Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


(Page 1) | 2 | 3 | newer

    0 0

    Released by: WashPIRG Foundation

    Here’s a quick roundup of your rights concerning flight delays, cancellations, and what to do if the airline loses your bag. If the company fails to respond promptly, file a complaint with the DOT at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint.

    Flight Problems

    Tarmac Delays

    After new, PIRG-backed rules went into effect in 2011, airlines can’t keep planes on the tarmac for more than three hours without facing massive fines. After two hours, the airline must provide food, water, necessary medical attention, and functioning toilets.

    Airport Delays

    If your flight is delayed over 30 minutes, the airline must regularly keep you posted on its status.

    There are no rules governing compensation for delayed flights, but you should ask the airline if they will pay for meals while you are stuck in the airport or ‘endorse’ the cost of your ticket toward a flight with another airline. Policies vary according to the individual airline and the reason for the delay, such as weather or mechanical problems.

    Cancellations

    If your flight is cancelled or delayed over two hours and you choose to cancel, the airline is required to refund the cost of your ticket, even if it is a nonrefundable ticket. In many cases, the airline will book you on the next flight to the same destination.

    Bags

    Lost, Delayed Bags

    If your bag does not arrive, report it immediately to your airline in the airport. Keep your ticket, give them info for how to contact you, and make sure you know how to follow up with them.

    The airline should reimburse you for reasonable expenses if your luggage is delayed, so keep receipts for things like a toothbrush or a change of underwear. Spirit Airlines even requires you return dirty clothes you purchased in order to be reimbursed.

    If bag is lost, the airlines should refund any fee you paid to check the bag and should also reimburse you for lost items. File a claim with the airline as soon as possible and have information about how to follow up. The maximum an airline will pay to reimburse for luggage is $3,300 on domestic flights.

    Mishandled Bags

    Report damage to your baggage as soon as you find it, or at least within 24 hours. Airlines vary in their individual policies, but they should compensate you for damaged bags. Make sure you have information about how to follow up with the airline before you leave the airport.

    Bumping

    Involuntary

    Since not everyone scheduled shows up for most flights, airlines usually sell more tickets than they have seats on a flight. On rare occasions, everyone shows up and the airline has to deny boarding to someone with a ticket, which is referred to as involuntary bumping. If you are bumped involuntarily, you have rights, depending on how much of a delay you experience after the airline rebooks you:


     

    A full description of your rights and exceptions to the policies are available here.

    Voluntary

    More common that involuntary bumping, airlines often ask passengers scheduled to fly on a certain flight to voluntary bump themselves and allow someone flying standby to take their seat.

    Policies vary by airline, but usually the airline will book a voluntarily bumped passenger on a later flight that day and offer some sort of additional compensation, such as a meal in the airport or credit to use with the airline. Make sure you understand the airline’s offer before agreeing to bump yourself voluntarily.

    For more, visit the Department of Transportation’s Air Consumer Protection Division: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/flyrights.htm.


    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    SEATTLE – Spirit Airlines passengers are most likely to complain about their experience, according to a report released today by the WashPIRG Foundation. Among major airlines, Spirit generates the most complaints for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska Airlines—with major hubs in Seattle and Portland—has the second-fewest complaints for its size, after Southwest. With complaints about flight problems making up an increasing share of overall complaints, Alaska Airlines has consistently had the best on-time performance of any airline since 2009. 

    The report, “The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT” analyzes complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division about major U.S. airlines from 2009-2013. The report found that most complaints are about delayed or canceled flights, which were the top complaint category each year and have trended upward overall.

    “When airlines cut corners, it causes all sorts of headaches for passengers,” said Chris Esh, WashPIRG Program Associate. “These complaints show that the airlines and policymakers should act to improve service.”

    The report examines complaints over a five year period during which the industry saw consolidation and increased crowding of seats, gates, runways and airways. The congestion also led to complaints about excessive tarmac delays and lost or delayed baggage. At the same time, while airlines raised fares, they also raised customer ire by adding new additional fees for checked bags, seat selection, and other services that used to be included in the basic fare. Complaints about tarmac delays and lost baggage directly led to new rules from the Department of Transportation and an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights from Congress, but crowded skies keep delays common while complaints have continued to grow.

    Some of the report’s findings include:

    • The airline that generated the most complaints per 100,000 passengers was Spirit Airlines, generating approximately three times more complaints per passenger than any other airline. Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines were also at the top of the rankings, with complaints per 100,000 passengers steadily increasing over the past few years.
    • The airlines that generated the fewest complaints per 100,000 passengers were Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, AirTran Airways, and JetBlue Airlines. Both Delta and JetBlue have generated fewer complaints per 100,000 passengers steadily since 2010.
    • Flight problems such as delays and cancellations were the top grievance for travelers, while other top complaint categories included baggage, customer service, and reservations/ticketing/boarding.
    • In many cases, the relative number of complaints about flight problems tracked the airline’s statistics for on-time performance and baggage handling complaints. Alaska Airlines, at the top of the pack for on-time arrivals, receives some of the fewest complaints about flight problems, while complaints about flight problems for United Airlines spiked from 2010-2012 while its on-time performance worsened.

    The report also studied the effect of new penalties enacted by the Department of Transportation in 2011. Complaints about baggage have dropped since 2009, while the airlines are also reporting fewer mishandled bags to the DOT. This could be due to the increased penalties or the increased fees charged to passengers for checked bags. In an effort to avoid fees for checked bags, fewer passengers are checking bags and fewer bags are being lost or mishandled.

    “U.S. PIRG has shined some needed light on airline complaint statistics as well as their deficiencies, that make it very difficult to be an intelligent consumer of airline services,” said Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org.  “With non-user-friendly complaint data, less consumer regulation than any other industry, dwindling U.S. competition, and protection against foreign competition, domestic airlines will have less and less incentive to provide good passenger service at fair prices.”

    WashPIRG Foundation made several recommendations to the DOT to improve the usefulness of the database, such as establishing a searchable public database in addition to its monthly reports.

    WashPIRG Foundation also released a consumer tip sheet that explains a consumer’s rights if their flights are delayed or cancelled, or if their bags are lost or damaged by the airlines.

