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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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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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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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Trouble in Toyland

We are about a month away from Christmas and before you hit those stores to find toys for the little ones there are a few tips you should take with you.

"The holiday season is an especially good time to remember some safety tips," said Anne Garinger of Safe Kids of Greater Des Moines.

The Iowa chapter of The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) spends months scouring the store shelves for toys that can pose a risk to children. This year their list, unfortunately continues to grow. One of the common violations: lead in toys.

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News Release | Iowa 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 Iowa Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Still Hiding Big Fees

A survey of hundreds of banks and credit unions in Iowa and 23 other states found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits). The survey released today by the Iowa Public Interest Research Group also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all. 

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Distorted Democracy: Big Money and Dark Money in the 2012 Elections

A new analysis of pre-election data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by Iowa PIRG and Demos shows that outside spending in the first presidential election since Citizens United is living up to its hype: new waves of “outside spending” have been fueled by dark money and unlimited fundraising from a small number of wealthy donors.

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Media Hit | Food

Unsafe food puts Americans at risk, new report says

Contaminated food sickened at least 17 Iowans in less than two years and cost the state more than $1.4 million, according to a new report.

Those illnesses and costs were linked directly to food recalls, according to the report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

A New Chapter for Iowa's Students

College textbook prices have skyrocketed in recent years, threatening the affordability and accessibility of higher education in Iowa. The average full-time undergraduate student is estimated to have spent $1,168 last year on books and supplies at an average cost of $175 per new book. As prices continue to rise, the need for solutions is increasingly urgent.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off The Road

This report for the first time presents government data on state-by-state driving trends. It analyzes which states drive more miles per-person, which states have reduced their driving the most since the end of the national Driving Boom, and how state changes in driving behavior correspond to other changes such as growing unemployment or urbanization. 

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Report | Iowa PIRG | Consumer Protection

Top Twenty Pay-for-Delay Drugs

Too often, consumers are forced to shoulder a heavy financial burden, or even go without needed medicine, due to the high cost of brand-name drugs. Our research indicates that one significant cause is the practice called “pay for delay,” which inflates the drug prices paid by tens of millions of Americans.

In a pay-for-delay deal, a brand-name drug company pays off a would-be competitor to delay it from selling a generic version of the drug. Without any competition, the brand-name company can continue demanding high prices for its drug.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term. The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom—from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation—no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation—the Mil­lennials—is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.

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Report | Iowa PIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Some U.S.-based multinational firms and individuals avoid paying U.S. taxes by using accounting tricks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes. They benefit from their access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security; but they pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system and forcing other taxpayers to pick up the tab.

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Blog Post | Ed's Blog

FTC SEEKS INFORMATION FROM DATA BROKERS | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued nine administrative orders seeking information to analyze the "Data Broker Industry’s Collection and Use of Consumer Data." The questions being asked track closely the questions posed both in a forthcoming U.S. PIRG/Center for Digital Democracy law review article and in similar information requests from the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus.

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Blog Post | Ed's Blog

CFPB'S #2 IS LEAVING, REPLACEMENT MUST MEET STANDARDS TO BECOME #1 | Ed Mierzwinski

The industry trade press is all a-flutter with demands that when CFPB Deputy Director Raj Date leaves, that be replaced with what they characterize as "another" bank-friendly regulator when he leaves. Raj Date wasn't selected as CFPB special advisor and then deputy director because he had a banking background; he was selected because his additional consumer background made him qualified to become director.

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Blog Post | Ed's Blog

GROUPS CRITICIZE FTC USED CAR RULE AND OTHER FINANCIAL FOLLIES | Ed Mierzwinski

Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups slammed a proposed new FTC Used Car Rule for failing to protect consumers and ignoring advice of advocates and state attorneys general. Meanwhile, in case you missed it, find out why an alleged financial fraudster was featured on the New York Times baseball page and read other financial follies of the week.

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Blog Post | Health Care

Here's the Rx refill you didn't order | Sonia Ashe

Is your pharmacy refilling your prescription without your knowledge or approval, and billing your insurance company for the cost? If so, it’s the latest example of waste we shouldn't tolerate in our health care system.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform, Ed's Blog

Consumers want "Do not track" privacy right but powerful firms fight back | Ed Mierzwinski

A new study shows that web surfers want an easy-to-use Do-Not-Track right to stop online tracking and collection of information about their web choices. But a powerful coalition of web advertisers and web publishers is fighting back, here and abroad, and it claims that such targeted advertising is what makes the Internet "free."

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