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

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT

Consolidation in the airline industry, along with pressures created by new security rules and the recent high cost of aviation gasoline, has changed the way we fly. It seems as if every consumer has an airline travel story—how they were trapped on the tarmac, tricked by fees, missed their connection, or lost their bag. What many consumers don’t know is that they do have a number of new rights as well as a right to complain, both to the airline and to the government.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point.

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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

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

24th Annual Toy Safety Report - Many Toys Still Hazardous

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona PIRG Education Fund Urges Support of a Broadband Plan That Serves the Public Good

As the state and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begin to consider a long-term strategy to innovate infrastructure, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Media and Democracy Coalition issued A Public Interest Internet Agenda, to serve as a guide to direct decision makers towards consumer protective policy solutions that will connect every citizen to the Internet.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Retailers Misleading Consumers on the Digital Television (DTV) Transition

In one year, 22 million Americans who rely on free over-the-air analog broadcasting – including many elderly and other vulnerable populations will be at risk of losing access to TV which for many is a primary source of news and emergency information as well as entertainment.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona PIRG Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 22nd annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Statement of Diane E. Brown, Executive Director, on Latest Mattel-China Recall

The unfortunate news that another 9 million toys tainted with lead paint or dangerous small magnets were recalled today underscores many problems that need to be addressed.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2005

“While we can report substantial progress after 20 years of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, we are still finding trouble in toyland,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Right Start

Toxic chemicals can be found in common baby products, according to a new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The Right Start: The Need to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Baby Products” documents toxic chemicals, including phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in teethers, bath books, and sleep accessories.

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