Consumer Protection

Yesterday, U.S. PIRG joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) and other leading members in front of the U.S. Capitol to introduce the Overdraft Protection Act of 2012. Also this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau described its proposal to simplify mortgage points and fees. Click read more to find about these and other important financial stories this week.

You can pick your friends and even your bank but you are stuck with the credit bureaus.  Over the last twenty years the power of the big credit bureaus to act as gatekeepers to consumer success in life has grown immensely. Credit reports and credit scores generated from them are used to decide whether consumers can get a job, get car insurance, qualify to open a bank account, rent an apartment, use a debit card and, of course, whether they can obtain and how much they will pay for credit. The Columbus (OH) Dispatch has an excellent four-part series explaining that the credit bureaus make mistakes, lots of them, and ruin peoples' lives. There is hope, however, since the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has new tools to rein in the bureaus.

Consumer Reports magazine issues Facebook privacy tips

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

The cover story of the June 2012 Consumer Reports is all about protecting your privacy on Facebook. Worth a read.

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took an important first step toward protecting consumers from mandatory arbitration clauses, which are boilerplate sentences in bank account and other contracts that crush consumer legal rights. ... Meanwhile, the New York Times follows up on a lawsuit by the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson against a medical debt collector that blocks and tackles consumers trying to get through hospital emergency room doors. But it gets better. That debt collector just happens to be owned by the same hedge fund that owned a supposedly neutral (not) forced arbitration mill known as NAF and favored by the big credit card companies.   ...  Also today, the World Privacy Forum announced updates to its helpful pages on medical identity theft.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced a "thought starter" beta test version of a tool to make it easier to calculate college debt burdens. "The goal is to give students and their families an easy-to-understand view of how their decisions today impact your debt burden after graduation."  Meanwhile, banks and an auto finance company have confirmed that the CFPB is investigating both the marketing of overdraft protection schemes and the practices of "buy here, pay here" auto dealers.

House launches latest "hypocritical" campaign to kill CFPB

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services will vote on a budget package that eliminates the budgetary independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) -- an effort to make it the only bank regulator subject to the political chicanery of the Appropriations process -- while simultaneously slashing its budget by 60%. Even the industry trade paper American Banker says: "Is GOP Push to Subject CFPB to Appropriations Hypocritical?"

U.S., States Sue Apple, Publishers Over E-Book Price Conspiracy

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today, the U.S. Attorney General and the Attorney Generals of Connecticut and Texas announced settlements with several publishers -- Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins --over an alleged conspiracy with Apple and other publishers to attack Amazon's pricing model, secretly set e-book prices and thereby harm consumers. However, Apple and the publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group USA have refused to settle and are being sued by the agencies.

Consumer Bureau Compared to Peace Corps

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today, in his column "Government's Not Dead Yet," Joe Nocera of the New York Times pays a visit to the PIRG-backed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he finds vision, idealism and people working to show that "government can make a difference in people’s lives."

50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

I've got a new column at Huffington Post, "50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era." I discuss President Kennedy's visionary "Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest" announced on March 15, 1962. He declared that consumers have rights and government should protect them. Read the full column after the jump.

After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, PIRG-opposed bi-partisan effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist Kathleen Pender and the NY Times ed board both rip the idea. While Congress appears trapped in a zombie-like fugue state, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG (WHO-TV Des Moines) marched against nuclear power this weekend. All this and more consumer  news of the week, in case you missed it.

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