Protecting Consumers

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 26 years, WISPIRG’s Trouble In Toyland report has surveyed store shelves and identified choking hazards, noise hazards and other dangers. One year, our research led to the recall of a cloth children’s book that we found contained lead.

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.

Issue updates

Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

This report is the third of several that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about credit bureaus with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with credit reporting.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Report: Equifax/Experian/TransUnion Get Big Complaints

A new report by WISPIRG Foundation found that the most complained-about credit reporting agency in Wisconsin is Experian.  Millions of Americans have errors on their credit reports, which can affect the ability to get a loan, buy a house, rent an apartment, or even get a job.

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WISPIRG Blocks Predatory Rent-To-Own Bill

In May 2013, WISPIRG helped defeat a provision that would have given special treatment to the predatory rent-to-own industry, which charges astronomical annual interest rates to rent used or older model products. WISPIRG joined with State Sen. Glenn Grothman, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, and numerous faith and civic leaders to oppose a special interest exemption that would have eliminated the requirement that rent-to-own businesses disclose an APR.
 

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Report | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

The Rent-to-Own Rip-off

The 2013-2015 biennial executive budget, proposed by Governor Walker, includes an exemption for the rent-to-own industry from Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws. Rent-to-own businesses are appliance and furniture retailers that arrange “lease agreements,” rather than typical installment or credit sales contracts. These leases are regulated as a form of credit because the consumer is buying a product over time and paying a very high premium over the product’s sale price.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Survey Finds Astronomical Rent-to-Own Prices, Interest Rates

A new report found that five rent-to-own stores in Rockford, IL on average charged an annual percentage rate of 221% and displayed outright cash purchase prices as much as two to seven times the cost of the same or similar products at other major retailers. The legislature is currently debating a controversial proposal in the executive budget proposal to provide a special exemption from the Wisconsin Consumer Act for the rent to own industry and which would eliminate the requirement to disclose an APR for Rent-to-Own products sold in Wisconsin.
 

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Coalition Calls on State Leaders to Remove Rent-to-Own Industry Exemptions from State Budget Bill

A broad coalition of consumer, faith-based, aging, family, and public interest organizations is urging state lawmakers to remove language in Governor Walker’s budget proposal that exempts the rent-to-own industry from Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws. 
 

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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 Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s [www.wispirg.org] 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Free checking still widely available, report says; some banks mum on fee info

Free checking can still be found at financial institutions in Wisconsin and nationwide, but consumers are more likely to see it at smaller banks and at credit unions than at some of the biggest banks, according to a survey by Public Interest Research Groups around the country.
Free checking can still be found at financial institutions in Wisconsin and nationwide, but consumers are more likely to see it at smaller banks and at credit unions than at some of the biggest banks, according to a survey by Public Interest Research Groupsaround the country. 

Read more: http://host.madison.com/business/free-checking-still-widely-available-report-says-some-banks-mum/article_a45e708c-2f79-11e2-8638-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2CVvvHGyc

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

New Survey Shows Free Checking Widely Available At Small Banks

A survey of 26 Wisconsin banks and credit unions and hundreds of banks and credit unions in 24 states and the District of Columbia 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 by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) 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 | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Poll Shows Voters Favor Strong Oversight of Wall Street and Back New CFPB

Financial reforms enacted in response to the financial meltdown remain popular with those likely to vote in 2012, a new opinion poll by Lake Research Partners shows. The poll was commissioned by AARP, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR). Saturday July 21 will mark the two year anniversary of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new agency with a strong record of successes for consumers despite facing constant unfounded political attacks in its first year of work.

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Stopping Identity Theft

A WISPIRG-backed bill to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit reports was signed into law in 2006. The law will allow consumers to lock out identity thieves, and further protect themselves from fraud.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 2012

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the state PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.  Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys

For the first time more than 650 brand name household products that contain one of two toxic chemicals of high concern, NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) and BPA (bisphenol A), have been publicly identified. Twenty-five manufacturers reported their use of NPEs and BPA in consumer products sold in Maine under a 2008 state law on chemical safety.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2010

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) announced in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2011

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s (WISPIRG) 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Report | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Recipe for Disaster

According to this study, 54 recalls have occurred in Wisconsin due to contamination by Salmonella and other bacteria related to food borne illness in the last 14 months.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Don’t Freeze our Public Health and Consumer Safety Protections | Bruce Speight

Last year, in the 175 days that the U.S. House of Representatives was in session, it passed more than 190 anti-regulatory bills. Putting profits over public safety and they are still at it.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era | Ed Mierzwinski

People of almost any age know a lot about the Kennedy administration with its optimistic beginnings and its sudden, tragic end. Yet many have probably never heard of one of JFK's important legacies -- his declaration that consumers have rights that deserve protection.

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