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 | Consumer Protection

Statement on Wells Fargo’s response to “Debit Cards on Campus” report

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arizona Poll: Clean Energy Provides Economic Opportunity | Diane Brown

Arizonans overwhelmingly embrace the idea of growing the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy resources and believe clean energy is important to Arizona jobs and the economy, according to a new statewide poll.

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

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves TEP Energy Efficiency Program Restoration

The Arizona Corporation Commission voted at its February 6th, 2019 meeting to approve Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) proposed energy efficiency programming budget of $22.9 million dollars. This approval will allow the Pima County utility to restore programs that have been on hold since their plan was initially released.

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

ARIZONA PIRG EDUCATION FUND PRAISES ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION’S UNANIMOUS DECISION TO EXTEND GAS MORATORIUM

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund applauded state utility regulators for today’s important decision to protect ratepayers and consumers by extending a moratorium on new gas generation exceeding 150 megawatts.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves TEP Energy Efficiency Program Restoration

The Arizona Corporation Commission voted at its February 6th, 2019 meeting to approve Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) proposed energy efficiency programming budget of $22.9 million dollars. This approval will allow the Pima County utility to restore programs that have been on hold since their plan was initially released.

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

ARIZONA PIRG EDUCATION FUND PRAISES ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION’S UNANIMOUS DECISION TO EXTEND GAS MORATORIUM

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund applauded state utility regulators for today’s important decision to protect ratepayers and consumers by extending a moratorium on new gas generation exceeding 150 megawatts.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fiat Chrysler Settlement Fails to Protect Consumers

While we are glad that Fiat Chrysler is paying something for damaging the health of Americans and deceiving customers, this settlement does not go far enough. It neither ensures these violations of the public trust won’t happen again nor makes consumers whole.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Dozens of Tucson Business Owners Encourage the Arizona Corporation Commission to Increase Investments in Energy Efficiency

With just days before the Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to vote on Tucson Electric Power’s Demand-Side Management Plan, dozens of Tucson business owners encouraged the Commission to increase investment in energy efficiency. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, who have been speaking with business owners across Tucson, are hopeful the Commission will vote to restore and increase energy efficiency funding for TEP ratepayers at their upcoming meeting.

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Pages

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.

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

Big Banks Bigger Fees 2012

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the state PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

> Keep Reading
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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The End of Net Neutrality As We Know It? | Diane E. Brown

On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) meets to propose new rules "to protect and promote the open Internet." It has no choice because a U.S. appellate court threw out parts of its current rules in a January decision favoring the telephone company Verizon. The decision did not eliminate FCC authority to regulate the Internet, but it did make it more complicated.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How to protect yourself from the security bug Heartbleed | Diane Brown

Heartbleed is a recently discovered hole in the security software used by most major websites – everyone from Amazon to Yahoo to eBay – that may have allowed hackers to access consumers’ passwords or credit card information. Here are our recommendations for protecting yourself.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Diane E. Brown

Target is now saying, reports the New York Times, that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December (or possibly at other times). Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen from the big-box retailer included a lot more than credit or debit card numbers and their associated security codes and expiration dates.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is now taking your credit bureau complaints | Diane E. Brown

Excellent news! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now taking your complaints about credit bureaus and credit reports. Click here to go to the CFPB credit bureau complaint page.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A huge opportunity was missed today by utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission to extend and expand Arizona’s successful Energy Efficiency Standard, which was adopted with bipartisan support in 2010. The policy has delivered more than $1.4 billion in net economic benefits for utility customers of Arizona Public Service (APS), Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and UNS Electric.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) said a vote last night by the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulators, failed to provide the short-term relief many ratepayers need now and the long-term relief many ratepayers will need for months to come.

Blog Post

Let’s face it. If you are an APS customer, you are likely not pleased with the utility’s last rate hike or that it is now seeking an additional rate hike totaling $184 million. Relief from high utility bills was needed before COVID-19, and the number of households needing financial assistance now is even higher.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has released a report with the Student Borrower Protection Center and Consumer Action. The report makes recommendations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to upgrade its consumer complaint tool, including the public consumer complaint database, so COVID19-related complaints can be handled more quickly and tracked better.

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