Archive for the ‘Consumer Protection’ Category

Almost every day, you hear about some scandal where a company has taken advantage of customers, workers, depositors, taxpayers, and so on. For example, fuming Volkswagen customers are all over the news right now because they bought vehicles with pollution controls that, according to allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice, were rigged to cheat emission tests. So it’s shocking that the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill, H.R. 1927, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act,” which would strip ripped-off consumers (and other harmed individuals) of their legal rights.

The first way that the bill would undermine justice is by limiting the ability of consumers to band together in a class action to hold corporations accountable for widespread illegal behavior. The bill would cut off class actions as we know them by limiting plaintiffs from bringing suits as a class action unless they have suffered exactly same sort of injury. Examples are plentiful of monumental legal cases where, without the class action device, Americans may not have received justice. For example, families suffering from cancer caused by companies dumping toxic chemicals, children who were educated in segregated schools, women who were forced to endure sexual discrimination, shareholders who were duped by reckless companies and numerous other landmark court decisions.

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By Sonia Gill

Smart and effective consumer protection is preconditioned on the availability of data and information. For this reason, Public Citizen – and numerous leading consumer and privacy groups – strongly support robust and purposeful data collection and analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB’s consumer financial data collection practices allow it to monitor emerging market trends and business practices that are harmful to consumers and to respond in an effective and proportional manner – in other words, to fulfill the pro-consumer mission created for the agency by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Not all are on board. Despite being the only federal agency dedicated to protecting the average American consumer from the abusive and unfair business practices of the financial industry, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations dedicated its last hearing of 2015 to attacking the CFPB for purported consumer privacy risks associated with the CFPB’s collection and analysis of consumer data. In yet another attempt to discredit the work of the CFPB, the subcommittee dusted off time-tested, paranoia-inducing talking points and catapulted a series of accusations at the CFPB ranging from the fantastical – likening the CFPB to an NSA-style spy agency, secretly collecting personal information from unsuspecting Americans – to the conceivable, such as potential cyberattacks against the CFPB that might result in data breaches.

While this last concern is at least a plausible one, the reality is that political opponents of the CFPB are looking for ways to  stifle the agency to protect their friends on Wall Street (friends who happen to donate generously to their reelection campaigns). These legislators are smart enough to understand the exceptional importance of data to enforce federal consumer financial law and inform the agency’s actions. By blocking access to information, they know they can cripple the CFPB’s ability to hold financial fraudsters accountable.

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By Yushen Wang

Postal Banking Petition Delivery

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton presents 150,000+ petitions signatures to a representative from the United States Postal Service on December 17

Earn, invest, save; these are the words that we frequently put before the word “money.” Some of us can do those things on our phones as easily as making a call, but that’s certainty not true for all Americans.

Nearly 28 percent of US households (or 68 million people) do not have access to affordable financial services. And even if they want, they have to pay far more (on average of $2,400 per household per year) to only have access to banking services. But, shouldn’t it be a right to be banked?

Politicians, economists, and the general public are craving a change to this unethical phenomenon, through a proven method: postal banking.

International or older people may be more familiar with this term. Postal banking, which allows anyone to do their banking — from bill payment to taking out small loans — at the same post office where they buy stamps, is not a new concept in this or other countries. In fact, it was used in the US from 1911 to 1966, and was so central to our banking system that it was seen as a precursor to the safety provided by federal deposit insurance.

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Vijay Das is the health policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, and today CNN published Congress, don’t fall for Big Pharma’s gimmick, his op-ed about how much the Big Pharma lobby is costing the American public.

“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli was labeled the “most hated man on the Internet” after he raised the price of an HIV/AIDs medication’s price by 5,000 percent.

His smug prioritization of profits over the people who are prescribed the medication brought to the forefront a conversation that has been happening over pharmacy lines and kitchen counters for years: what to do about the high cost of drugs. There has been an explosion of costs not only for new treatments, but also older medicines that work perfectly well. The high price of prescription drugs has affected the everyday choices of Americans as long as the corner drug store has existed.

It’s easy for me to read Vijay’s article and feel personally affronted – I still talk to my grandmother very often, and she anguishes over how expensive her blood pressure medication is. Thirty percent of Americans are known to skimp on their medicines in order to cut down on costs, but when life-or-death medications are out of reach, the public starts to speak up.

Rather than simply charging less, the industry is pushing for watered-down safeguards it claims will lower development costs and get patented drugs to market sooner and cheaper. It will deploy 1,200 lobbyists to try to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and will have its companion bill introduced in the Senate.

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During last week’s Republican debate on FOX Business, an ad paid for by the American Action Network (AAN) depicted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) workers robotically denying personal loans to needy individuals.

AAN paid $500,000 to run the ad seven times during the debate, attacking the agency and its champions – Senator Elizabeth Warren and CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

The ad’s dismal, Soviet-inspired concept sets the scene for misleading accusations of injustice against consumers. Warren and Cordray are portrayed on red banners as dictators while the assembly line rubber-stamps personal loan denials – a far cry from the work the CFPB actually does, such as providing ways for ripped-off consumers to hold banks accountable and reining in “payday” lenders that prey on military families.

However, beyond its sham portrayal of the bureau’s work, the ad is a symptom of a bigger problem: A concerted push to stop or delay the successful work of the agency that has returned over $11 billion dollars to harmed consumers. The real worry about the ad should be with the huge sums of money being funneled into the larger effort to thwart the agency.

A timely example of these efforts to block the CFPB’s work are right-wing lawmakers’ concurrent attempts to insert riders—or unrelated policy proposals—into the federal spending bills in order to weaken consumer financial protections issued by the CFPB, as well as undermine the structure and set-up of the Bureau.

By attacking the agency created to look out for consumer interests in the financial market, these corporate players are in-effect attacking consumers themselves.

So why is the CFPB under attack?

Follow the money. Two American Action Network board members lobby on behalf of Navient, a student loan provider currently under investigation by the CFPB (and several other regulatory authorities) for allegedly overcharging and mistreating borrowers. And another board member lobbies on behalf of both student loan and payday lending clients, practices also under examination by the CFPB. This lobbying seems to be paying off.

Policy riders that would cripple the CFPB’s ability to do its job are leaching through the appropriations process, piggybacking on budget bills. Here’s what the anti-CFPB and anti-financial reform riders would do:

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