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

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Can the CFPB help me with my student loan problem? | Gideon Weissman

More than 44 million Americans have student loan debt, in total owing more than $1.4 trillion. Finding the right student loan and deciding on the right payment plan can be complicated. Many borrowers also have trouble paying – more than 10 percent of student loans are at least 90 days delinquent. Fortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – America’s first federal agency dedicated to protecting Americans in the financial marketplace – has resources to help.

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L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, U.S. PIRG, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

What is the CFPB’s role in protecting consumers? | Gideon Weissman

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis with one mission: to protect consumers in the financial marketplace. But how exactly is it protecting consumers from mistreatment? We explain.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

What did the CFPB do about Wells Fargo opening unauthorized accounts? | Gideon Weissman

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the first federal agency devoted to protecting consumers in the financial marketplace. In 2016, the CFPB held Wells Fargo accountable for unfair treatment of its customers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Record $100 Million Fine on Wells Fargo For "Beyond Outrageous" Sales Practices

On September 8 the CFPB announced a record $100 million civil penalty plus consumer restitution against Wells Fargo, among the  nation’s largest banks, for a series of unfair and abusive sales practices by “thousands” of employees that included opening “secret” accounts for “hundreds of thousands” of existing customers, solely to meet sales goals to receive financial incentives. The CFPB action was joined by simultaneous orders announced by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ($35 million civil penalty) and the City of Los Angeles ($50 million civil penalty). Our statement follows.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Turns 5 Years Old, PIRG Celebrates Accomplishments, Warns of Ongoing Threats

This week, on July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 5 years old. The CFPB, a brainchild of then-professor Elizabeth Warren, was championed by U.S. PIRG and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), a PIRG-backed coalition of civil rights and community groups, as part of Wall Street Reform legislation enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse triggered by risky bank practices. U.S. PIRG warned, however, that the successful bureau, the first federal financial agency with only one job, protecting consumers, faces continued threats.

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Open Letter Calling on L’Oreal to be Toxic-Free

An Open Letter to the CEO of L’Oreal calling on the company to Pledge to be Toxic-Free

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Open Letter Calling on Unilever to be Toxic-Free

An Open Letter to the CEO of Unilever calling on the company to Pledge to be Toxic-Free

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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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: By the numbers | Kathryn Lee

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a breakdown of their successes they’ve had in the short five-year period they’ve been established. We're very proud to have been a part of building it and defending it; we're also very proud of the many achievements the youthful CFPB has made to make the financial marketplace fairer for consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will Wells Fargo CEO Tell Senate "No Clawbacks" of Exec's Golden Parachute? | Ed Mierzwinski

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf goes before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday (9/20) to explain the recent $185 million in combined civil penalties by the CFPB and other regulators over a sales goals incentive scandal that led to employees opening some 2 million fake, secret accounts without the knowledge of customers. How will he respond to the growing public clamor for a clawback of bonuses paid his top retail executive Carrie Tolstedt, whose retirement with a $125 million golden parachute package had been announced earlier this summer? 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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