Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft and more.

How to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices – everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts – can take time, energy, and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans - millions of consumers - have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $30 billion in overdraft fees in 2011, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself.  We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources than can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Find more information about...

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: U.S. PIRG applauds Senate introduction of the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, especially veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 10, the future is bright | Mike Litt

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau celebrated its 10th birthday last Wednesday. It begins its second decade refocused on its mission of protecting you and me after a few years of, ironically, championing shady business practices over consumers. The agency’s first decade was full of success, setbacks, and promise.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves APS Energy Efficiency Plan

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Clean Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Air

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: U.S. PIRG applauds Senate introduction of the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, especially veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves APS Energy Efficiency Plan

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: The Hidden Costs of Peer-to-Peer Payment Apps

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. Arizona PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints, a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: U.S. PIRG helps reintroduce Rep. Maloney’s Overdraft Protection Act

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) hosted a press conference with U.S. PIRG and other consumer advocacy organizations on Wednesday to reintroduce the Overdraft Protection Act.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG applauds Congressional repeal of the OCC’s ‘Fake Lender’ Rule

Our statement on passage of a Congressional Review Act resolution that would protect consumers from predatory moneylenders.

> Keep Reading

Pages

30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

> Keep Reading

Keeping Our Families Safe From Dangerous Products

Those who violate product safety laws will face stiff fines and penalties, and hazardous products will be removed from store shelves more quickly, under a landmark law championed by Arizona PIRG.

> Keep Reading

Saving Money By Saving Energy

Consumers and businesses in Arizona will save an estimated $680 million on their energy bills after Arizona PIRG-backed legislation that sets minimum energy-efficiency standards on 12 appliances was signed into law. This legislation will also help reduce water consumption by more than 15 billion gallons.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Clean Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Air

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Getting Off The Hook Of A Predatory Tow

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed. In some cases, the vehicle was parked improperly, the driver tracks it down and pays the bill without incident. Other times, the vehicle owner may face an array of unfair circumstances. Predatory practices following an initial tow can range from charging exorbitant fees to refusing the owner access to personal items in their car during business hours.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Electric Buildings

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating and water heating, and electric appliances like stoves within the reach of most American households. Analysis shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050. That is the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

A Guide to Energy in Arizona

A Guide to Energy in Arizona provides elected and government officials, business and organizational leaders, members of the media, and Arizonans with a primer on energy issues in our state.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 10, the future is bright | Mike Litt

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau celebrated its 10th birthday last Wednesday. It begins its second decade refocused on its mission of protecting you and me after a few years of, ironically, championing shady business practices over consumers. The agency’s first decade was full of success, setbacks, and promise.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Taking on Apple Store & Google Play Store | Ed Mierzwinski

An important debate is taking place in the Arizona legislature over one of the ways dominant Big Tech companies Apple and Google maintain massive profits. Fortunately, Arizona State Representative Regina Cobb (R-Kingman) is taking on the Apple Store and Google Play Store duopoly to give consumers lower prices and more choices.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Why Rohit Chopra is the consumer champion we need to head the Consumer Bureau | Aaron Colonnese

We can't let this chance to restore vital consumer protections slip through our fingers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FDA takes delayed action on toxic hand sanitizers | Henry Hintermeister

After 20 deaths and numerous cases of blindness and other injuries and illnesses last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in February for all alcohol-based hand sanitizers imported from Mexico.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

In the wake of the Capital One data breach, Ed Mierzwinski and Adam Garber explain how to protect your credit

Were you affected by the Capital One breach, one of the largest thefts of data from any bank to date?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State PIRGs go to Washington for Consumer Lobby Day

Members of Congress hear repeatedly from lobbyists for corporate special interests in their offices and at fundraisers. How can consumer advocates balance the scales?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Congressional testimony underscores how predatory auto loans are driving Americans into debt

In most of the country, owning a car is all but required. And we're paying for it—to the tune of $1.2 trillion. This is putting the financial well-being of millions of Americans at risk, and Arizona PIRG and our national network are calling for change.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

How safe is our food? Not safe enough, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog team, and it's trending in the wrong direction

Unsafe food recalls in the U.S. are trending the wrong way. From 2013 to 2017, they rose 10 percent overall, and a whopping 83 percent for the most hazardous meat and poultry recalls.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

1 Year After Equifax Data Breach, Here's Everything You Need To Know

One year after announcing the biggest data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t been held accountable or provided the information and tools consumers need to protect themselves. Since Equifax won’t help protect consumers, Arizona PIRG is stepping in.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, especially veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

Blog Post

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau celebrated its 10th birthday last Wednesday. It begins its second decade refocused on its mission of protecting you and me after a few years of, ironically, championing shady business practices over consumers. The agency’s first decade was full of success, setbacks, and promise.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

Consumer Protection

Energy Efficient Arizona

When the Arizona Corporation Commission established Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard, it was touted as one of the strongest efficiency policies in the nation. And the praise was well-founded. From 2010-2019, every $1 of ratepayer money invested in energy efficiency by Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power returned ~$4.00 in benefits to ratepayers.

 

Consumer Protection

PIRG to the Big Three credit bureaus: Weekly credit reports won't cut it

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, the "Big Three" credit burueaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — announced March 2 that they would continue to provide free weekly credit reports for an additional year. U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski says it's not enough.

 

Consumer Protection

Consumers struggle as CFPB complaints break records, report finds

A review of consumer complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last year tells the story of Americans navigating a fraught financial marketplace amid a pandemic. Of particular concern were complaints about credit reporting, which doubled.

 

Consumer Protection

FDA takes delayed action on toxic hand sanitizers

After 20 deaths and numerous cases of blindness and other injuries and illnesses last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning for all alcohol-based hand sanitizers imported from Mexico. 

 
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