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.

The Best Ways 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 $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, 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 that 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.

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

Recalled auto parts can be replaced, our lives cannot

FTC considering settlement allowing car dealers to sell unsafe cars. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Advocates call for Airline Reforms

MASSPIRG commends U.S. Senator Ed Markey for demanding answers from the big airlines about their repeated system failures that ruin both business and leisure travelers’ plans, cost us money and time and don’t seem to be getting any better.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups: CarMax Endangers Lives in Massachusetts

CarMax, the nation's largest retailer of used cars, is endangering lives in Massachusetts by selling recalled vehicles with potentially lethal safety defects. According to a report released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, research conducted on October 28, 2015, found that over 17 percent of cars offered for sale at the CarMax North Attleboro dealership – 42 out of 243  – were subject to a federal safety recall that had not been repaired, despite the fact that repairs for many of these safety defects were readily available – at no cost to CarMax. While some of the recalls may involve delays due to parts shortages or temporary non-availability of a remedy, CarMax could have simply waited until the repair was provided by the manufacturer before offering the cars for sale.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

30th Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Boston – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to MASSPIRG Education Fund’s 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

 

The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including chromium and phthalates, both of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

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FDA OK’s genetically modified salmon

For the first time, Americans will be able to dine on a genetically altered animal, after federal regulators on Thursday approved a Massachusetts biotechnology company’s bid to modify salmon for human consumption.

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Cummings: A victory for all but the bacteria

Subway announcement is a big win for public health and represents a huge step toward preserving the effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Volkswagen’s $1000 Gift Cards Fall Short

VW gift not a good deal for consumers if string attached. VW must buy back defective cars at their original prices.  

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Complaints

New report by MASSPIRG Education Fund highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state. Data from new CFPB consumer complaint data base.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, MASSPIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Bigger Fees, 2012

 

A new survey shows free checking widely available at small banks but banks still hiding fees from consumers.



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Report | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection, Food

Total Food Recall

No Progress in Reducing Foodborne Illness

Over the past few years, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing headlines about tainted food being recalled and pulled off of store shelves.  These high-profile recalls leave many Americans wondering whether enough is being done to reduce the risk of contaminated food and foodborne illness. 

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Trouble In Toyland

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report, our 26th annual survey of toy safety,provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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