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

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

Dozens of Tucson Business Owners Encourage the Arizona Corporation Commission to Increase Investments in Energy Efficiency

With just days before the Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to vote on Tucson Electric Power’s Demand-Side Management Plan, dozens of Tucson business owners encouraged the Commission to increase investment in energy efficiency. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, who have been speaking with business owners across Tucson, are hopeful the Commission will vote to restore and increase energy efficiency funding for TEP ratepayers at their upcoming meeting.

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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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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."

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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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California’s new drug price law is a win for consumers nationwide

Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 17 into law, a groundbreaking measure to increase transparency and accountability for the prescription drug industry. We celebrate the new law—passed with support and hard work from CALPIRG—as a landmark victory for consumers, not just in California, but nationwide.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

New CFPB Rule Targets Payday and Car Title Lending Debt Trap

Consumers in states that are burdened by predatory short-term payday and car title lending will receive some relief from a final rule issued today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Arizona already prohibits payday lending, which is crucial to prevent payday lenders from exploiting loopholes in the new rule. While the rule released today should be helpful in disrupting the abusive car title lending that still plagues Arizonans, advocates argued the state needs to expand consumer protections to also cover car title lending.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mixed Signals

One year from now 22 million Americans who rely on free over-the-air analog broadcasting will be at risk of losing access to TV. On February 17, 2009, analog televisions that receive over-the-air signals will go dark, unless they are retrofitted with digital converter boxes.

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Report | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2007

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 22nd annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG).

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2006

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 73,000 children under the age of five were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2005. Twenty children died from toy-related injuries last year.

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

Arizona's Food Safety Net

Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well.

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Report | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our Water, Our Future

In Arizona, the most recent drought of the past decade has surpassed the worst drought in the last 110 years of recordkeeping. Arizona’s finite, limited supply of water is being stretched between new, fast accumulating demands. Arizona’s population is projected to double by 2030. Much of this growth is occurring in rural areas of the state where there are minimal protections or regulations on water and its use. According to the U.S.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Adds Consumer Stories to Public Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the CFPB took a step to make its excellent public database of consumer complaints even better, by adding complaint narratives (stories), but only with the consumer's consent. It's a step we've long urged. It will enrich our research into the marketplace, help consumers make choices and help good-actor firms avoid bad practices by others.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As House Holds Oversight Hearing, 340 Groups Call For Defense of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray presented the CFPB's sixth semi-annual report to the House Financial Services Committee, whose majority members have been harsh critics of the successful consumer agency. Americans for Financial Reform, joined by the state PIRGs and a total of 340 national, state and local groups, sent Congress a letter explaining why the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

President Issues Privacy Platform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the President announced support for a variety of privacy protections, most of which are laudable. However, it remains our view that Congressional consideration of a "uniform national breach notification standard" is unnecessary and, worse, will give powerful special interests an opportunity to use the proposal as a Trojan Horse to enact sweeping preemptive limits on state privacy protections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB at Three: A Child Prodigy | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned just three years old Monday, July 21st, but when you look at its massive and compelling body of work, you must wonder: Are watchdog years like plain old dog years? Is the CFPB now a full-sized, 21-year-old adult? The answer is no, not yet. The CFPB is still growing and developing and adding programs and projects. The CFPB is, however, at three years old, certainly a child prodigy. Despite overwhelming public support, however, powerful special interests continue to attack it. Yet, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Sues Alleged Corporate Wrongdoers Amazon & T-Mobile | Diane Brown

In the last few days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed lawsuits against the wireless company T-Mobile over cramming of "hundreds of millions of dollars" in junk charges on phone bills and the web seller Amazon over "millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children." What's interesting is not that the companies are alleged to have broken the law, it's that they've refused to settle and forced the FTC into court.

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Blog Post

Being proactive and demanding can help keep you and your family safe

Blog Post

If the COVID-19 pandemic affects your ability to pay, here’s what you need to know

Blog Post

Good news: You may still be able to request a forbearance because of COVID-19

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).

Consumer Protection

Grocery stores pull peaches after dozens contract salmonella

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections it believes stems from contaminated peaches. Grocery chains Aldi and Target have recalled peaches suspected of contamination from store shelves.

 

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.

 
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