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

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. 

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

Latest move by the EPA will result in Americans breathing more unhealthy, polluted air

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke a waiver that gave California the ability to set its own standards for automobile emissions. The waiver allowed the state to set stricter air quality standards than those imposed at the federal level -- and provided an avenue for Arizona and other states to follow suit. More than one-third of U.S. auto buyers live in the 14 states plus Washington, DC, that have adopted California’s stricter standards.

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

WITH UTILITY DISCONNECTION MORATORIUM TO END OCT. 15, CUSTOMERS ARE URGED TO GET ON PAYMENT PLANS

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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Largest bank hack ever, of Capital One, exposes 100 million to identity theft

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

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

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

> Keep Reading

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2011

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report is our 26th annual survey of toy safety. In this report, we provide safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and provide examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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

Building A Better Health Care Marketplace

Consumers across the state know that the health insurance marketplace is broken. Insurers don’t compete for their business, instead offering take-it or-leave-it deals. Important information about coverage is buried in the fine print, making it hard to know what’s really covered. Instead of working to lower costs and improve quality, too many insurers focus on covering healthy enrollees and dumping the sick. And costs are continuing their unsustainable rise.

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

Trouble in Toyland 2010

According to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves.  The Arizona PIRG Education Fund released the 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report, which reveals the results of laboratory testing for toxic chemicals and identifies toys that pose choking hazards.  Trouble in Toyland also includes guidance for avoiding common hazards.

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

Delivering on the Promise

The recently passed federal health care reform law will make significant changes in how health insurance and health care work for consumers, businesses, and local and state governments, as well as how insurers and providers operate. But whether Americans experience improved care, lower costs and greater access depends largely on what happens next.

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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.

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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.

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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

Arizona fell in national rankings for energy efficiency, according to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The state is now 23rd in the country, down four spots since last year. The annual scorecard measures states’ progress on a variety of energy efficiency efforts, including utility programs and policies, transportation policies, building energy codes, and state government initiatives.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Yesterday the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to help ratepayers struggling to pay their electric bill know there is at least a bit of light heading into 2021. Through the Commission’s action, Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and Unisource Electric will automatically enroll ratepayers behind on their bills who may be subject to disconnection in an eight-month payment plan, starting in January 2021. Utilities also agreed to work with customers who may need more time to catch up on their bills. In addition, qualified low-income customers will receive a discount up to $250 off their bill, due in part to support from APS, TEP and UNSE shareholders.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona, commended Chairman Bob Burns and Commissioners Boyd Dunn, Sandra Kennedy, and Lea Marquez Peterson - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard through 2030.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A review of consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database reveals long-standing patterns of abusive and deceptive practices in the automobile industry. The pandemic has brought to light growing auto sales and loan problems.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Arizona and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry. 

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