    “It’s critical for consumers to know their rights and make their voices heard when airlines provide substandard service,” said Esh.

                                                                                ###

    Download the report, “The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT

    Download the WashPIRG Foundation tip sheet, “Your Rights as an Air Traveler

    View the Department of Transportation’s monthly reports: http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-consumer-reports. 

    WashPIRG Foundation works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.washpirgfoundation.org

    New Report Analyzes Five Years of Air Passenger Complaints
    WashPIRG Foundation

    SEATTLE – Spirit Airlines passengers are most likely to complain about their experience, according to a report released today by the WashPIRG Foundation. Among major airlines, Spirit generates the most complaints for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines.


    0 0
  • 11/30/14--17:14: Trouble in Toyland 2014
  • Released by: WashPIRG Foundation

    For almost 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to an estimated 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

    Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

    The continued presence of these hazards in toys highlights the need for constant vigilance on the part of government agencies and the public to ensure that children do not end up playing with unsafe toys.

    Standards for toy safety are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Safety standards include limits on toxics in children’s products, size requirements for toys for small children, warning labels about choking hazards, measures to keep magnets and batteries inaccessible, and noise limits.

    U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff examined hundreds of toys to confirm that they are safe. We discovered that unsafe toys remain widely available. The problems we found include:

      • Lead. Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can undermine development, damaging academic achievement and attentiveness. We found unsafe levels of lead in one set of play sheriff and police badges. (More details and photos of all unsafe toys can be found in Appendix A.)
      • Chromium. Skin contact with chromium can cause severe allergic reactions including skin redness, swelling and ulcers. Chromium compounds are also known to cause cancer. This year, lab tests revealed that a tambourine marketed to children ages two and older contained chromium at nearly 10 times the legal limit.
      • Phthalates. Exposure to phthalates at crucial stages of development may harm development of the male reproductive system and is linked to early puberty. Lab tests confirmed that several items purchased by our shoppers contained high levels of banned phthalates. Those items include a rubber duck, plastic-covered hairclips, and a Dora the Explorer backpack.
      • Small parts are pieces that might block a child’s airway. Children, especially those under age three, can choke on small parts. Our shoppers purchased a set of foam blocks marketed to children two and up that contained multiple small parts that fit into a choke test cylinder. We also identified multiple toys containing near-small parts, which are pieces that almost fit into the choke tube and can be a choking hazard.
      • Small balls less than 1.75 inches in diameter represent a choke hazard for children three years old and younger. We found small balls that were not labeled with the appropriate choke hazard warning. We also remain concerned about other small, rounded toys, such as toy food, that present the same choke hazard as small balls but are not labeled as a hazard.
      • Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. As in past years, we continue to find balloons on store shelves marketed to children under eight.
      • Magnets. When two or more powerful magnets are swallowed, they can have fatal health consequences as their attractive forces draw them together inside the body, perforating intestinal walls. Our shoppers purchased small, high-powered magnets, despite their being recalled by the CPSC.
      • Batteries. When batteries are ingested, chemical reactions can burn through the esophagus and blood vessels, causing fatal internal bleeding. Our shoppers purchased a toy whale that contains batteries that are accessible to small children and are nearly small enough to constitute a choke hazard. The toy has been recalled in Australia because small children can easily remove the batteries.
      • Excessive noise. Excessive noise exposure can lead to hearing loss. This is especially problematic for young children: Hearing loss at an early age has ramifications for speech development. This year, our shoppers found toys that are loud, though not necessarily in violation of federal limits.

    Despite recent progress in making toys safer, the findings of our 2014 investigation, as well as recent recalls and legal actions against importers, highlight the need for continued attention to shortcomings in existing standards and vigilance on the part of the shopping public. To keep children safe from potentially hazardous toys, there is still more to do.

    Policymakers should continue building upon recent progress in the strengthening of toy safety standards. The CPSC should:

      • Continue to vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s mandatory standards for toys, including strict limits on lead and lead paint in any toys, jewelry or other articles for children under 12 years;
      • Vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s permanent ban on the use of three specific phthalates in all toys and children’s products;
      • Upgrade the interim ban on three additional phthalates into a permanent prohibition and expand it to include additional phthalates;
      • Enlarge the small parts test tube to be more protective of children under three;
      • Consider extending the standard for toys with spherical ends to apply to toys intended for children under six years old instead of under four years;
      • Change the small-ball rule to include small round or semi-round objects, and not just “balls” in the strictest definition, since these toys pose the same hazards as small balls (this is especially true of rounded toy food, since it is “intended” to be eaten);
      • Enforce the use of the United States’ statutory choke hazard warning label;
      • Continue to enforce CPSC rules requiring online warning labels; and
      • Fully enforce sound and battery standards.

    Parents can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

      • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org.
      • Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf.
      • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov.
      • Subscribe to government announcements of recalled products at www.recalls.gov.
      • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples only. Other hazards may exist.

    For toys you already own:

      • Remove small batteries if there is any question over their security or inaccessibility and keep them out of reach of children;
      • Remove batteries from or tape over the speakers of toys you already own that are too loud; and
      • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.
    The 29th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

    0 0

    Update: CFPB's speaker will be Peggy Twohig, Assistant Director, Office of Supervision Policy.

    U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Digital Democracy are excited to announce that Professor Frank Pasquale (University of Maryland Law School) will discuss his new book “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.” (Harvard University Press, January 2015)

    Seminar: Looking Inside The Black Box Society

    Save the Date! Monday 11 May, 9AM-12 PM Noon, (the event is free and open to the public but an RSVP is required to attend in person (due to space limitations). A livestream link will be provided to those who RSVP for the livestream only).

    RSVP HERE for “Looking Inside the Black Box Society” (http://bit.ly/1FAvSBj)

    Following Professor Pasquale’s presentation, panels of civil society and government experts will discuss the implications of his findings for economic and employment opportunity.

    The event will be open to the media and public and will be live web-streamed.

