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 Corporation Commission Approves TEP Energy Efficiency Program Restoration

The Arizona Corporation Commission voted at its February 6th, 2019 meeting to approve Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) proposed energy efficiency programming budget of $22.9 million dollars. This approval will allow the Pima County utility to restore programs that have been on hold since their plan was initially released.

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

ARIZONA PIRG EDUCATION FUND PRAISES ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION’S UNANIMOUS DECISION TO EXTEND GAS MORATORIUM

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund applauded state utility regulators for today’s important decision to protect ratepayers and consumers by extending a moratorium on new gas generation exceeding 150 megawatts.

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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. 

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

Fiat Chrysler Settlement Fails to Protect Consumers

While we are glad that Fiat Chrysler is paying something for damaging the health of Americans and deceiving customers, this settlement does not go far enough. It neither ensures these violations of the public trust won’t happen again nor makes consumers whole.

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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.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Protecting Consumers One Year After Equifax Breach

Just over a year ago, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund released a report containing suggestions on how elected officials and consumers can safeguard personal informatio

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

AT-RISK MPG STANDARDS COULD COST ARIZONANS WHO TRAVEL FOR LABOR DAY IN THE FUTURE

Today’s fuel efficiency standards are saving more than half a million [1] Arizonans money at the pump this Labor Day according to the Consumer Federation of America. The group’s latest research shows that – using today’s gas prices, which are up 13 percent this year – consumers are already saving an average of over $200 a year compared to 2011, the year before the current fuel efficiency standards were put in place.[2]

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

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

SUVs, CROSSOVERS AND PICKUPS WITH HIGH MPG PERCENT INCREASES SELL BETTER

A new analysis by the Consumer Federation of America shows that SUVs, pickups and crossovers, whose MPGs (miles per gallon) increased by over 15% between 2011 to 2017, had a 70% increase in sales. On the other hand, those same vehicles with less than a 15% increase in MPGs from 2011 to 2017 only experienced a 50% increase in sales, 20% less. 

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Tenth anniversary for life-saving protections for children’s products celebrated

The number of recalls for lead-contaminated toys has dropped by 97 percent in the United States in the decade since Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The CPSIA empowered the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect children from lead-contaminated toys and other dangerous toys, cribs and car seats. 

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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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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th 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.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Bigger Fees 2012

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the state PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2011

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report is our 26th annual survey of toy safety. In this report, we provide safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and provide examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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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!).

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Video Blog | Consumer Protection

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The retirement industry is a minefield -- but here’s the answer

In this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver called out three main problems hurting consumers when it comes to retirement: First, financial advisers aren’t currently required to work in their clients’ best interest. Second, high fees compound over time. Third, actively managed investment funds aren’t the answer. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

You might not know this about overdraft fees | Kathryn Lee

Did your bank sell you on the idea that it’s embarrassing for you to have your debit card declined for a $3 cup of coffee, and that you should pay them $35 each time for “overdraft protection”? Those big fees are what’s embarrassing. Unless you say yes to allow fees, you cannot be charged for over-drafting your debit card.

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Video Blog | Consumer Protection

John Oliver Takes Aim At Credit Reports In 'Last Week Tonight'

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver explained how credit reports play a surprisingly large role in our lives, but even more surprising is how often they contain critical mistakes. John Oliver helps credit bureaus see why this is a problem – and that Judy still hasn’t been able to resolve her mixed up identity.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

House Tees Up VW Bailout and Other Attacks on Public Protections, Consumer Rights | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 8 January to add vote results): You've probably heard that the House is soon planning to again repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That bill will certainly be vetoed. But the House has other anti-consumer, anti-environmental bills scheduled for floor action this week and next. The bills take aim at agency health, financial and safety regulations and also consumer rights to band together as a class to take their grievances against corporate wrongdoers to court. That last bill would immunize Volkswagen from having to compensate VW Diesel owners for being deceptively sold cars designed to "defeat" air pollution requirements.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

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

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

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.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed today that the drug manufacturers Dr. Reddy’s and Perrigo have initiated a voluntary recall of all of their generic versions of Zantac (ranitidine) -- commonly used to treat heartburn -- due to carcinogen contamination.

Consumer Protection

New federal bill will make it easier for consumers to know about unsafe, even deadly products

If you had a product in your home that the government knew could cause injury or death, you'd expect the government to warn you, right? Surprisingly, that's not the case for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The "Safety Hazard and Recall Efficiency Information Act" seeks to change that.

 

Consumer Protection

The Trump administration's Consumer Bureau just appointed a task "farce" on consumer law

The Trump administration's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just appointed a new task force on consumer law — but according to senior director of PIRG's federal consumer program, Ed Mierzwinski, this task force isn't set up to be on the side of consumers. "It is a task farce," he said.

 

Consumer Protection

Watch out for unsafe toys this holiday season

Our annual “Trouble in Toyland” report found toys with choking hazards, recalled toys still for sale, toxics in slime and more.

 

Consumer Protection

Consumer Alert: Heartburn medication recalled due to carcinogen concerns

If you frequently use Zantac (ranitidine) or a generic version to treat heartburn, you should check if it's a Dr. Reddy’s, Perrigo or Sanofi product and immediately consult your doctor, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber.

 
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