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

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRGs, Others Ask CFPB & FTC To Investigate Experian/T-Mobile Data Breach

In a letter sent today, a number of state PIRGs and other leading privacy and consumer groups urged the CFPB and FTC to fully investigate the recent breach of an Experian subsidary that exposed 15 million T-Mobile customer and applicant records to the threat of new account identity theft. The letter asked whether the regulators could require Experian and the other two nationwide credit bureaus -- TransUnion and Equifax -- to give victims free security freezes to protect their credit reports.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Advances Consumer Protection, Attacks on CFPB Escalate | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the CFPB took a major step toward establishing a regulation restricting the use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts, which give companies what the CFPB's director said was a "free pass from being held accountable by their customers." Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, powerful bank interests escalated their campaign to defund and defang the bureau, because it works for consumers, not them.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House holds stacked hearing to attack retirement savings rule proposal | Ed Mierzwinski

The House Financial Services Committee is holding a typically stacked hearing -- one consumer-side witness against four Wall Street-backed lobbyists  -- to attack the important retirement savings rule proposed by the Department of Labor. The rule simply requires retirement advisors to put the customer's needs  -- not their own compensation -- first.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Reinstates Case Against Bank That Aided Senior Citizen Fraud | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the 3rd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that had denied class action status to victims of a scheme targeting senior citizens who were suing Zions Bank and its payment processor affiliates for aiding the fraudsters. U.S. regulators led by the Department of Justice have been fighting this and similar schemes, yet powerful special interests have managed to create a false narrative in Washington, DC that has been picked up by opponents of consumer protection laws. They falsely claim that the government's target is "legitimate" payday lenders and gun dealers. Wrong, the target is financial crimes against consumers, many consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

IRS Admits Data Breach Worse Than Thought, Will Congress Do Wrong Thing Anyway? | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the IRS has admitted that thieves accessed the personal information -- enough to allow them to take your tax refund -- of an additional 220,000 taxpayers, on top of the 114,000 reported in May. Meanwhile, we remain  concerned that Congress will use continued publicity about the Target breach and other breaches as an excuse to pass dangerous data security legislation. Dangerous? Yes, because it would only protect against limited financial identity theft harms, but eliminate stronger state protections against the harms posed by the IRS breach, the health insurance breaches and the OPM breach.

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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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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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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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Scott Walker's rent-to-own budget provision brings strong reaction

Rent-to-own stores would be able to sell customers high-cost financing plans for televisions, appliances and other goods without disclosing their interest rates, under a provision in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget. In addition to exempting the industry from state consumer protection laws, the measure would cap how much wronged customers could get if they sued rent-to-own stores. The stores typically sell products under plans that cost buyers two or three times prices they would pay elsewhere, according to a report by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group.
 

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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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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

For its own first birthday, CFPB sends gifts to consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, Saturday, July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns one year old. The CFPB already has achieved a record of significant accomplishments in its first year to protect veterans, students, seniors, military families and all consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

These are 10 of many reasons we need the CFPB! | Bruce Speight

For the first time, a federal financial agency has placed consumers at the center of its work. That agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), turns one year old on July 21, 2012.  Here are 10 of many reasons we need the CFPB.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB May Announce It Has "Guns, Lots of Guns" To Regulate Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB travels to Detroit Monday, July 16th, for a field hearing on credit reporting. It seems like a fine opportunity to announce a final anticipated rule (read comments) giving it full authority to look inside the black box operations of Trans Union, Equifax and Experian-- the Big Three self-anointed and little-scrutinized gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity despite their long record of mistakes and failure to give consumers a chance to fix them.

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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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