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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Slams Two Credit Bureaus For Deceptive Marketing, Expect Experian Next | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nailed two "big 3" credit bureaus --Trans Union and Equifax -- for deceptive marketing of their over-priced, under-performing credit monitoring subscription products.  Combined fines and consumer restitution total $23 million. I predict that the CFPB will also bring a case against the remaining bureau, Experian, and that it will pay much more, because Experian really has led the way in aggressively marketing these tawdry products. They don't prevent identity theft, nor do they always accurately disclose your credit score, at fees of up to $16.95/month or more. Yikes!

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Big Banks Make Billions on Overdraft Fees

Through the first three quarters of 2016, 626 large banks reported collecting $8.4 billion in revenue from overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees, an increase of 3.6 percent over the same period in 2015. “Banks that relied most heavily on overdraft revenue had more complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the complaint category “account funds being low,” said Ruth Rothstein, a consumer advocate with CALPIRG Education Fund. “It’s clear that we need to protect a strong CFPB to make sure banks are following the law.”

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are a major source of consumer pain, since they are borne disproportionately by Americans with few financial resources. Through the first three quarters of 2016, 626 large banks reported collecting $8.4 billion in revenue from overdraft and NSF fees, an increase of 3.6 percent over the same period in 2015. American consumers should look to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has already enforced overdraft regulations and returned millions of dollars to consumers, to take new action to prevent unfair overdraft fees.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach Presents Opportunity for Strong Response

Although it failed its responsibility to protect its users, Yahoo has an opportunity to provide the most consumer friendly response to likely the largest breach of its kind by alerting its users to the benefits of credit freezes and offering to pay for credit freezes with all three major national credit bureaus.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

New Report Highlights Opportunities to Welcome Underrepresented California Youth onto Voter Rolls

As preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds goes live in California, we want all eligible and willing California youth added to the voter rolls on their 18th birthday, at their current address, and armed with knowledge about how to participate in elections. That’s a big undertaking that will require strategic outreach, education, and communication with youth across the state. 

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Media Hit | Democracy

Sacramento Bee Op-Ed: Bill would empower small campaign donors over special interests, megadonors

Imagine a private company is hiring new staff, but for 82% of the applicants who make it past a first round interview, the business decides to go with the wealthier job applicant. That sounds outrageous, it sounds unfair, and it certainly doesn’t sound like good practice when it comes to hiring the most qualified applicants. But that’s similar to what’s happening in American elections.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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

Oakland - 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, according to a report released today by the CALPIRG Education Fund. 

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Media Hit | Public Health

East Bay Times: California must tackle super-pollutants in air

"Through decades of emissions restrictions, California has made huge strides in cleaning our air and protecting public health from the worst effects of air pollution. But there is still more work to do, and the Legislature has an opportunity right now to pass a bill that would dramatically cut the super pollutants in our air," writes CALPIRG's Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle in the East Bay Times. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

More Than 350,000 Urge KFC to Prevent Abuse of Antibiotics in Its Chicken Supply

Today, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Food Animals Concern Trust (FACT) will deliver more than 350,000 petitions from consumers nationwide to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) headquarters in Louisville, while calling on the nation’s largest fried chicken chain to end the routine use of antibiotics by chicken producers in its supply chain. The petition signatures were also collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and CREDO Action. 

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Result | Health Care

Fighting To Make Health Care Affordable

Thanks to a new CALPIRG-backed law, insurance companies actually have to justify rate hikes to the public, bringing some much-needed accountability. Thanks in part to the new law — and public pressure, including 1,200 public comments from CALPIRG supporters — Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California both backed off of double-digit rate hikes.

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Result | Budget

Keeping Public Libraries Public

To plug budget gaps, it seems that local governments will consider selling anything; some have even sold their public libraries. CALPIRG has stood up to and blocked a number of wrong-headed schemes to sell public assets to private companies — deals that all too often actually raise costs — including public libraries, state buildings and the privatization of red light camera enforcement.

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Result | Public Health

KIDS’ SCHOOL LUNCHES NOW SAFER

For years, America’s schoolchildren have been eating beef, chicken and other foods that would have been rejected as substandard even by fast food chains. Thanks in part to our advocacy, the U.S.D.A. has stopped buying such low-quality meat for school lunches.

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Result | Democracy

Defeating Big Oil’s Ballot Proposition

CALPIRG helped run a campaign that identified 160,000 young voters who pledged to vote No on Prop. 23, the oil industry-funded attack on California’s landmark global warming law. To combat the millions of dollars Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro poured into electioneering, our organizers mobilized young voters — the segment of the electorate most likely to vote against Prop. 23, but most are in need of a reminder to get to the polls.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Picking Up The Tab 2015: Small Businesses Pay the Price for Offshore Tax Havens

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liabilities by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they continue to avoid paying for these benefits.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that the public can trust that state funds are spent as well as possible. This report, our sixth annual evaluation of state transparency websites, finds that states continue to make progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click transparency and accountability for state government spending. Over the past year, many states have launched new and improved websites to better open the books on public spending, or have adopted new practices to further expand citizens’ access to critical spending information.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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Report | CALPIRG | Democracy

The Cost of Running for US Senate in California

A comparison of fundraising practices for a U.S. Senate seat in California under current law and how fundraising could change if the Fair Elections Now Act became law.

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Report | CALPIRG | Democracy

The Money Chase: Moving from Big Donor Dominance in the 2014 Midterms to a Small Donor Democracy

Five years after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, what are the roles of large donors and average voters in selecting and supporting candidates for Congress? This report examines the role of money in the 2014 congressional elections from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, and demonstrates how matching small political contributions with limited public funds can change the campaign landscape for grassroots candidates.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Delayed CFPB/Other Wall Street Reform Rollbacks Happening Today On House Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

Last month the House canceled floor consideration of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. FSGG is back on the floor today and tomorrow. We urge support of amendments to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) but, since they won't pass, we urge a no vote on the bill. Here's an updated excerpt from my previous blog.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Five things you need to know about gray money | Sarah Friedman

Since the 2010 Citizens United ruling, we've heard about Super PACs able to spend unlimited amounts on our elections while obscuring the sources of the cash. Now, their tactics are getting even more creative.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Rejects PIRG-Opposed Swipe Fee Settlement With Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out a preliminary $7.25 billion settlement between Visa and Mastercard and any merchant accepting credit cards (including U.S. PIRG), ruling that despite that seemingly massive payment for past practices that the settlement gave inadequate relief to merchants going forward, as it essentially immunized the networks for any future illegal conduct while providing mostly illusory benefits. Since we accept credit cards from our members, we, joined by Consumer Reports, had formally objected to the settlement as consumer advocates who also happen to be merchant class members (most merchant associations also objected).

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