     Looking Inside The Black Box Society: 9:00-noon, Monday, 11 May

    Where:  Public Citizen, 1600 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Google Map). The event is free and open to the public but requires an RSVP (http://bit.ly/1FAvSBj). Livestream will be available. Please RSVP for “Livestream only” option.

    9:00-9:30 AM Registration and Coffee

    9:30-10:00 AMKeynote Address and Commentary by  Professor Frank Pasquale, author, “The Black Box Society” (Harvard University Press 2015)

    10:00-11:00 AMPanel 1: Empowering Citizens and Consumers in the Digitally Data-Driven Financial Services Era:  What new policies and practices are required to protect economically vulnerable consumers? Professor Pasquale will be joined by advocates for a discussion of the impact of the Black Box on economic opportunity and possible reform policies.

    • Sarah Ludwig, co-director, New Economy Project-NYC (formerly NEDAP). Sarah was a leader in the recent campaign to win a ban on the use of credit reports for employment purposes at the NY City Council. (confirmed).

    11:00-12 Noon:Panel 2:  What do policymakers need to do to “open” up and make accountable the “Black Box?”

    • Jessica Rich, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection (confirmed). The FTC BCP has issued recent reports on privacy and data brokers, has held a series of its own workshops on privacy, data and potential discrimination and has conducted enforcement actions against firms using digital data tools without complying with applicable consumer protection laws.
    • Peggy Twohig, Assistant Director, Office of Supervision Policy (confirmed). The CFPB has issued reports (latest, May 2015) on the credit reporting industry and, under authority granted by Congress, since fall 2012 has supervised (examined) the activities of larger participants in credit reporting markets (essentially, examination authority gives CFPB the right to look inside the black box).

    About the USPIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy Project on “Data and Consumer Protection: Ensuring a Fair and Equitable Financial Marketplace:” (PROJECT HOME PAGE)

    “Looking Inside the Black Box Society” is one in a series of events hosted by USPIRG Education Fund and CDD to promote needed discussion of the impact of the digital marketplace on economic opportunity. The project has also authored path-breaking research, including the Suffolk University Law Review article “Selling Consumers, Not Lists" and the report “Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges: Promoting Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection in the “Big Data” Financial Era.” The project home page has links to more reports and case studies, including several recent reports explaining online lead generation.

    USPIRG Education Fund and CDD acknowledge the support of the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment and the Digital Trust Foundation for support of our research and education work on data and financial opportunity. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the work, events, reports  and investigations are those of the authors and organizations alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundations. We also thank Public Citizen for the venue.


    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    Seattle – Mortgage problems were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the WashPIRG Foundation. The report also found that Bank of America was the most complained about company in Washington for mortgage problems. 

    “Before the CFPB was created, victims of mortgage errors like misapplied payments and incorrect late fees were at the mercy of the banks. Now, we have a cop on the beat.” said Bruce Speight, WashPIRG Foundation Executive Director. “The CFPB, which turns four next week, is also making its tools for consumers even better—just last month it began publishing detailed consumer stories in its public complaint database.”

    The report, “Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Victims of Mortgage Problems,” is the latest in a series of reports by the WashPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database. The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011 and now accepts complaints for 11 financial product categories; it began accepting complaints on mortgages in December 2011.

    Some key findings:

    • The CFPB has published 138,086 complaints about mortgages, the most complaints received about any financial product from December 2011 until March 16, 2015.

    • Mortgages remain the top source of complaints to the CFPB even though annual mortgage complaint volumes declined slightly in 2014 and the volume of the CFPB’s 10 other product categories continued to grow.

    • In early 2015, debt collection complaints became the #1 complaint to be published in the CFPB’s database on a monthly basis. Mortgage complaints, however, remain at #2 on a monthly basis and are still the #1 complaint overall, accounting for 38% of all complaints.

    • The vast majority of mortgage complaints (85%) fall into two issue categories: Problems when consumers are unable to pay (categorized in the database as “loan modification, collection, foreclosure”) make up 55% of the total; problems making payments (categorized in the database as “loan servicing, payments and escrow account”) make up 30%. The other four issue categories total 15%.

    • Bank of America was the most complained about company in Washington for mortgage problems. Bank of America received the most complaints in 45 states and Washington, DC. Wells Fargo was complained about the most in five states. 

    • Washington ranks 14 in complaints per 100,000 residents with 46.8 complaints per 100,000 residents.

    The report comes as the CFPB turns four years old on July 21st. Congress established the CFPB as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. The CFPB was equipped by Congress with authority to update, write and enforce regulations on Wall Street and other financial institutions. That authority, combined with consumer education tools and the complaint database, has served as an important check on tricks and traps in the mortgage industry. 

    With its authority over both updated and new mortgage regulations, the CFPB has also taken enforcement actions against more than 40 companies, halting illegal activities and securing over $2.9 billion in relief and refunds for mortgage consumers. “When the CFPB ordered Ocwen, the largest nonbank mortgage servicer in the country, to provide $2 billion in relief to customers for misconduct like charging unauthorized fees and failing to apply payments towards mortgages, it sent a message to the whole industry to clean up its act,” said Speight.

    The CFPB has also acted on recommendations WashPIRG Foundation made in previous reports to add complaint narratives to the database. In March 2015, the CFPB started allowing consumers to opt into publicly sharing the details of their complaints in the database. The first 7,700 narratives were published on June 25th.  No personally identifiable information, including demographic details, is shared publicly.

    “Imagine getting approved for a loan modification that you need to avoid a foreclosure, only to risk losing your home because you’ve been given less than two weeks to turn in paperwork instead of the four weeks you were originally told you would have. That happened to a veteran from Virginia, who received relief after submitting his complaint to the CFPB. Consumers need a strong CFPB that reins in reckless mortgage companies who ignore the rules,” concluded Speight.

    ###

    This is the sixth in a series of reports by the WashPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database. Previous reports have analyzed debt collection, bank account, private student loan, credit reporting, and credit card complaints.

    Visit the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/ 

    WashPIRG Foundation works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.washpirgfoundation.org.  

    Bank of America Receives Most Mortgage Complaints in Washington
    WashPIRG Foundation

    Mortgage problems were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released by the WashPIRG Foundation. The report also found that Bank of America was the most complained about company in Washington for mortgage problems. 


