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

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.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Equifax Breach: 1 Year Later – How to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft & Hold Equifax Accountable

The purpose of this report is to make sure consumers have the information they need to protect themselves as much as possible, review what has happened in the last year, and point out the need for Congressional action to prevent breaches as bad as this one from ever happening again. 

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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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Pages

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

Arizona PIRG applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from Arizona PIRG Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Equifax Offers Incomplete Protection After Breach: Advocates Suggest What Else Consumers Can Do

Consumers should know the risks and limits of what Equifax is offering and consider getting credit freezes with all three national credit bureaus instead.

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Texas Chemical Explosions: More Safety Needed Now

Two small explosions last night at a Texas chemical facility highlight that comprehensive emergency regulations need to be enforced more strictly at chemical plants.

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Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2005

“While we can report substantial progress after 20 years of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, we are still finding trouble in toyland,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

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

The Right Start

Toxic chemicals can be found in common baby products, according to a new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The Right Start: The Need to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Baby Products” documents toxic chemicals, including phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in teethers, bath books, and sleep accessories.

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Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is now taking your credit bureau complaints | Diane Brown

Excellent news! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now taking your complaints about credit bureaus and credit reports. Click here to go to the CFPB credit bureau complaint page.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

New Law Turns 4 This Week-- Got The Lead Out of Kid's Toys | Diane Brown

Less Lead in Toys Thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Happy 4th Birthday!

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bumbo, CPSC Recall Baby Seat Linked To Skull Fractures | Diane Brown

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bumbo, maker of a baby seat linked to at least 84 incidents involving at least 21 skull fractures since a previous 2007 recall to add labels, have announced a broader repair recall.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

HR 4078 A Bill that will Shutdown all Public Health and Consumer Safeguards | Diane Brown

HR 4078 yesterday passed a floor vote in the House, this bill if passed by Congress will shutdown the U.S. regulatory system as we know it. It will halt or delay virtually ALL rule making and public health protections and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arizona's Next 100 Years | Diane Brown

As we celebrate Arizona’s centennial today, I am reminded how lucky I am to live in a state with an independent nature and breathtaking natural beauty. But I also wonder about Arizona’s next 100 years.

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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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