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

News Release | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG CONSUMER ADVOCATE MIKE LITT TESTIFIES AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON EQUIFAX

Our Consumer Advocate, Mike Litt, was invited by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, to testify this week at a Congressional hearing on the Equifax data breach. This was a continuation of the committee's previously held hearing on October 5th entitled "Examining the Equifax Data Breach."

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Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

MASSPIRG Education Fund applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

CarMax Survey Finds 27% of Vehicles for Sale with Dangerous Unrepaired Safety Recalls

The nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, has more than doubled the percentage of dangerous, defective unrepaired recalled used cars for sale to consumers, according to Used Car Roulette, a new report released today by the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and the Center for Auto Safety. 

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Report | MASSPIRG Ed Fund, CARS Foundation, Center for Auto Safety | Consumer Protection

Used Car Roulette

One in four vehicles surveyed at eight CarMax locations contain dangerous, unrepaired safety recalls, a significant increase from 2015.

 

 

 

> Keep Reading

Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Unilever: Go Toxic-Free

On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.

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Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission to America’s used car buyers: Drop Dead.

Consumer and safety organizations blasted the FTC Commissioners’ decision, announced today, to finalize consent orders with GM and the Lithia and Koons auto dealership chains that will allow them to advertise that unrepaired recalled used cars with lethal safety defects are “safe,” have been “repaired for safety,” passed a “rigorous inspection” and qualified to be sold as “certified” cars without repairing the safety defects, if they merely include a meaningless disclosure that the cars “may” be under an  open recall.  In addition, FTC has proposed the same settlement with CarMax and  other dealers. 

 

 

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

Some toys that have been recalled for lead, powerful magnets, or other hazards can still be available for sale in online stores, according to Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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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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Report | Americans for Financial Reform | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

10 Reasons WE Need the CFPB Now

This report outlines predatory financial practices that hurt consumers and helped collapse the economy, costing us eight million jobs, millions of foreclosed homes and trillions of dollars in lost home and retirement values.

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Big Banks, Bigger Fees 2011

To date, the CFPB has built critical complaint-handling and Internet systems to communicate directly with the public, simplified consumer credit card and mortgage contracts, and is expected to propose several critical financial rules in the spring.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Your Rights as an Air Traveler | Andrew Fish

A quick roundup of your rights concerning flight delays, cancellations, and what to do if the airline loses your bag.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT | Deirdre Cummings

In light of recent announcements by major retailers about security breaches, MASSPIRG provides tips for protecting yourself against Identity theft.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB GETTING RESULTS FOR CONSUMERS | Deirdre Cummings

Forced arbitration clauses are unfair to consumers - boon for banks.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

TARGET SAYS "OOPS, 70-110 MILLION CONSUMERS HACKED." | Deirdre Cummings

Target admits breach is significantly worse than initially reported. ID fraud tips included.

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