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

LATimes: Obama's consumer protection legacy defined by aggressive agency

[This weekend, the Los Angele Times chronicled President Obama's consumer protection record, with heavy emphasis on the history and fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):]

"[...] Launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bureau is one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. [...] “I think you have to consider him a tremendous president for consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Escalates Drive Toward Protections, Study Finds CFPB Enforcement Works | Ed Mierzwinski

This month the CFPB issued its proposed rule prohibiting class action bans in small-print mandatory arbitration clauses; in June it is expected to release its high-cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title loan) proposed rule. Meanwhile, as CFPB's industry opponents hide behind astroturf front groups and Congressional opponents use backdoor attacks, a law professor has released a major report finding that "from its inception [in 2011] through 2015 the agency had a 122-and-0 track record in its publicly announced enforcement actions" and that 93% (over $10.5 billion) of funds recovered for consumers have been for deceptive practices -- "[f]ar from a novel legal theory."

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Whiter button mushrooms cannot forgo testing | Anya Vanecek

The FDA is likely to approve newly-developed GMO mushrooms without testing them for human health and environmental safety. For just an aesthetic change, this all seems rather foolish.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

You might not know this about overdraft fees | Kathryn Lee

Did your bank sell you on the idea that it’s embarrassing for you to have your debit card declined for a $3 cup of coffee, and that you should pay them $35 each time for “overdraft protection”? Those big fees are what’s embarrassing. Unless you say yes to allow fees, you cannot be charged for over-drafting your debit card.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Our new "CFPB Can Help" video is live | Ed Mierzwinski

Please like and share our new video short (it's less than a minute) letting consumers know how the "CFPB can help." The CFPB, of course, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement on Experian Breach of T-Mobile Customer Data

In the wake of a massive data breach affecting Experian’s computers holding 15 million files of T-Mobile hacked customers and applicants, we question why the firms are offering credit monitoring instead of paying to place credit, or security, freezes on all three of each victim’s credit reports. Only the security or credit freeze, available in any state, stops new account identity theft. Potential victims should freeze all of their “Big 3” credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

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

U.S. PIRG Echoes CFPB Call for Improved Student Loan Servicing

Earlier today, The CFPB released a report reviewing the state of student loan servicing, identifying the industry’s pervasive failures.

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Chip Cards Will Require Users to Dip Rather Than Swipe

You're probably wondering why most of your credit and debit cards have been replaced early, with a shiny metallic "chip" on the left front. That's because, as of October 1, banks and card networks will hold merchants more accountable for fraud losses if they don't have card readers where you can "dip" instead of "swipe." Rachel Abrams of the NY Times has an excellent explainer on how the new tech will greatly reduce in-person retail card fraud because the chip scrambles your account number for one-time use by the merchant. The story also explains how the tech could have been better with a PIN along with a chip, and how it won't help stop online fraud at all. But it is a step.

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How Volkswagen Could Compensate Diesel Owners

We explain the core demand of our "Make VW Pay Campaign" in this story by New York Times columnist Ron Lieber:

He asks: "Why not just ask for whatever the cars were worth on the day before news of the scandal broke"

Our reply: "Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. PIRG, says that the drivers deserve more."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

We Launch “Make VW Pay Campaign” Over EPA Cheating Scandal

Today we launched a “Make VW Pay Campaign” as VW's CEO resigned over the scandal surrounding its "defeat device" scheme (and subsequent cover-up) to trick EPA pollution monitoring computers in nearly half a million diesel cars sold in the U.S. We are demanding a full rebate in buy backs to customers and other accountability.

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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, Make VW Pay

Detroit Auto Show | Kathryn Lee

Marcus and Elisabeth made their way to the Detroit Auto Show over the weekend. As they drove across the country, on a mission to return their TDI to Volkswagen corporate headquarters in Virginia, the couple has been making stops along the way. The just missed Mathias Mueller as he toured the US, stopping at the Detroit Auto Show to try to make amends with customers. Saturday was the first day the show was open to the public. Marcus and Elisabeth first met with press across the street of the event and then went into building, heading straight to the Volkswagen booth.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

The foundation is crumbling | Bill Wenzel

What was missing from President Obama's visionary plan for medical progress? 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Why VW Must Pay. A View From The Road | Ed Mierzwinski

I've posted a guest post blog entry from Marcus Moench and Elisabeth Caspari on my Huffington Post blog and cross-posted it here. It explains why Marcus and Elizabeth are traveling from Boulder, Colorado to Volkswagen headquarters in northern Virginia to attempt to return their 2010 "defeat-device" Jetta diesel.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

From the road | Mike Litt

Last week, Marcus and Elisabeth kicked off a cross-country road trip to Volkswagen headquarters in Virginia to make VW pay for misleading consumers and polluting our air. Marcus and Elisabeth own one of the 567,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. that Volkswagen sold as “clean” but was secretly designed with a “defeat device” to emit as much as 40 times the legal limit for smog-forming pollutants. 

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