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 | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Deadly infant products sold after recalls at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that discount stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods sold 19 different recalled products to consumers between 2014 and 2019. In the case of five products, the stores’ parent company TJX initiated the recall. The products included the Rock ‘N Play and Kids II inclined infant sleepers, which are responsible for a number of fatalities, rattles that can break and pose a choking hazard, and electronics that overheat or explode.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Heartburn medication recalls continue due to carcinogen concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed today that the drug manufacturers Dr. Reddy’s and Perrigo have initiated a voluntary recall of all of their generic versions of Zantac (ranitidine) -- commonly used to treat heartburn -- due to carcinogen contamination.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Proposed rule would remove unsafe, inclined infant sleepers from market

Despite more than 50 infant deaths from inclined sleepers, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, many versions of this type of product remain for sale and in homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is proposing a new rule that would virtually end the sale of inclined sleepers. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

New Report: How Massachusetts Can Protect Consumers 1 Year After Equifax Breach

A year ago, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, MASSPIRG called on state lawmakers to pass the pending Security Breach Bill, H4806 and released a new report containing suggestions on how lawmakers, regulators, and consumers can safeguard personal information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Safe Shopping Guide for Back-to-School Supplies

Parents and teachers shopping for their students’ 2018-19 school supplies often look for a “non-toxic” label on the products, but many products don’t have that label. MASSPIRG Education Fund is releasing a guide that advises consumers which products are actually non-toxic and which to avoid.

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MULVANEY SAYS HE'LL "FIX" CFPB, WARREN TO JOIN PROTEST TUESDAY

Mick Mulvaney has  "inherent conflicts"  in running the CFPB. First, he runs the White House budget office, and the CFPB was designed to be an independent agency, and second, he has nothing but disdain for the agency's work  in protecting consumers, saying the office was "sad, sick and a joke".

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process.

> Keep Reading

Pages

CVS: Takes a Licking and Keeps on Overcharging

Analysis of new state data shows that CVS is the still the most penalized retailer in the Commonwealth when it comes to violating state pricing law – and gets caught for illegal overcharges more than its main national competitors, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

> Keep Reading

Trouble In Toyland

The 2008 "Trouble In Toyland" report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.

> Keep Reading

Course Correction

Textbooks are an essential but increasingly expensive part of obtaining a college degree. With students spending between $700 and $1,000 per year and prices rising faster than inflation, the need for a solution is increasingly urgent.

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Total Recall

Already more toys and children's products have been recalled in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year, a supposed "100-year-flood" period. Yet the remedial CPSC reform legislation passed overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate in response to that 2007 recall wave has yet to become law. It is stalled in conference committee, where both the toy and chemical industries seek to block, weaken or delay some of its most critical reforms.

> Keep Reading

The Campus Credit Card Trap

Credit card lending is enormously profitable. According to annual Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ (FRB) Reports to Congress, it is the most profitable form of banking. But the credit card industry is saturated.

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Pages

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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB GETTING RESULTS FOR CONSUMERS | Deirdre Cummings

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

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Toy Safety Tips | Deirdre Cummings

For 28 years, MASSPIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund

Analysis of more than 200,000 complaints shows which airlines and airports do best and worst.

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.

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