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

Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s Annual Trouble in Toyland Report Finds Dangerous Toys on Shelves During Holiday Shopping Season

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s annual Trouble in Toyland report once again found potentially hazardous toys on store shelves and online.

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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. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Tucson Unanimously Adopts the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code | Aaron Kane

Last night, Mayor Rothschild and the Tucson City Council unanimously adopted the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code as recommended by the Tucson-Pima County Joint Consolidated Code Committee. The Committee’s recommendation was developed as a result of a rigorous, ten-month-long stakeholder process open to all interested participants. We are quite pleased with this vote.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Let's Celebrate Energy Efficiency | Aaron Kane

Energy Efficiency Day celebrates and recognizes energy efficiency as the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way to address our growing energy needs. With technological advances and increased energy consciousness, consumers now have more ways than ever to make our homes and businesses more efficient, reduce our energy usage, and save money on our electric bills.

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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

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News Release | Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) | Consumer Protection

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Predatory Lending Rule Kept Intact

While Arizona organizations celebrated the clock running out for Congress to repeal protections against predatory lending debt traps under the Congressional Review Act, consumer advocacy coalition leaders also stressed the need for consumers to remain vigilant.

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

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund’s 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping for children’s gifts.

 

 

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

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinner From Website, But Still Available For Sale In-Store

Since late yesterday afternoon, Target appears to have made the 33,000 ppm-lead containing Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass unavailable for sale on its website. U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff went to a Target store today and found the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass was still available for sale in-store, despite the website saying it was unavailable there. Also yesterday, one of the CPSC’s Commissioners, Elliot F. Kaye, re-stated his opposition to the CPSC’s guidance and the acting chairman's statement when he tweeted, “Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards.”

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News Release | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG CONSUMER ADVOCATE MIKE LITT TESTIFIES AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON EQUIFAX

Our Consumer Advocate, Mike Litt, was invited by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, to testify this week at a Congressional hearing on the Equifax data breach. This was a continuation of the committee's previously held hearing on October 5th entitled "Examining the Equifax Data Breach."

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

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

Mortgages were the leading source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers 62 and over, followed by complaints about credit reports and debt collection, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group.

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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.

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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.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Complaints

The CFPB’s searchable complaint database is the newest of a set of federal government consumer complaint databases that help consumers make better economic and safety choices by reviewing other’s experiences and searching for problems or product recalls. The transparency also helps firms improve their products and services. In short, transparency improves the way markets work.

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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.

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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
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: By the numbers | Kathryn Lee

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a breakdown of their successes they’ve had in the short five-year period they’ve been established. We're very proud to have been a part of building it and defending it; we're also very proud of the many achievements the youthful CFPB has made to make the financial marketplace fairer for consumers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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

Blog Post

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

Blog Post

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.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Campus debit cards cost students over $24 million in fees

Report shows how campus debit cards — along with how they are marketed — are putting students' financial well-being at risk across the country.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

The real price of medications

The results of our investigation of variations in prescription drug prices may surprise you.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Driving into debt

The hidden costs of risky auto loans to consumers and our communities

 

Consumer Protection

Congressional investigation concludes that Equifax breach was entirely preventable

The worst data breach in history could have been prevented with some basic security measures.

 
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