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 | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Holiday cooking safety guide offers tips on avoiding indoor air pollution from gas stoves

The holiday season often entails spending a lot of hours in the kitchen cooking. As millions of Americans prepare holiday meals to share with their families, a guide by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund offers tips on how to minimize unhealthy air pollution from cooking with gas in your home. Without proper precautions, too much exposure to a gas stove can lead to an unnecessary and invisible health risk, since gas stoves can cause elevated levels of indoor pollution that would exceed legal limits for outdoor air.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Healthier Holiday: Minimizing the health risks of cooking with gas

Many of our holiday traditions revolve around food. Whatever the tradition, there’s nothing like sharing a meal with family and friends over the holidays. But in millions of homes, there’s a hidden danger lurking in the kitchen. Common across the country, gas stoves can produce levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

ACC’s Transportation Electrification Plan Approval Will Protect Ratepayers, Help Arizona Act on Climate, & Improve Air Quality

Conservation and public interest groups today welcomed the Arizona Corporation Commission’s (ACC’s) vote to approve the final phase of a comprehensive Transportation Electrification Plan that aims to foster electric vehicle use, charging infrastructure development, and innovative rate designs for electric vehicle (EV) charging. The vote also requires regulated utilities to provide ongoing comprehensive plans at least every three years and report annually on their progress.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Not First Class: Flyer complaints soar as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, ruin plans

Not First Class: Flyer complaints soar as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, ruin plans, a new report released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, analyzed more than 200,000 DOT complaints going back to 2016 and found the airline industry is failing its customers.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Airlines’ Refund Policies & Scheduling Problems Irk Consumers

When the COVID-19 pandemic turned life upside down in early 2020 and commercial flights came to a near-halt, the U.S. government gave the airline industry $50 billion. Since then, despite surviving because of tax dollars, the airlines repeatedly have canceled and delayed flights, denied refunds and failed at customer service, according to complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Holiday cooking safety guide offers tips on avoiding indoor air pollution from gas stoves

The holiday season often entails spending a lot of hours in the kitchen cooking. As millions of Americans prepare holiday meals to share with their families, a guide by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund offers tips on how to minimize unhealthy air pollution from cooking with gas in your home. Without proper precautions, too much exposure to a gas stove can lead to an unnecessary and invisible health risk, since gas stoves can cause elevated levels of indoor pollution that would exceed legal limits for outdoor air.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

ACC’s Transportation Electrification Plan Approval Will Protect Ratepayers, Help Arizona Act on Climate, & Improve Air Quality

Conservation and public interest groups today welcomed the Arizona Corporation Commission’s (ACC’s) vote to approve the final phase of a comprehensive Transportation Electrification Plan that aims to foster electric vehicle use, charging infrastructure development, and innovative rate designs for electric vehicle (EV) charging. The vote also requires regulated utilities to provide ongoing comprehensive plans at least every three years and report annually on their progress.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Airlines’ Refund Policies & Scheduling Problems Irk Consumers

When the COVID-19 pandemic turned life upside down in early 2020 and commercial flights came to a near-halt, the U.S. government gave the airline industry $50 billion. Since then, despite surviving because of tax dollars, the airlines repeatedly have canceled and delayed flights, denied refunds and failed at customer service, according to complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona Corporation Commission Adopts Policies Related to Utility Disconnections

After two years of deliberations, today the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to adopt a rule that sets a series of policies in place related to when electric and gas utilities in Arizona can disconnect a customer’s service in the summer.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Only one-third of largest phone companies have completely adopted anti-robocall technology

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though many of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28 when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Healthier Holiday: Minimizing the health risks of cooking with gas

Many of our holiday traditions revolve around food. Whatever the tradition, there’s nothing like sharing a meal with family and friends over the holidays. But in millions of homes, there’s a hidden danger lurking in the kitchen. Common across the country, gas stoves can produce levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Not First Class: Flyer complaints soar as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, ruin plans

Not First Class: Flyer complaints soar as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, ruin plans, a new report released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, analyzed more than 200,000 DOT complaints going back to 2016 and found the airline industry is failing its customers.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Clean Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Air

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I got my finances in order | Mike Litt

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. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I started my estate and end-of-life planning | Mike Litt

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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Resources I used to prepare my advance directive | Mike Litt

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

What I decided to do after shopping for long-term care insurance | Mike Litt

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I’m supercharging my savings with socially responsible investing (SRI) | Mike Litt

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Many of our holiday traditions revolve around food. Whatever the tradition, there’s nothing like sharing a meal with family and friends over the holidays. But in millions of homes, there’s a hidden danger lurking in the kitchen. Common across the country, gas stoves can produce levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors. This guide describes the potential health risks of cooking with gas and provides tips on how to mitigate those risks and keep your family safe during the holidays. 

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

The holiday season often entails spending a lot of hours in the kitchen cooking. As millions of Americans prepare holiday meals to share with their families, a guide by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund offers tips on how to minimize unhealthy air pollution from cooking with gas in your home. Without proper precautions, too much exposure to a gas stove can lead to an unnecessary and invisible health risk, since gas stoves can cause elevated levels of indoor pollution that would exceed legal limits for outdoor air.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Conservation and public interest groups today welcomed the Arizona Corporation Commission’s (ACC’s) vote to approve the final phase of a comprehensive Transportation Electrification Plan that aims to foster electric vehicle use, charging infrastructure development, and innovative rate designs for electric vehicle (EV) charging. The vote also requires regulated utilities to provide ongoing comprehensive plans at least every three years and report annually on their progress.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

When the COVID-19 pandemic turned life upside down in early 2020 and commercial flights came to a near-halt, the U.S. government gave the airline industry $50 billion. Since then, despite surviving because of tax dollars, the airlines repeatedly have canceled and delayed flights, denied refunds and failed at customer service, according to complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Not First Class: Flyer complaints soar as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, ruin plans, a new report released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, analyzed more than 200,000 DOT complaints going back to 2016 and found the airline industry is failing its customers.

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