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 | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Municipalities Across The Country Are Leading The Way On Electric Buses

A new report from Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group highlights municipalities across the country that are making the switch to electric buses and reaping the benefits on dual fronts -- reducing emissions as well as operating expenses.

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

Electric Buses in America

New report profiles six case studies of early electric bus adopters from South Carolina to Washington State. By understanding common pitfalls and best practices, municipalities, transit agencies and school districts can ensure a smoother roll-out of electric buses, helping to reduce costs and protect public health.

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

New analysis uncovers unsafe blood pressure medication distributed in US

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

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

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. 

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

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. More than one-third of U.S. auto buyers live in the 14 states plus Washington, DC, that have adopted California’s stricter standards.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. 

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

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. More than one-third of U.S. auto buyers live in the 14 states plus Washington, DC, that have adopted California’s stricter standards.

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

WITH UTILITY DISCONNECTION MORATORIUM TO END OCT. 15, CUSTOMERS ARE URGED TO GET ON PAYMENT PLANS

With about a month before a moratorium on utility disconnections ends, two consumer advocacy organizations are reminding customers that they will still be responsible for paying all outstanding bills even if they’ve not been keeping up with payments during the summer.

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

Largest bank hack ever, of Capital One, exposes 100 million to identity theft

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

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

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point.

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

Trouble in Toyland

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual PIRG survey of toy safety. In this report, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

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.

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

Food Safety Scares 2013

This report offers a snapshot look, from October 2012 to October 2013, at multistate foodborne illness outbreaks identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The economic cost of just the multistate outbreaks caused by food products recalled over the past 12 months comes to more than $22 million.

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

Private Loans, Public Complaints

In this report we explore consumer complaints in the private student loan sector with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their student loans.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

APS Rate Case: Not over until ACC Votes | Diane Brown

The Commissioners, not APS, will ultimately determine whether the monthly basic service charge and the rates of APS customers’ increase; if new customers, not APS, get to choose their initial rate plan; and if residential and small business ratepayers will have more or less ability to control their energy use and therefore save money.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Commissioners: Say No to Proposed APS Bill Increases | Diane Brown

As the Arizona Corporation Commission hosts public comment sessions across the state and prepares to vote on the APS rate case, we encourage APS ratepayers to urge the Commission to reject the unjustified rate increase and say no to unfair utility charges.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Is On The Job Protecting Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

While powerful special interests, Senators, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and the White House call for dismantling the CFPB, firing its excellent director, or worse, CFPB continues to be an agency that is on the job, conducting business as usual to protect consumers. Its latest "Monthly Complaint Snapshot" is an open window into the many reasons we need a strong CFPB.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

> Keep Reading

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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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