG AG

U.S. PIRG is disappointed in the Senate’s approval of the 2012 Farm Bill, which will send tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to Big Ag. Nasima Hossain, U.S. PIRG public health advocate, releases statement on the Senate Vote today on the 2012 Farm Bil.

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NYTimes Editorial: Debit Cards on Campus

According to a study by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, an advocacy organization, nearly 900 colleges and universities have card relationships with banks or other financial institutions, some of which manage student aid disbursements by turning student IDs into debit cards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

ATM Fee Backlash

The ATM surcharge has more than doubled the cost to consumers for using foreign ATMs. The surcharge contributes dramatically to the profits of ATM owners, lessens the benefit to consumers of shared ATM networks and encourages the growth of bigger banks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Show Me The Money

This report updates a 1998 CFA survey on the consumer costs of payday lending and includes a survey of 230 payday lenders found in 20 states. It finds that payday lenders continue to make short term consumer loans of $100-400 at legal interest rates of 390-871% in states where payday lending is allowed. More disturbingly, the report finds that payday lenders are exploiting new partnerships with national banks to make payday loans in states, such as Virginia, where the loans are otherwise prohibited by usury ceilings or other regulations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 1999

Over 12 million American families can't afford bank accounts. The rest of us are paying too much, especially if we bank at big banks. Meanwhile, in 1998 banks recorded nearly $62 billion in profits, an eighth straight record year.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

ATM: Always Taking Money

This PIRG national survey, done in March 1999, compares surcharging practices at 336 banks and 31 credit unions to the results of PIRG's spring 1998 report, "Big Banks, Bigger ATM Fees."

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Mistakes Do Happen 1998

This is the PIRGs' sixth study on credit report accuracy and privacy issues since 1991. This report is our first investigation of credit report accuracy since 1996 Congressional changes to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), designed to improve the accuracy and ease of access to reports, took effect in September 1997. The findings of Mistakes Can Happen are troubling. An alarming number of credit reports contain serious errors that could cause the denial of credit, a loan, or even a job. Further, some consumers never even received their reports, even after repeated calls. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Leading investor groups oppose expected SEC effort to weaken rules (WE WIN DELAY!) | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: WE WIN! SEC AGREES TO DELAY AND CONDUCT CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF BAD PROPOSAL. Original: The SEC could vote as soon as August 22 to weaken protections against investor fraud -- under the false guise of stimulating jobs! U.S. PIRG, the Consumer Federation of America, the AFL-CIO, a former SEC commissioner and other investor advocates have sent a strong letter to the SEC urging it not to act, especially under unjustifiable emergency rules that deny a reasonable public comment period.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bumbo, CPSC Recall Baby Seat Linked To Skull Fractures | Ed Mierzwinski

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bumbo, maker of a baby seat linked to at least 21 skull fractures, have announced a repair recall to install a free safety belt. U.S. PIRG and other consumer groups had pressured them to act.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Ancient English football club Man U to launch "ugly" IPO under new US law for "emerging" companies | Ed Mierzwinski

The venerable English football club Manchester United, founded in 1878, is expected to file an IPO today under a new U.S. law, the JOBS Act, that passed overwhelmingly because it was intended to help newer, smaller companies go public. Over at The Motley Fool, they say: "Thank the JOBS Act for the Ugliest IPO of the Year."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Emergency-room debt collector pays penalty but says no patient had "problematic interaction"? | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson settled her case with Accretive Health, the debt collector that allegedly acts as a gatekeeper to obtaining emergency-room treatment. The AG's legal filing has  affidavits from 60 victims but in a press release, the debt collector says "the Attorney General did not and could not identify a single patient in Minnesota who experienced a problematic interaction with an Accretive Health employee." Hunh?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Privacy Hawks Demand Info From Data Brokers | Ed Mierzwinski

A bi-partisan group of members of Congress, led by the political odd couple of Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), have sent detailed information demands to a number of virtually unregulated data brokers. The firms buy and sell information gleaned from public record databases, social network sites and other sources; but unlike the Big Three credit bureaus, no one really knows what they are up to.

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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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