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

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Leading Groups Send Criteria for Evaluating VW Settlement

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

30th Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

For 30 years, the State PIRG’s have conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children. Among the toys surveyed this year, we found potential choking and noise hazards, one toy that exceeded federal toxic standards, and three toys that preliminary testing showed may exceed federal standards.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

30 Years of "Trouble in Toyland," 30 Years of Safety Improvements | Diane E. Brown

Every year, Arizona PIRG Education Fund releases Trouble in Toyland, a report on toy safety which examines toys bought at major national retailers, looking for safety hazards including toxic toys, choking hazards, labeling violations, powerful magnets, and excessibely loud toys. We continue to find these hazards on store shelves, which indicates the need for continued vigilance and adequate enforcement of safety regulations. But despite lingering dangers, in the last 30 years, we've come a long way in terms of both policy and compliance with standards.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Releases New Report Analyzing Five Years of Air Passenger Complaints

Spirit generates the most complaints among major airlines for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

SURVEY SHOWS STUDENTS OPTING OUT OF BUYING TEXTBOOKS

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

SURVEY SHOWS STUDENTS OPTING OUT OF BUYING TEXTBOOKS

A survey released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund shows that 65 percent of student consumers have opted out of buying a college textbook due to its high price, and nearly half say that textbook costs can dictate whether they take a course.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Groups Offer Consumer Tips After Target Data Breach

In light of the recent news about Target’s data security breach, the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Action, and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund offer tips for consumers.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on store shelves, according to the PIRG’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Complaints

The CFPB’s searchable complaint database is the newest of a set of federal government consumer complaint databases that help consumers make better economic and safety choices by reviewing other’s experiences and searching for problems or product recalls. The transparency also helps firms improve their products and services. In short, transparency improves the way markets work.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual PIRG survey of toy safety. In this report, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund 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 | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Bigger Fees 2012

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Campus Debit Card Trap

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Getting All the Cards on the Table:

States do have options to increase transparency so consumers have better information and are better protected against unreasonable rate increases. One important opportunity is through a process called rate review, which can potentially empower consumers by requiring insurers to make information on why rates are increasing publically available.

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