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

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

What’s up with the ‘DARK Act’? | Anya Vanecek

The House just passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. This will have major implications for GMO labeling and consumer information about the foods they eat.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

Our sixth report analyzing complaints in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database evaluates mortgage complaints, the number one source of complaints to the CFPB, totaling 38% of nearly 500,000 complaints posted since 2011.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Mortgage Problems Rank #1 at CFPB for Consumer Complaints

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is 4 years old and has a lot to show for it! | Ed Mierzwinski

Tuesday, July 21, marks four years to the day since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors to protect consumers and make financial markets work. We've summarized some of the ways CFPB works for you on a new web page.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How the CFPB’s Data Keeps Getting Better and Better | Mike Litt

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Pages

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

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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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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Group Commends Consumer Product Safety Commission for Taking First Step Toward Banning Lead in Children

Yesterday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took a long overdue first step toward banning lead in children’s metal jewelry. We have known for decades that lead can cause permanent developmental damage in children or even death, so we commend the CPSC commissioners for voting to protect children from lead exposure.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona PIRG Education Fund Alerts Shoppers To Toy Hazards

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 21st annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.  While we can report substantial progress after more than two decades of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund still found trouble in toyland.

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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. 

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A new report from Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group highlights municipalities across the country that are making the switch to electric buses and reaping the benefits on dual fronts -- reducing emissions as well as operating expenses.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

With about a month before a moratorium on utility disconnections ends, two consumer advocacy organizations are reminding customers that they will still be responsible for paying all outstanding bills even if they’ve not been keeping up with payments during the summer.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

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