Defend the Consumer Bureau

For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

A CONSUMER COP ON THE FINANCIAL BEAT

You work hard to earn your money. You should be able to save, invest and manage your money without fear of being trapped, tricked or ripped off by the institutions you are trusting with your financial future.

That’s why we need strong consumer protections on Wall Street. And from the 2008 economic collapse, we know how big of an impact those institutions can have on our economy when they play fast and loose with our money. It made it clear: Americans need a watchdog agency on Wall Street, devoted to creating and enforcing fair, clear and transparent rules to protect consumers.

So in 2010, we helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to be our consumer cop on the financial beat.

THE CFPB GETS THE JOB DONE

Despite the fact that the CFPB is not widely known, they’ve been hugely successful at working for consumers, returning nearly $12 billion to more than 29 million people who were ripped off by companies that broke the law … in just six years.

The Consumer Bureau holds big banks, debt collectors and lenders accountable. Here are a few examples of some of the cases the CFPB has taken on to protect consumers:

When American Honda Finance used discriminatory pricing to rip off African-American, Hispanic and Asia/Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans, the CFPB returned $24 million to these consumers.

The Department of Justice and 47 states joined the CFPB in a $216 million action against JP Morgan Chase Bank for illegal debt collection practices affecting over half a million Americans.

When it was discovered that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized debit and credit accounts using their customer's information, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for fraud.

The CFPB fined Equifax and TransUnion — two of the three largest credit reporting agencies — $5 million for selling inflated credit scores to consumers that were different from ones actually used by lenders and returned $17 million to those harmed by the deception.

In addition, the Consumer Bureau has helped level the financial playing field, educating veterans, senior citizens, new homeowners, college students and low-income consumers on how to keep their finances secure.

The Consumer Bureau's success should be earning it applause in Washington. Yet instead of cheering on the agency, the Trump administration and many members of Congress are pushing to weaken or even get rid of it.

Even with the Consumer Bureau on the job, many Americans are still at risk of reckless financial practices that threaten their homes, their retirement savings and their overall well-being. That’s why we don’t simply need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to exist: We need to make it even better, by strengthening commonsense consumer protections.

Issue updates

News Release | US PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Statement: CPSC vote to regulate infant sleep products will save lives

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved tough new standards Wednesday to regulate several infant sleep products for the first time.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Statement: New FDA plan to reduce toxic metal in baby food falls short

A month after announcing a weak plan to reduce heavy metals in baby food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new plan Thursday aimed at making baby food safer over the next several years.

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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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A week's worth of help and tips during Consumer Protection Week

Being a consumer is a tough job. Really tough. During National Consumer Protection Week, which runs through March 6, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff is offering a daily dose of tips and advice to help you navigate life’s biggest consumer challenges.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

A year later on Amazon: Comparing pre-pandemic prices to today's for 750 products

At the start of 2020, toilet paper stockpiling and a run on hand sanitizer would have never crossed our minds. Unfortunately, we’ve lived in a different reality since then. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have witnessed shortages of -- and price gouging on -- a range of household and medical products from disinfectant wipes to face masks. And as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths regularly near or exceed record numbers across the United States, even though most products are back in stock, we’re still seeing price hikes on essentials.

“With more than 10,000 Americans dying from the coronavirus each week, it’s unconscionable that anyone would try to make excess profits while so many are suffering,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. “Now is the time to do everything we can to keep each other safe. There is no place for price gouging in a pandemic or any other state or national emergency” 

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

9 Texas legislators demand Amazon, other online marketplaces end coronavirus price gouging

A bipartisan group of nine Texas legislators are calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Together, 346 legislators representing 45 states, joined TexPIRG Education Fund in sending a letter Tuesday urging Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart to quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis. Less than two weeks ago, 33 attorneys general sent a similar letter to the same companies.

“We believe you have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time,” the letter reads, in part.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the cost of critical health supplies has spiked dramatically on online platforms. An analysis last month from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that existing monitoring on Amazon’s platform was not preventing significant price hikes. In particular, the cost of most hand sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Since then, more than 335,000 Americans have signed PIRG’s petition calling on Amazon to protect consumers from price gouging.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Attorneys general demand online marketplaces end coronavirus price gouging

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not join in the call to the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A bipartisan group of 33 attorneys general, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with co-leading Attorneys General Hector Balderas (NM), William Tong (CT), and T.J. Donovan (VT), sent a letter today urging the companies -- Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart -- to quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis.

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

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New investigation: Supermarkets failing to warn public about food recalls

Americans are not hearing about food recalls, and that communication breakdown is having serious repercussions for public health. For example, less than two years ago, people kept getting sick for months after 12 million pounds of Salmonella-contaminated beef was recalled. The pattern has repeated for other recalls even when news outlets have publicized warnings from food safety agencies.

A new report finds that most grocery stores -- which should be some of the best sources for consumers to learn about recalls -- don’t make it easy for consumers to find. TexPIRG Education Fund’s Food Recall Failure: Will your supermarket warn you about hazardous food? scorecard gave a failing grade to 84 percent of the nation’s 26 largest supermarket chains. Chains receiving a failing grade include HEB,and Whole Foods. Shoppers can search for their grocery store on the organization’s website.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How the CFPB’s Data Keeps Getting Better and Better | Mike Litt

As the CFPB turns 4 years old on July 21, here is some information on how it works for you and how we at PIRG use its data to produce reports, such as our new report on mortgage complaints to the CFPB. We've also got some photos from the Americans for Financial Reform "CFPB at 4" event.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Event 5/11 re new book on black box decisionmaking & consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED TO CONFIRM CFPB Speaker. We are hosting an event Monday, 5/11, from 9am-noon ET to discuss a new book, The Black Box Society, with author Frank Pasquale. Click Keep Reading to RSVP to attend in person or to watch the livestream. While credit bureaus have long functioned as black box gatekeepers to opportunity, panelists will discuss the growing use of more and more, even less transparent black boxes to categorize consumers in the digital economy.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Begins Payday Regulation Push In Richmond | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined the CFPB in Richmond Thursday for a field hearing on a proposed rule to regulate payday lending and similar high-cost short-term loans. The CFPB's draft rule is comprehensive, covering a variety of loans, but it contains potential loopholes that we and other advocates will urge the bureau to close before it finalizes this important effort. Here's a short blog with some photos from Richmond.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Adds Consumer Stories to Public Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, 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

In response to a tidal wave of unfair marketplace practices, the CFPB asked the public to submit comments on the impact of junk fees on their lives. Some 2,500 comments later, consumers have described the pain points caused by unfair junk fees.

Cover graphic courtesy Student Borrower Protection Center, used by permission

Blog Post

Even with the knowledge I’ve gained working as a consumer advocate for several years, getting my finances in order has been a work in progress. 

Blog Post

Until recently, I did not have estate and end-of-life planning in mind, but it was the natural next step in my quest to be a responsible adult, with a nudge from the existential threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blog Post

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

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