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

Marriott discloses second security breach in 16 months

Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain in terms of guest rooms, disclosed Tuesday that up to 5.2 million customers were impacted by a security breach related to the company’s loyalty app.

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

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

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

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

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

Critical Product Safety Legislation Introduced in House by Representative Rush

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush releases legislation to increase transparency around important product injury and death data. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

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

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

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

Critical Product Safety Legislation Introduced in House by Representative Rush

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush releases legislation to increase transparency around important product injury and death data. 

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

Arizona Public Service to Restore Partial Funding for Energy Efficiency Programs

Yesterday, Arizona Public Service (APS) let the Arizona Corporation Commission know it is willing to partially restore funding for its energy efficiency programs. Energy efficiency advocates wasted no time calling on the Arizona Corporation Commission to move swiftly to approve financial relief for more ratepayers.

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

Deadly infant products sold after recalls at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that discount stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods sold 19 different recalled products to consumers between 2014 and 2019. In the case of five products, the stores’ parent company TJX initiated the recall. The products included the Rock ‘N Play and Kids II inclined infant sleepers, which are responsible for a number of fatalities, rattles that can break and pose a choking hazard, and electronics that overheat or explode. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace: An Analysis of Complaints, and Results, From the CFPB

Older consumers are at risk of harm from predatory financial behavior. An analysis of more than 72,000 financial complaints submitted by older consumers (those 62 years of age and older) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB, or Consumer Bureau) and contained in its Consumer Complaint Database suggests that mistreatment of older consumers by financial companies is widespread.

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

Guidance for Utilities Commissions on Time of Use Rates

As rapidly evolving renewable and energy efficiency technologies and economics drive ongoing transformation of America’s power sector, advocates from consumer, clean energy and environmental organizations are working together to provide guidance for utilities commissions and other stakeholders grappling with issues of electricity rate design.

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

Protecting those who Serve

The CFPB provides an invaluable service to America’s men and women in uniform. Attempts to weaken or eliminate the CFPB could put those who protect our country in harm’s way, both while serving abroad and here at home, and even threaten national security. The Pentagon has found that financial abuses and credit reporting mistakes can cause service members to lose security clearances, resulting in lower unit preparedness.

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

Medical Debt Malpractice

Medical debt accounts for more than half of all collection items that appear on consumer credit reports. A review of 17,701 medical debt collection complaints submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that problems with medical debt collection are widespread and harm Americans across the country.

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

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arizona Poll: Clean Energy Provides Economic Opportunity | Diane Brown

Arizonans overwhelmingly embrace the idea of growing the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy resources and believe clean energy is important to Arizona jobs and the economy, according to a new statewide poll.

> 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

Ford and Volkswagen form “Global Alliance”; Companies to Investigate ways to Develop Electric Vehicles | Diane Brown

Two of the world’s largest automakers, Ford and Volkswagen, announced at the Detroit Auto Show that they’re teaming up to build vehicles together. Although they are starting by developing commercial vans and medium-sized pickups, the companies agreed to "investigate" how they can work together to develop next generation vehicles, such as electric cars. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Study: More Electric Vehicles Means More Savings for Arizonans | Diane Brown

Electric vehicles are the gift that keeps giving. Electric vehicles help cut consumer energy bills and boost the economy while protecting air quality and public health. According to a new groundbreaking study, if Arizonans register just one million more electric vehicles in our state by 2050, consumers and our economy would reap $3.6 billion or more in statewide benefits. If 90 percent of vehicles on our state’s roads are electric by 2050, our state could accrue $31 billion in benefits, with the average Arizona household saving an estimated $176 per year on their utility bills.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Getting good data on rate designs is worth the effort | Diane Brown

There’s been good national conversation in recent years around the need for transparency and responsiveness from electric utilities and regulators when it comes to data on rates and pilots, assessing impacts on consumers, and consumer outreach and education. At the local level, though, it can take quite a bit of work to turn guidelines into reality. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A huge opportunity was missed today by utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission to extend and expand Arizona’s successful Energy Efficiency Standard, which was adopted with bipartisan support in 2010. The policy has delivered more than $1.4 billion in net economic benefits for utility customers of Arizona Public Service (APS), Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and UNS Electric.

Blog Post

Ever hear of Nancy Beck? Chances are you haven’t, but you should. Congress is expected to soon determine whether to approve the nomination of Nancy Beck to head the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) said a vote last night by the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulators, failed to provide the short-term relief many ratepayers need now and the long-term relief many ratepayers will need for months to come.

Blog Post

Let’s face it. If you are an APS customer, you are likely not pleased with the utility’s last rate hike or that it is now seeking an additional rate hike totaling $184 million. Relief from high utility bills was needed before COVID-19, and the number of households needing financial assistance now is even higher.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Tuesday that the personal information of nearly 8,000 business owners applying for federal disaster loans had been exposed. The breach affects applicants to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), and may have included names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers, citizenship statuses and insurance information.

Consumer Protection

CFPB green-lights predatory payday loans amid COVID-19 pandemic

The CFPB has finalized a rule pulling back on payday lending protections that were set to go into effect in 2019. The protections would have required lenders to check if their customers were able to repay high interest rates before borrowing.

 

Consumer Protection

As the pandemic goes on, consumer complaints continue at a record pace

A U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis has found that since March 2020, public consumer complaints at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have skyrocketed, setting a new monthly record each month. During this period, one in five complaints concerning mortgages, student loans or vehicle financing has mentioned the coronavirus crisis.

 

Consumer Protection

Auto loan complaints skyrocket with COVID-19 crisis

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the number of complaints from consumers facing challenges in getting relief on their auto loans has increased sharply — nearly 2.5 times more complaints in March through May 2020 as compared to the same period last year.

 

Consumer Protection

PIRG joins litigation challenging the CFPB's Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law

Created to "harmonize and modernize federal consumer financial laws," the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's task force has failed to provide adequate transparency, and is comprised of industry-aligned members to the exclusion of consumer advocates.

 
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