    0 0

    Released by: WashPIRG Foundation
    The CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Victims of Mortgage Problems

    0 0

    Every year, U.S. PIRG Education Fund releases Trouble in Toyland, a report on toy safety which examines toys bought at major national retailers, looking for safety hazards including toxic toys, choking hazards, labeling violations, powerful magnets, and excessively loud toys. We continue to find these hazards on store shelves, which indicates the need for continued vigilance and adequate enforcement of safety regulations.

     

    In 2013 (the last year for which data is available), there were 256,700 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments, and nine toy-related deaths.1 Just last year, over 2.7 million units of children's toys were recalled. But despite lingering dangers, in the last 30 years we've come a long way in terms of both policy and compliance with standards.

    Here are some of the major milestones in the past 30 years:

    The Child Safety Protection Act 

    From 1980-1992, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Congress did little to protect children from dangerous products. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, PIRG and other consumer groups lobbied Congress and the CPSC to increase the size of the small parts choking hazard test and to require appropriate choke hazard warning lablels. A 1992 campaign led by ConnPIRG and a number of child safety advocates resulted in a firm choke hazard warning label law that took effect in Connecticut in 1993. The Connecticut law laid the groundwork for a federal standard.

    In 1994, after years of battling the influential toy lobby, Congress finally passed PIRG's child safety proposal, the Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA), which took effect in January 1995. The legislation was monumental -- for the first time, explicit choke hazard warning labels were required on all toys containing small parts intended for children aged three to six, and the same warnings were required on balloons, small balls, and marbles. It also increased the size of banned small balls, as round objects are especially dangerous choking hazards. This legislation was a powerful first step towards safer toys.

    The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

    In 2008, after a series of record-breaking toy recalls—with millions of units of lead-laden brand name iconic toys such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which gave the CPSC the power to rush recalls, hold toy manufacturers more accountable, and ban specific toxic chemicals in children's products.2
     

    Key provisions of the CPSIA substantially reduced allowable limits on toxic substances, including lead, in toys and other children's products. Even low levels of lead in the blood have been proven to negatively affect IQ, attentiveness, and overall development; in fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has made it clear that any amount of lead in a child's blood is unsafe.3 Lead is used in paint and protective coatings, batteries, plastics, and radiation shielding, and can sneak into toys especially easily if they are made abroad and imported.

    The CPSIA requires that children's products manufactured after August 2011 contain no more than 100 parts per million (ppm) of total lead content.4 Though this standard could be even more protective, overall the CPSIA has led to increased protection and vigilance against lead levels in children's products, among other things.

    Since 2008 and the passing of the CPSIA, the number of children's products recalled on a yearly basis has continued to decline -- whereas before the law, recalls were increasing.5 This data shows that the CPSIA has had a role in reversing a dangerous trend.

    Stronger standards for phthalates

    Phthalates are a group of chemicals often used to soften and increase flexibility in plastics, and they are used in an incredible range of products, from flooring and clothing to toys. Phthalates have the potential to interfere with crucial stages of growth, including puberty and the development of the male reproductive system, and at least one type of phthalate is suspected of causing cancer.6 Children are especially vulnerable to these negative effects, and are also generally exposed to a higher level of phthalates because they often explore the world by putting toys and other objects in their mouths.7

    In 2008, the CPSIA permanently banned three types of phthalates (DEHP, DBP, and BBP) at levels greater than 1,000 ppm in the plastic parts of children's products, and also placed an interim ban on three other types of phthalates (DINP, DIDP, and DnOP) in parts of children's products that can be placed in a child's mouth.8 The interim ban is in place while the CPSC studies these additional phthalates. In 2014, the CPSC proposed a rule to permanently prohibit children's products that contain over 1,000 ppm of a longer list of phthalates (DINP, DIBP, DPENP, DHEXP, and DCHP), but that rule has not yet been finalized.9

    Our research and findings on phthalates emphasize the need to continuously study chemicals in our everyday products for possible health hazards, because we've known about the dangers of lead for decades, but many chemical threats like phthalates are relatively new. Still, the CPSC's proposed 2014 rule shows increased research on and awareness of the dangers of toxic chemicals in toys.

    Ban on small, powerful magnets

    Small, powerful magnets have become increasingly popular in the 21st century -- but they have the potential to cause serious injury and even death due to complications arising from ingestion. Swallowing two or more can result in attractive forces pulling them together inside the body, causing obstructions or pinching, or trapping intestinal walls or other digestive tissue. In the worst cases, once ingested, these magnets can even perforate intestinal walls. The ingestion of magnets often leads to invasive medical intervention, either with an endoscopy, surgery, or both.

    Small magnets are found in construction sets, puzzles, toy jewelry, action figures, board games, and train sets, and are also used in products geared towards adults like desk toys and stress relievers. The BB pellet-sized magnet sets called "Buckyballs" are perhaps the most well-known example of the dangers tiny, powerful magnets pose. Numerous incidents reported to the CPSC make it clear that children can swallow these magnets and suffer serious injuries - highlighting the need for appropriate warning labels on adult novelty items that might be hazardous to children.10 Between 2009 and 2013, the CPSC estimates that high-powered magnets led to approximately 2,900 emergency room-treated injuries.11

     

    In 2012, the CPSC sued several manufacturers to stop the distribution of Buckyballs and similar products, arguing that the labels were ineffective in preventing injuries. All but one of the manufacturers settled with the CPSC by the summer of 2014 and recalled their products. Then in 2014, the CPSC issued a new rule establishing htat all powerful magnets must be too large to fit into the official small parts cylinder used by the CPSC to determine choke hazards. The separate ASTM F963 standard for toys bans loose magnets or magnetic components in toys for children under 14 (with certain exceptions).

    Overall, the bans of small powerful magnets in the last decade are representative of great toy safety progress.

