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 THE PUBLIC

WISPIRG’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, WISPIRG’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, WISPIRG 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

News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

National Payday Lending Rule Could Protect Wisconsinites from Predatory Loans

Today, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled a proposal for a new national rule on payday and car title lending that has the potential to protect Wisconsinites from predatory high-interest loans. At a press conference in Eau Claire, consumer advocates joined faith and community leaders to highlight the harms of payday lending in Wisconsin. WISPIRG, the interfaith organization JONAH, and Citizen Action also underlined the importance of a strong federal rule to rein in abusive lending practices, and urged the CFPB to prevent loopholes from weakening the rule.

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LATimes: Obama's consumer protection legacy defined by aggressive agency

[This weekend, the Los Angele Times chronicled President Obama's consumer protection record, with heavy emphasis on the history and fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):]

"[...] Launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bureau is one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. [...] “I think you have to consider him a tremendous president for consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Escalates Drive Toward Protections, Study Finds CFPB Enforcement Works | Ed Mierzwinski

This month the CFPB issued its proposed rule prohibiting class action bans in small-print mandatory arbitration clauses; in June it is expected to release its high-cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title loan) proposed rule. Meanwhile, as CFPB's industry opponents hide behind astroturf front groups and Congressional opponents use backdoor attacks, a law professor has released a major report finding that "from its inception [in 2011] through 2015 the agency had a 122-and-0 track record in its publicly announced enforcement actions" and that 93% (over $10.5 billion) of funds recovered for consumers have been for deceptive practices -- "[f]ar from a novel legal theory."

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Faith Leaders, Advocates Release New Fact Sheet Detailing the Impact of Payday Lending on Wisconsinites

Faith leaders and consumer and low-income advocates participated in a joint press conference call to detail the harms of payday and high-interest loans on individuals, families and communities across the state.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Stop Payday Predators

Payday loans are among the most predatory forms of credit on the market. Though they are marketed as having “reasonable” fees or charges, typical interest rates exceed 300 percent. And because the payday lenders’ bottom line actually depends on borrowers’ inability to repay — most payday fees come from borrowers who take out more than 10 loans a year — they target people with low incomes and no other options.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Consumer Protection

30 Groups Urge Assembly to Remove, Gov. Walker to Veto Payday Lender Grab-Bag in State Budget

coalition of 30 faith groups, low-income advocates and public interest lawyers and organizations is urging the Assembly to remove and, in the case of the chamber's inaction, Governor Walker to veto a set of sweeping budget provisions that would significantly expand the power of predatory payday lenders in Wisconsin. The final decision on the anti-consumer provisions will likely fall to the Governor, who is looking to sign the final budget document before announcing his run for President on Monday.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Faith Leaders, Low-Income Advocates, Consumer Groups Call Out Rent-to-Own Exemptions in State Budget

At a Monday press conference, a broad coalition of faith groups, low-income advocates and public interest organizations warned against 11th-hour additions to the state budget that would exempt the rent-to-own industry from Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

FCC NET NEUTRALITY ORDER PROTECTS THE OPEN INTERNET

Today the FCC took not one but two critical actions to make sure that the Internet works for everybody. First, it issued a "Net Neutrality" order guaranteeing a free and open Internet. This Internet freedom order will prevent the phone and cable companies from granting fast lanes or other preferences to already powerful firms. The FCC also acted to override state laws that prevented local governments from building out broadband networks to compete with the phone and cable companies.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s (WISPIRG’s) 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report.  The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Mixed Signals

WISPIRG has conducted “secret shopper” surveys at 132 electronics stores in ten states – including Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin – to determine if America’s big electronics retailers are properly preparing their customers for the digital transition. The results were released in WISPIRG’s new report: “Mixed Signals: How Retailers Mislead Consumers on the Digital Television (DTV) Transition.”

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Can You Hear Us Now?

Consumers increasingly rely on cell phone service to meet their basic communication needs. The use of wireless communications has skyrocketed over the past few years, jumping from approximately 24 million subscribers in 1994 to an estimated 170 million today. Along with the growth in the industry has come an increase in consumer complaints.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Time To Defend CFPB as Senate Banking Committee Aims Sights at It | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 12 April: The Senate Banking Committee held a stacked hearing on "Assessing Consumer Regulations" yesterday (5 April), although our one pro-consumer witness and pro-CFPB Senators defended consumer protection ably as three industry-backed witnesses and their supporters on the committee had a great deal of trouble proving their case that the CFPB should be dismantled. Tomorrow morning, (7 April) CFPB Director Richard Cordray will present the statutory "Semi-Annual Report of the CFPB" to the committee. We submitted a statement to be entered into the hearing record, as did other Americans for Financial Reform coalition members.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

What is payday lending? | Kathryn Lee

We are a leading member of Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition that was instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by Congress in 2010. The CFPB is currently working on a rule to reign in the payday lending industry. We, along with AFR, are working to make sure the rule is a strong one. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Lowering your APR might be easier than you think | Kathryn Lee

Many Americans are walking around with a balance on their credit card because of high interest rates, or annual percentage rate (APR) charges for unpaid balances. It's best to pay off your balance in full but if you don't or can't, a higher APR makes your debit grow faster. What most people don’t realize is this APR can be negotiated to a lower rate.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

100+ Groups Oppose Provisions That Threaten Public Protections | Mike Litt

The White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal tomorrow. U.S. PIRG and various state PIRGs joined a coalition of more than 100 groups that sent the following letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

House Tees Up VW Bailout and Other Attacks on Public Protections, Consumer Rights | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 8 January to add vote results): You've probably heard that the House is soon planning to again repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That bill will certainly be vetoed. But the House has other anti-consumer, anti-environmental bills scheduled for floor action this week and next. The bills take aim at agency health, financial and safety regulations and also consumer rights to band together as a class to take their grievances against corporate wrongdoers to court. That last bill would immunize Volkswagen from having to compensate VW Diesel owners for being deceptively sold cars designed to "defeat" air pollution requirements.

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