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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Data Breach Here, Data Breach There, Data Breach Everywhere! | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 10 June Re DHS Breach: If you shop with plastic, have health insurance, pay taxes, work for the federal government, or (fill in blank) you’re at risk of a data breach. And with so much information about you already available on the Internet, it’s best not to select easy-search security questions like “Where were you born?” or answers like “Pizza.” What’s your best defense against identity theft? No, it isn’t credit monitoring, it’s a security freeze.

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How Companies Turn Your Facebook Activity Into a Credit Score

This story in The Nation explains our work challenging the way data brokers use "black box," or secret, algorithms to make scoring decisions that may violate the law and deny credit opportunities. This work was also the subject of our recent livestream event featuring Professor Frank Pasquale and his new book, "The Black Box Society." We've now posted an archive of that event, in 3 chapters on our Youtube page.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Event 5/11 re new book on black box decisionmaking & consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED TO CONFIRM CFPB Speaker. We are hosting an event Monday, 5/11, from 9am-noon ET to discuss a new book, The Black Box Society, with author Frank Pasquale. Click Keep Reading to RSVP to attend in person or to watch the livestream. While credit bureaus have long functioned as black box gatekeepers to opportunity, panelists will discuss the growing use of more and more, even less transparent black boxes to categorize consumers in the digital economy.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRG Commends Supporters of Duckworth Amendment to Protect Our Troops From High-Cost Loans

Last night, on a 32-30 bipartisan vote, the House Armed Services Committee supported the Tammy Duckworth (IL) amendment to strike language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have delayed Pentagon-proposed improvements to the Military Lending Act of 2007. It's a critical victory for servicemembers, veterans and their families, although the fight to protect our troops from high-cost loans will continue.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S. House Considers Delay To Financial Protections for Servicemembers, Veterans | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED 30 April): Last year the Department of Defense proposed needed improvements to the 2007 Military Lending Act, since high-cost lenders were exploiting loopholes to evade the law's 36% APR cap on loans to servicemembers to make loans at 400% APR or more, harming military families and threatening unit preparedness to defend the nation. Now, days before a committee vote, predatory lenders have succeeded in convincing House Armed Services Committee leaders to insert language into the National Defense Authorization Act that would delay the DoD regulations up to a year while needless, redundant studies are prepared. Only in Washington.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Shows Iowans Are Driving Less

Iowans have cut their per-person driving miles by 2.47 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the Iowa PIRG Education Fund.  This trails the national average decline of 6.87%. 

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News Release | Iowa PIRG | Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Iowa Taxpayer $897 a Year, Iowa Small Businesses $2,712

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. Sonia Ashe of Iowa PIRG was joined today by Sue Dinsdale of the Iowa Citizen Action Network and Lora Fraracci, owner of local cleaning service Earth Made Clean, to release a new study which revealed that the average Iowa taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $897 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. 

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Sun Shines on Government Spending in Iowa

Iowa received a “B” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fourth annual report of its kind by the Iowa PIRG Education Fund

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News Release | Iowa PIRG

Iowa PIRG participates in roundtable with CFPB

Iowa PIRG Advocate Sonia Ashe joined consumer advocates, financial industry leaders and academics in assessing the strengths and areas for improvement in a new complaint database launched by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at a field hearing at the Des Moines Central Library attended by CFPB Director Richard Cordray and other high-ranking CFPB officials.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed, Transportation

A New Course

Colleges and universities across the country are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and surrounding communities. Policymakers at all levels of government should be looking to the innovative examples of these campuses. Universities and college towns also provide useful models for expanding the range of transportation options available to Americans while addressing the transportation challenges facing our communities.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

This is the fourth in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about credit cards with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their credit cards and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

A first-of-its-kind report showing that on average, residents of America’s cities are driving less and using other modes of travel more.  The report compares the latest government data on changes in automobile use, public transit travel and biking in each of the most populous 100 urbanized areas across the nation.  Recommendations are made for how policy leaders should adapt to these new trends.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2013

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Adds Consumer Stories to Public Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the CFPB took a step to make its excellent public database of consumer complaints even better, by adding complaint narratives (stories), but only with the consumer's consent. It's a step we've long urged. It will enrich our research into the marketplace, help consumers make choices and help good-actor firms avoid bad practices by others.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

As NY Brings Credit Bureaus To Heel, CFPB Arbitration Study Paves Way Toward New Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Two big consumer stories so far this week offer hope to consumers victimized by credit bureau errors and, more generally, by an inability to take credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks or payday lenders to court when harmed. On Monday, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Big Three credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Then today, the CFPB released a report finding that consumer legal rights are infringed by small-print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts.  The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today (Tuesday) to discuss the report's findings and next steps.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | Ed Mierzwinski

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As House Holds Oversight Hearing, 340 Groups Call For Defense of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray will present the CFPB's sixth semi-annual report to the House Financial Services Committee, whose majority members have been harsh critics of the successful consumer agency. Americans for Financial Reform, joined by the state PIRGs and a total of 340 national, state and local groups, sent Congress a letter explaining why the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Coalition Launched To Protect Retirement Savings from Wall Street Loopholes | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups to support an imminent Department of Labor rule to require retirement advisors to put consumers first. Wall Street brokerages and insurance companies have already launched a fierce lobbying attack, since they've been using loopholes to put themselves first to the tune of an estimated $17 billion/year by pocketing what should be your retirement income.

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