Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft and more.

Protect Yourself

In today's marketplace, it takes a savvy, informed consumer to avoid common pitfalls and threats. Financial decisions in particular require assessing a blizzard of advertisements and navigating pages of jargon-laden fine print to make decisions about credit cards, bank accounts, loans, health insurance, and cell phone contracts, among other things.

It’s more important than ever to protect yourself:

  • Consumers who finance their cars through a dealership pay more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest over the lives of their loans.
  • In 2010, more than 8 million households were victims of identity theft, a 33 percent rise since 2005.
  • One out of 20 consumers has errors on their credit report significant enough to lead to higher rates on loans.
  • Banks made around $30 billion in overdraft fees in 2011. Adding insult to injury, these fees were pitched as “overdraft protection,” which most consumers would be better off without.

That's why the U.S. PIRG Education Fund has compiled recommendations and resources for consumers. Our tip sheets address some of the most common complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission—read on, and protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

 
Note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney. 

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

OUR TAKE ON THE LATEST ATTACK ON THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU | Michael Landis

Though the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds itself under constant attack. The most recent is from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. U.S. PIRG Education Fund—along with nine other consumer and civil rights organizations—filed an amicus brief in support of the CFPB’s request for a rehearing before the entire D.C. Circuit. The Department of Justice also filed a brief in support of the CFPB’s request. It is important that the October ruling is corrected so that the CFPB remains a strong and independent agency that looks out for consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach Presents Opportunity for Strong Response

Statement by Mike Litt at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on the latest announced Yahoo data breach.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fight Against Unfair ATM Surcharge Fees Heads to the U.S. Supreme Court (UPDATED) | Michael Landis

UPDATE: I recently wrote about an amicus brief that U.S. PIRG Education Fund filed in support of consumers and independent ATM owners in two consolidated cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, those cases aren’t pending anymore. On November 17, 2016, the Court issued a rare order throwing out the cases before they were argued.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Mortgage Problems Rank #1 at CFPB for Consumer Complaints

Mortgage problems were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report also found that Bank of America was the most complained about company in 45 states and Washington, D.C. for mortgage problems.It's the sixth in a series of our reports analyzing nearly 500,000 complaints posted to the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

We Commend CFPB For Adding Consumer Stories To Public Complaint Database

Yesterday, the CFPB published the first batch (7,700) of consumer narratives or stories to the Public Consumer Complaint Database it began in 2011. We've used the database to publish five reports (so far) analyzing complaint trends in markets ranging from credit cards to student loans but we have also long urged the voluntary addition of stories to the data fields. Now, consumers can learn if what happened to them happened to anyone else. Now, researchers can track which banks are more responsive to particular problems and which ignore their customers. A good resource is now an excellent resource.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRG Commends Release of Labor Dept.'s Proposed Rule To End Conflicted Retirement Advice

PIRG today commended the public release of the Department of Labor’s proposed rule that would strengthen the ability for Americans to save for retirement by addressing conflicts of interest that arise when brokers and financial advisers give retirement advice. Wall Street will fight the rule hard, because it requires them to put consumers first.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

USPIRG Commends Department of Labor's Rule On Conflicted Retirement Advice

Today, we joined President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren, CFPB Director Rich Cordray, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and others at AARP as the President announced his strong support for a proposed Labor Department rule to close loopholes and to require Wall Street and other financial advisors to put consumers first when they give retirement advice. Wall Street has already launched a misleading attack. Read more to see our statement supporting the proposal, which will put billions of dollars back into retirement accounts.

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

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to our 29th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB getting results for consumers this week | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, a senior bank industry lawyer said he was "amazed" at the amount of work the CFPB had accomplished "in such a short amount of time." This week, the CFPB stepped up its game another notch, when it returned $34 million to consumers who'd been deceived by a medical debt credit card pitched by their doctors and dentists and their receptionists and also took a big step toward ending forced arbitration in consumer contracts. Had any victims of the medical credit card wanted to go to court because they'd been ripped off, they couldn't, since the small print on that card, like the small print on most others, would send them instead to arbitration, no better than a kangaroo court.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Shopping? We've got your back, online and in the store. | Ed Mierzwinski

Whether you're shopping for toys or anything else this holiday season, the state PIRGs have new resources to help you make better, safer choices. We also have tips to protect your privacy and your wallet from online scams and rip-offs.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will U.S. Trade Deal With Europe Eliminate Consumer Protections? | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Tuesday, on Election Day, Washington State voters will consider the question "Yes On 522: To Label Genetically-Modified Foods." The right to choose your food is a right that American consumers want and every European citizen already has. But at the behest of the powerful agribusiness industry, U.S. trade negotiators want to take it away from all of us on both sides of the Atlantic in a secret deal. U.S. PIRG is among the consumer groups pushing back.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How To: Using the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database | Laura Murray

Since June 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been getting results for consumers by allowing them to file complaints about a variety of financial products and services.  The complaint process has helped thousands of consumers settle disputes with their banks and lenders.  Many of these consumers obtain tangible relief through the process.

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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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