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Court case puts air ambulance memberships in spotlight. What does this mean for consumers? | William McGovern

Air ambulance bills can run in the thousands of dollars. Some companies sell "memberships" to consumers. But this option may not be a smart purchase for most consumers. 

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New report: COVID-19 cases in nursing homes drop by 80 percent after mass vaccinations

Despite a sharp overall drop in coronavirus infections in nursing homes in recent months, hundreds of U.S. nursing homes that weathered 2020 without any COVID-19 cases have reported new cases since 2021 began. This happened even though the elderly were among the first to get COVID-19 vaccines during the initial rollout in mid-December, fueling an 83 percent drop in new cases in nursing homes nationwide by early February. In Texas, new cases dropped by 80.5 percent.

These surprising revelations are among the findings of the third in a series of reports by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, based on analyzing government data about nursing homes and COVID-19.

Over the course of the pandemic, the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes have been COVID-19 bellwethers. These new cases are a clear indication that while things are getting better, our society still faces risks from the virus. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this month issued new guidance, relaxing visitation restrictions.

“With nearly 550,000 Americans dead by now, you would think we would have learned our lesson,” said Bay Scoggin, state director of TexPIRG Education Fund. “It seems, unfortunately, that carelessness and impatience could needlessly put lives and communities at risk -- again.”

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips

Shopping for safe cosmetics shouldn’t be hard. That’s why we’re partnering with Clearya. | Gina Werdel

A free Chrome extension and mobile app created by a passionate couple helps customers easily find non-toxic consumer products as they shop online.

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips

With $1,400 payments on the way, here's what to do, and not do | Teresa Murray

85 percent of Americans are expected to get money -- without the need for you do anything, including clicking any email links, providing any information by phone or paying any fees.

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund

New report: Society undervalues family caregivers’ vital, increasingly important role

People caring for their aging parents, their loved ones with disabilities, or their children are doing some of the most important work there is. And yet many public policies undervalue the worth of caring for a loved one. As the largest population cohort in U.S. history -- the Baby Boomers -- ages, with a longer expected lifespan than ever, the need for caregivers will grow. Vital and Undervalued, a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, shows how many people are either providing care for or receiving care from a loved one.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Antibiotics

Talking Turkey: A guide to buying turkey raised without overusing antibiotics

As Texans head to the grocery store to purchase their Thanksgiving turkeys, TexPIRG has released its first ever “Talking Turkey” guide to purchasing turkeys raised without overusing antibiotics. Turkey producers use more medically important antibiotics per pound of meat produced than any other sector of the meat industry, and studies have shown that routine use of antibiotics in meat production can lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” 

 

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this holiday season might look and feel different, but one thing will remain the same -- Americans will eat turkeys for Thanksgiving,” said Bay Scoggin TexPIRG’s Director. “Consumers can drive change and protect public health by buying turkeys raised without overusing antibiotics.”

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

35th annual Trouble in Toyland report uncovers mislabeled and dangerous toys

TexPIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has helped identify dangerous toys for 35 years. But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards. 

“This has been an incredibly difficult year, and parents and caregivers are overwhelmed. They might do a quick search online for a toy to entertain their kids and trust that manufacturers and online vendors are guaranteeing their safety. This isn’t always the case, so parents need to be on guard,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund’s Director.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | COVID-19

Report: More than 10% of Texas nursing homes have no N95 masks

Seven months into this pandemic, PPE shortages have become much worse, according to “Nursing home safety during COVID: PPE shortages,” a report by the TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Our analysis of data submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes shows:

  • In Texas, 12.7% of nursing homes had a critical shortage of N95 masks, of which 10.9% had none at all, higher than the national average

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report: COVID-19 pandemic worsens existing consumer problems with car buying

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Texas and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry.  

“Personal car ownership was once a symbol of freedom in the United States. Now, for too many Americans, owning a vehicle isn’t a choice, but an expensive necessity,” said Bay Scoggin, Director of TexPIRG Education Fund. “That’s why making it easier to get around without a car, including by building more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure and improving the cost and availability of public transit, is an important step to help Americans reduce their exposure to auto debt.”

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

FTC settles first case against VoIP provider for allowing illegal robocalls

This FTC settlement must be a wake-up call to phone service providers so they do more to protect consumers. If not, the FTC must be vigilant in going after companies that enable the immoral practice of preying on consumers. And the FCC should require providers to block spoofed calls that we all know are scams.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses

More than 60 percent of the transit buses run on diesel, while just 0.2 percent of buses are all-electric. Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk; buses primarily travel where there are lots of people, including in the more densely-crowded areas of cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools.

 

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Follow the Money 2018

Texas Public Interest Research Group Education Fund will release a new report, “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” evaluating each state on how well it provides spending information online and assigning them letter grades from “A” to “F.” The report will reveal Texas’ letter grade, compare its public disclosure of spending information to other states, and provide recommendations for improvements.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. PIRG decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter. The number of EVs on America’s streets is at an all-time high. Throughout 2016, sales of plug-in electric vehicles increased nearly 38 percent. In 2017, sales of electric vehicles were up again, increasing 32 percent over the year.

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips

National Consumer Protection Week 2021 | Teresa Murray

Being a consumer is tough. We want to help make it a little easier. In recognition of Consumer Protection Week from Feb. 28-March 6, U.S. PIRG is providing key consumer protection advice. Check in here every day for our updated tips and tools. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Public Health

After 20 people die and dozens become ill, FDA finally flags hand sanitizer from Mexico | Teresa Murray

Consumers still at risk for harmful over-the-counter drug products of all types because of soft federal regulations.

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Blog Post

How to explore consumer problems in the financial marketplace using the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database | Gideon Weissman

The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database is a powerful tool for understanding the problems consumers face in the financial marketplace. The more people that use it — and the more people that publicize the tool’s utility and write to the CFPB with suggestions — the better off we will all be.

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Blog Post

Cancer prevention means no more toxic cosmetics | Gina Werdel

Cancer devastates millions of American families every year. While not all cancer cases are preventable, February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and it’s time we start a conversation about eliminating the many cancer-linked chemicals in our cosmetic and personal care products.

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News Release | US PIRG

In an effort to protect infants from unsafe consumer products, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Fortune 50 retailer Target announced a new goal Tuesday to reduce its use of virgin plastic 20 percent by 2025 across its own brand frequency products. It is part of a new sustainability strategy called Target Forward and covers such key categories as household cleaning, personal care and beauty.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. Texas PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints, a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

“People use peer-to-peer apps for convenience but there’s nothing more inconvenient than having your money inaccessible -- or even worse, going to the wrong person,” said TexPIRG Education Fund Director. “We’re seeing as more people turn to payment apps, more people are getting burned by related problems, including scams and fraud. And, more people are experiencing problems bad enough that they’ll go to a government website to register their complaints. It’s time for the CFPB to force the payment apps to provide better customer service.”

Blog Post

In light of some of these newer cons, here is actionable information to help you avoid the aggravation, time and financial losses that come with sophisticated scams.

News Release | US PIRG

Beech-Nut will stop selling all single grain rice cereal after Alaska state officials discovered high arsenic levels during routing sampling, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement released Tuesday.

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