    The road to safer toys

    In the past thirty years, the Trouble in Toyland report has led to over 150 recalls and various regulatory actions. Our advocacy has also demonstrated the benefits of the PIRG state and federal model. In 1992, following years of unsuccessful pressure on the CPSC and Congress to add warning labels to toys for older children that contain small part choking hazards banned for children under three years old, we turned our attention to the states and launched numerous campaigns. Connecticut's law passed first and the toy manufacturers immediately sued. Then-state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now a U.S. Senator) successfully defended the ConnPIRG-backed law. This forced the toy industry to the negotiating table and resulted in the passage of the 1994 Child Safety Protection Act, which established express small parts warning labels and subjected small balls to a stricter choking test than other small toy parts, since round objects can more easily block airways.

     

    Going forward, we are pleased with the progress we have made and will continue to advocate for improving choking hazard rules and banning more toxic chemicals. We will also fight against general attacks on consumer protection regulations that affect the CPSC and other agencies. Dangers are still present, and parents and regulators must remain vigilant, but there are many signs of progress toward safer toys and children's products. From legislation like the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to recent phthalate and magnet bans, 30 years of Trouble in Toyland have made our kids safer.

     

    1Consumer Product Safety Commission, Toy Injuries Statistics, Accessed 11/16/2015.
    2Kirschman, K.B. & Smith, G.A. (2007), Resale of recalled children's products online: an examination of the world's largest yard sale, 2007.
    3Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lead: Prevention Tips, Accessed 11/12/2015.
    4The Consumer Product Safety Commission, Total Lead Content, Accessed 11/16/2015.
    5Kids in Danger, A Decade of Data: An In-depth Look at 2014 and a Ten-Year Retrospective on Children's Product Recalls, 2015.
    6National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Phthalates, Accessed on 11/16/2015.
    7Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Phthalates, Accessed on 11/16/2015.
    8Consumer Product Safety Commission, Phthalates," Accessed 11/16/2015.
    9Consumer Product Safety Commission, Prohibition of Children's Toys and Child Care Articles Containing Specified Phthalates, Accessed 11/16/2015.
    10Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC Warns High-Powered Magnets and Children Make a Deadly Mix, Accessed 11/16/2015.
    11Consumer Product Safety Commission, Magnets Information Center, Accessed 11/16/2015.

     
     


    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    Seattle – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) Foundation 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

    The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including chromium and phthalates, both of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that can threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

    “We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, toy buyers need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Bruce Speight, WashPIRG Foundation Executive Director.

    For 30 years, the WashPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children, and provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. Over the years, our reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions. 

    Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson participated in a press conference in Seattle to release the report.

    “Protecting consumers and the environment from toxic chemicals in toy products is a priority for my office,” said Ferguson. “The WashPIRG Annual Toy Safety Report is a great tool to help ensure safeguards for the health of our children and our environment while creating a model for good business practices.”

    "As a father of two young children, I’m well aware of the toxic dangers even a simple toy can pose,” said State Representative Marcus Riccelli, who joined the press event in Spokane. “The findings of this report show that we are not doing enough to keep our children and families safe from toxic chemicals, and we need to do more to protect our loved ones."

    Key findings from the report include: 

    • Toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves. We had chemical testing done at a lab which is accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

    o We found the Fun Bubbles jump rope from Dollar Tree which had 10 times the legal limit of the banned phthalate DEHP (tested at 10,000 ppm), and also had 190,000 ppm of the toxic phthalate DIBP which has not yet been banned. However, the CPSC has proposed a rule which has not been finalized that would add DIBP to the list of banned phthalates.  

    o In preliminary tests, we also found high levels of the heavy metal chromium in three toys. The high content of chromium in the products we found doesn’t necessarily mean that they violate the law. We believe it is a cause for concern, and we call on the CPSC to do further testing.

    o Positively, while the CPSC has recalled some toys for lead violations this year, our tests did not find any. We believe this is a sign of progress, but this does not mean that lead cannot be found in other toys.

    • Despite a ban on small parts in toys for children under the age of three, we found toys available in stores that still pose choking hazards. We found a fairy wand from Dollar Tree that has small parts that easily break off, but was not labeled as a choking hazard. 

    • We found inadequate warning labels in the Disney Pixar Cars Riplash Racers and Disney Planes from Marshalls, G2 Air Mini Football and a Disney Finding Nemo Dory figurine from Five Below, and a Nickelodeon Mermaid Dora the Explorer from Target. These products may have labels suitable for foreign countries, but they were not sufficient to meet U.S. standards. 

    • Small balls pose a hazard for young children who are inclined to put objects in or near their mouths. We found Magic Towels packaged as a small baseball and a small football at Dollar Tree which did not have the appropriate small ball warning label.

    • Balloons pose the most serious choking hazard to children in the U.S. All of the balloon packages we found did include the required warning label reading that children under eight can choke on balloons and balloon parts. However, we found three balloon sets from Party City which included a second, confusing label indicating that the products are for children ages three and older: the Balloon Animal Kit, Mega Value Pack 16 Latex Punch Balloons, and Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs. 

    • We also found toys that are potentially harmful to children’s hearing. We found the Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels, Vtech Go! Go! Smart Animals, Vtech Spin & Learn Color Flashlight, Fisher Price Click n Learn Remote, and Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set from Target that, while they don’t violate federal standards, were found to be extremely loud at the ear and at a distance.

    • We continue to find small, powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed. We found Sizzlers noise magnets from Family Dollar, and Singing magnets from Dollar Tree that are “near-small-parts” which, while they don’t violate federal standards, are small enough to be swallowed and can cause severe internal damage.

    Over the past seven years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates. Earlier this year, The CPSC implemented a ban on small, powerful toy magnets which is also an important step forward. However, not all toys comply with the law, and holes in the toy safety net remain.

    “We appreciate the work that WashPIRG is doing to increase awareness regarding toy safety,” said Ilene Stark, Executive Director of the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool. “This is near and dear to us as we work to provide the best possible environment for children as well as helpful information for parents.”

    “Our leaders and consumer watchdogs need to do more to protect our youngest consumers from the hazards of unsafe toys – no child should ever be injured, get sick, or die from playing with a dangerous toy,” said Speight. “Also, the CPSC should finalize its rule to include other toxic phthalates like DIBP on its list of banned phthalates.”  

