Archive for the ‘Consumer Protection’ Category

By Amanda Warner

Last week, some members of the House Financial Services Committee lavished praise on a piece of legislation they said would “restore due process rights to all Americans.”

“All the bill says is that if somebody wants their day in court, they should have their day in court,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), explained, adding that “preserving the rights of Americans to defend themselves in a fair and impartial trial…is one of the most fundamental rights, and it is enshrined in our Constitution.”

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chair of the committee, championed the measure as well. “Every American deserves to be treated with due process,” Rep. Hensarling declared. “They ought to have the opportunity to have a trial by jury. They ought to be able to engage in full discovery. They ought to be subject to the rules of evidence.”

A listener might have thought these legislators were standing up against forced arbitration – “rip-off clauses” that big companies bury in the fine print of contracts to prevent people from suing them, even if they have broken the law.

Astoundingly and unfortunately, the legislators were actually moving in the opposite direction. They were extolling HR 3798, the so-called “Due Process Restoration Act,” which would extend special legal protections to Wall Street banks and other financial firms charged with violating federal securities law by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Privatization is the age-old right-wing response to imagined problems.

But if a public function like preventing plane crashes is transferred to corporations, the result could mean tragedy.

A threat to our wallets and flight safety, the air traffic control privatization effort currently underway in Congress is another move by right-wing lawmakers to deliver a favor for corporate interests while ignoring the consequences for consumers.

This week, Public Citizen joined with our partners in the Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization coalition to deliver more than 130,000 petition signatures to members of Congress demanding that air traffic control stay under federal government purview and not be spun off to a new corporatized entity.

The air traffic control system is neither broken nor bankrupt, and the only uncertainty in its running is the confusion instigated by Congress around Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding reauthorizations. The solution to the funding issue is not to privatize air traffic control but to give the FAA the stability it deserves.

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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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