    We tested for toxic chemicals at a CPSC-accredited lab. Other tests are completed under expert direction. The validity of our research methodology is amply demonstrated by the fact that the CPSC and toy manufacturers have taken at least 150 actions—recalls, stop sales, etc.—over the years in response to our annual toy safety report.

    Check out our special 30th anniversary blog here which contains our toy safety highlights and achievements over the past 30 years.

    To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, go to our website at www.washpirgfoundation.org. Parents can find our list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday season, at www.toysafetytips.org.   

    # # #

    WashPIRG (Washington Public Interest Research Group) Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being. www.washpirgfoundation.org.

    Shopping Tips Can Help Parents Shop Safely
    WashPIRG Foundation

    Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) Foundation 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.


    0 0
  • 11/24/15--12:48: Trouble in Toyland
  • Released by: WashPIRG Foundation

    Executive Summary

    For 30 years, WashPIRG Foundation has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

    Among the toys surveyed this year, we found potential choking and noise hazards, one toy that exceeded federal toxic standards, and three toys that preliminary testing showed may exceed federal standards. This report not only lists the potentially dangerous toys that we found this year, but also describes why and how the toys could harm children.

    The continued presence of hazards in toys highlights the need for constant vigilance on the part of government agencies and the public to ensure that children are not harmed by unsafe toys.

    Standards for toy safety are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Safety standards include limits on toxic substances in children’s products, size requirements for toys for small children, warning labels about choking hazards, measures to keep magnets and batteries inaccessible, and noise limits.

    WashPIRG Foundation staff examined hundreds of toys to confirm that they are safe. We discovered that unsafe toys remain widely available. The problems we found include:

    • ·         Phthalates. Exposure to phthalates at crucial stages of development may harm development of the male reproductive system, and is linked to early puberty. Lab tests confirmed that a jump rope purchased by our shoppers contained phthalates at levels greater than the legal limit.
    • ·         Chromium. Skin contact with chromium can cause severe allergic reactions including skin redness, swelling, and ulcers. Chromium compounds are also known to cause cancer. This year, preliminary testing revealed 3 toys that may contain unsafe levels of chromium: Minions pencil case, Slinky Jr., and magnetic numbers, and we call on the CPSC to do further testing on these toys.
    • ·         Small parts are pieces that might block a child’s airway. Children, especially those under age three, can choke on small parts. Our shoppers identified several toys that contain or may break into small parts, but either do not have the correct U.S. statutory warning label, or any warning label at all. These included a fairy wand, toy car and plane, a Dory figurine, a mini vortex football, and a toy mermaid.
    • ·         Small balls less than 1.75 inches in diameter represent a choking hazard for children three years and younger. We found Magic Towels packaged as a small baseball and a small football at Dollar Tree which did not have the appropriate small ball warning label. We also remain concerned about other small, rounded toys, such as toy food, that present the same choke hazard as small balls, but are not labeled as a hazard.
    • ·         Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. We found three balloon sets on store shelves marketed to children under eight.
    • ·         Magnets. When two or more powerful magnets are swallowed, they can have fatal health consequences as their attractive forces draw them together inside the body, perforating intestinal walls. We found ellipsoid magnets that are just larger than the small parts cylinder. While we believe these magnets do not technically violate any standards, we include them because their near-small parts size is a concern. We also note that following aggressive enforcement of an all-out ban by the CPSC, small powerful magnets that do fit in the choke test cylinder are nearly impossible to purchase, although we did find one foreign Internet site that still sells them.
    • ·         Excessive Noise. Excessive noise exposure can lead to hearing loss. This is especially problematic for young children, because hearing loss at an early age has ramifications for speech development. Our shoppers found five toys marketed to children under three years that are estimated to be either at or slightly above the decibel standards recommended for close-to-the-ear toys which included a toy animal, car, flashlight, magnetic letter set, and a remote.
    • ·         Lead. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to undermine IQ, attentiveness, and academic achievement. While our shoppers did not find any toys with high levels of lead, the CPSC has recalled toys due to lead limit violations this year.

     

     

     

     

     

    Despite recent progress in making toys safer, the findings of our 2015 investigation, as well as recent recalls and legal actions against importers, highlight the need for continued attention to shortcomings in existing standards, and vigilance on the part of the shopping public. To keep children safe from potentially hazardous toys, there is still more to do.

    Policymakers should continue building upon recent progress in the strengthening of toy safety standards. The CPSC should:

    • ·         Continue to vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s mandatory standards for toys, including strict limits on lead and lead paint in any toys, jewelry, or other articles for children under 12 years;
    • ·         Vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s permanent ban on the use of three specific phthalates in all toys and children’s products;
    • ·         Upgrade the interim ban on three additional phthalates into a permanent prohibition and expand it to include additional phthalates;
    • ·         Enlarge the small parts test tube to be more protective of children under three;
    • ·         Change the small-ball rule to include small round or semi-round objects, and not just “balls” in the strictest definition, since these toys pose the same hazards as small balls, especially rounded toy food, since they are “intended” to be eaten;
    • ·         Continue to enforce the use of the United States’ statutory choke hazard warning label;
    • ·         Continue to enforce CPSC rules requiring online warning labels; and
    • ·         Fully enforce sound and battery standards.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Parents can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

    • ·         Shop with WashPIRG Foundation’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org;
    • ·         Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf;
    • ·         Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov.
    • ·         Subscribe to government announcements of recalled products at www.recalls.gov; and
    • ·         Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples only. Other hazards may exist.

     

     

     

     

    For toys you already own:

    • Remove small batteries if there is any question over their security or inaccessibility and keep them out of reach of children;
    • Remove batteries from, or tape over, the speakers of toys you already own that are too loud; and
    • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.

     

     

     

    The 30th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    December 15, 2015

    Dear Member of Congress:

    The undersigned civil rights, consumer, labor, faith, veterans, seniors, and community organizations, strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 4018, the “Consumer Protection and Choice Act.” This harmful bill would limit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) ability to protect all consumers against high-cost payday, car title, and installment loans. In addition to delaying the Bureau’s rule-making for two years or longer, H.R. 4018 would allow the payday industry to avoid federal regulation altogether by pushing an industry-backed proposal based on a Florida law1 that has proven ineffective at stopping the payday loan debt trap.

    In 2016, the CFPB is expected to release important new rules that will help protect borrowers from abusive small dollar lending. The CFPB’s rule will require payday lenders to follow the example of other commercial lenders in implementing a number of critical, common sense safeguards that enjoy broad public support2—including a requirement that lenders fully consider a borrower’s ability to repay a loan without taking out a new loan or deferring other necessary living expenses.

    More than 5003 civil rights leaders, women’s groups, affordable housing providers, faithbased organizations and consumer rights groups from nearly every state in the country, as well as over 100 Senators4 and House members5 support the CFPB’s effort to protect consumers from abusive payday lender practices.

    Additionally, H.R. 4018 would allow abusive small-dollar lenders to go on doing business as usual if states enact laws similar to a Florida law, putting in place so-called ‘industry best practices.’ Instead of protecting consumers, H.R. 4018 and the industrybacked Florida law would do more harm to consumers by putting a stamp of approval on:

    • Triple digit interest rates: Under Florida law, the typical payday loan costs about 300% annualized interest (APR)—an exorbitant rate of interest that wreaks havoc on households who are already struggling financially, and was illegal in all states until relatively recently; 
    • Back-to-back lending without considering borrowers’ ability to repay - Rollover bans and cooling off periods are insufficient to protect borrowers from long-term financial harm. In spite of the industry-backed Florida law, 88% of repeat loans were made before the borrower’s next paycheck; 
    • A long-term cycle of debt - Limiting borrowers to one loan at a time has failed to provide relief in Florida, where 85% of payday loans are issued to borrowers with seven or more loans per year; and 
    • $280 million in fees drained from lower-income Floridians per year as a result of repeat lending at abusive rates and $3.6 billion in fees drained annually from consumers across the country. 

    As a result of these shortcomings, Florida civil rights consumer advocacy, faith, and asset building groups across the state6 have voiced their strong opposition to the adoption of the Florida law as a template for the CFPB or any other state to follow.

    H.R. 4018 is not an effort to reform the payday loan market—it is an attempt to codify industry-backed practices that do little to protect consumers. Low-income consumers deserve strong protections and timely action.

    The CFPB must be allowed to consider every possible way to stop the payday debt trap and take much-needed steps to protect consumers from abusive lending. We urge you to oppose H.R. 4018 and any other effort to block meaningful consumer protections for borrowers targeted by abusive payday, auto title, installment and other high-cost small dollar lenders.

    Sincerely,

    National Groups

    Alliance for a Just Society

    Allied Progress

    Americans for Financial Reform

    Center for Responsible Lending

    Consumer Action

    Consumer Federation of America

    Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

    Consumers Union

    Corporation for Enterprise Development

    Goodwill Industries International

    MyPath

    NAACP

     

    National Association of Consumer Advocates

    National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

    National Council of La Raza

    National People's Action

    NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

    PICO National Network

    Policy and Economic Research Council

    U.S. PIRG

    State & Local Groups

    A Paul Kurkjian A Medic C (CA)

    Action Advocacy (CT)

    Action NC (NC)

    Affordable Homeownership Foundation Inc. (FL)

    Alabama Appleseed (AL)

    Alabama Arise (AL)

    Arizona Community Action Association (AZ)

    Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending (AR)

    Brazos Valley Affordable Housing Corp. (TX)

    Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (IL)

    Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition (PA)

    California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) (CA)

    CASA of Oregon (OR)

    Catalyst Miami (FL)

    Center for Economic Integrity - New Mexico Office (NM)

    Center for Economic Progress (IL)

    Center for Financial and Human Dignity (NC)

    Center for Housing and Community Studies (NC)

    Center for Transforming Lives (TX)

    Central New York Citizens In Action, Inc. (NY)

    CFORM/Covenant Community Development Corporation (MS)

    Christian Community Service Center (TX)

    Christian Life Commission (TX)

    Citizen Action (IL)

    Citizen Potawatomi Communty Development Corporation (OK)

    CitySquare (TX)

    Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi (MS)

    Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio (OH)

    Colorado People's Alliance (CO)

    Communities in Schools Western Nevada (NV)

    Community Development Corporation of Marlboro County (SC)

    Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (MI)

    Community Financial, Inc. (AK)

    Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CA)

    Connecticut Association for Human Services (CT)

    Connecticut Legal Services, Inc. (CT)

    Consumer Council of Mo. (MO)

    Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Forsyth County (NC)

    Consumer Federation of California (CA)

    Consumers Council of Missouri (MO)

    Credit Counseling Agencies of NC (NC)

    DCRAC (DE)

    Delaware Community Reinvestment (DE)

    East LA Community Corporation (CA)

    Empower Missouri (MO)

    Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (OH)

    Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa (CA)

    Erie Benedictines for Peace (PA)

    Express Advantage (WA)

    Fair & Just for All (CA)

    Faith Voices for Jefferson City (MO)

    Fig Loans LLC (TX)

    Financial Pathways of the Piedmont (NC)

    First Baptist Church, San Marcos (TX)

    Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection (FL)

    Florida Prosperity Partnership (FL)

    Foundation Communities (TX)

    Four Bands Community Fund, Inc. (SD)

    Fund 17 (LA)

    Funeral Consumers of Tampa Bay (FL)

    Georgia Rural Urban Summit (GA)

    Georgia Watch (GA)

    Global Green (MI)

    Good Work (NC)

    Gowen Consulting (AL)

    Greater Wards Corner Area Business Association (VA)

    Greensboro Housing Coalition (NC)

    GRO -- Grass Roots Organizing (MO)

    Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina (NC)

    Harlingen Community Development Corp. (TX)

    Haven Neighborhood Services (CA)

    Hawaii Alliance for Community Based Economic Development (HI)

    Helping Hands Ministry of Belton (TX)

    Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania (PA)

    Housing Research & Advocacy Center

    Housing Research & Advocacy Center (OH)

    Idaho Community Action Network (ID)

    Illinois Asset Building Group (IL)

    Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network (IN)

    Indiana Association for Community Economic Development (IN)

    Innovative Changes (OR)

    InSight Fund (NC)

    Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (IA)

    Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. (FL)

    Jesuit Social Research Institute (LA)

    Kentucky Equal Justice Center (KY)

    Kingdom Community Development Corp. (NC)

    Land of the Sky UCC (NC)

    Law Foundation of Silicon Valley (CA)

    Legal Aid Justice Center (VA)

    Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, Inc. (CT)

    Louisiana Community Reinvestment Coalition (LA)

    Lubbock Housing Finance Corporation

    Maine Center for Economic Policy (ME)

    Maine People's Alliance (ME)

    Mary's House Catholic Worker (AL)

    Maryland CASH Campaign (MD)

    Maryland Center on Economic Policy (MD)

    Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MD)

    Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council (MI)

    Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (MO)

    Midland College Business and Economic Development Center (TX)

    Mission Asset Fund (CA)

    Mississippi Center for Justice (MS)

    Missouri Faith Voices (MO)

    MLK Sr Community Resources Collaborative (GA)

    MOAA NC Council of Chapters (NC)

    Monsignor John Egan Campaign for Payday Loan Reform (IL)

    Montana Organizing Project, a project of Alliance for a Just Society (MT)

    Montbello Housing and Development Corporation (CA)

    Mountain State Justice (WV)

    Mutual Housing California (CA)

    National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd (MD)

    Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society - Camp Lejeune

    NC Council of Churches (NC)

    NC NAACP (NC)

    NC State AFL-CIO (NC)

    Nebraska Appleseed (NE)

    Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (OH)

    New Economy Project (NY)

    New Jersey Citizen Action (NJ)

    New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJ)

    New Level Community Development Corp (TN)

    North Carolina Assets Alliance (NC)

    North Carolina Consumers Council (NC)

    North Carolina Development Initiative (NC)

    North Carolina Housing Coalition (NC)

    North Carolina Justice Center (NC)

    Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance (IN)

    Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto (CA)

    NYPIRG (NY)

    Ohio CDC Association (OH)

    Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK)

    Oregon Consumer League (OR)

    Organize Now (FL)

    Pathfinder services, Inc. (IN)

    Peninsula Family Service (CA)

    PennPIRG (PA)

    Pennsylvania Council of Churches (PA)

    Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PA)

    PLAN Action Fund (NV)

    Policy Matters Ohio (OH)

    Prepare + Prosper (MN)

    Project IRENE (IL)

    Public Justice Center (MD)

    RAISE Texas (TX)

    Reinvestment Partners (NC)

    Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center (CA)

    San Mateo County Central Labor Council (CA)

    San Mateo County Union Community Alliance (CA)

    SC Appleseed (SC)

    Shirley Worthington Consulting LLC (AL)

    Snohomish County Asset Building Coalition (WA)

    Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Philadelphia Archdiocese (PA)

    South Main Baptist Church, Houston (TX)

    Southwest Center for Economic Integrity (AZ)

    Statewide Poverty Action Network (WA)

    Step Up Savannah (GA)

    Sunflower Community Action (KS)

    T. B. Maston Foundation for Christian Ethics (TX)

    Tennessee Citizen Action (TN)

    Texas Appleseed (TX)

    Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission (TX)

    Texas Baptists Committed (TX)

    The Bell Policy Center (CO)

    The Collaborative of NC (NC)

    The Financial Clinic (NY)

    The Midas Collaborative (MA)

    The Women's Resource of Greater Houston (TX)

    Tuscaloosa Citizens Against Predatory Practices (AL)

    United Valley Interfaith Project (NH)

    United Way California Capital Region (CA)

    United Way of Erie Co (PA)

    United Way of Greater Houston (TX)

    United Way of Southern Cameron County (TX)

    United Way Silicon Valley (CA)

    Urban Affairs Coalition (PA)

    Urban League of PBC (FL)

    Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (VA)

    Virginia Organizing (VA)

    Virginia Poverty Law Center (VA)

    WashPIRG (WA)

    Water Street Dance Co. (IL)

    West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (WV)

    Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc (NY)

    Westside Health Authority (IL)

    White Wing Educational Community Development, Inc. (NY)

    WISPIRG (WI)

    Woodstock Institute (IL)

    Working Partnerships USA (CA)

    WV Citizen Action Group (WV)

    Yolo Mutual Housing Association (CA)

    1.  http://stopthedebttrap.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/15.05.06-FL-Payday...
    2. http://www.responsiblelending.org/media-center/press-releases/Memo-CRL-B...
    3. http://ourfinancialsecurity.org/2014/10/afr-and-over-450-groups-urge-cfp...
    4. http://stopthedebttrap.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/sl_cfpb_payday_rul...
    5. http://stopthedebttrap.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/letter_directorcor...
    6. http://ourfinancialsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Our-Florida-L...
    U.S. PIRG

    0 0

    For Immediate Release
    Washington, D.C.— Four leading consumer, environmental, and public health organizations wrote an openletter in advance of the April 21st deadline set by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal. The letter highlights six main criteria by which a proposal should be evaluated to compensate consumers and the environment and deter future criminal acts:       
    1. Mitigate past, ongoing, and future emissions
    2. Make consumers whole by offering to buy back their affected cars 
    3. Mitigate environmental harm caused by scrapping cars
    4. Assess large civil penalties. 
    5. Set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
    6. Criminally charge responsible executives and hold the firm criminally accountable

    After seven months since news of the scandal broke, Volkswagen still has not committed to making consumers or the environment whole again for the harm caused by its deceitful use of “defeat devices” in 567,000 “clean” diesel cars, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of smog causing NOx pollutants.       

    “All government enforcement agencies and civil society parties should have an opportunity to hold the company accountable for one of the largest corporate scandals in history,” the letter concludes.

    The letter was signed by Clean Air Watch, Environment America, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund.  

                                                                           -30-

    Please see the letter below for details about the criteria by which a proposal should be evaluated.

    Dear Judge Breyer, Attorney General Lynch, Administrator McCarthy, Chair Nichols, and President Woebcken:
     
    We, the undersigned consumer, environmental, and public health organizations, write in advance of the April 21st deadline for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal. We would like to submit our criteria by which we believe a proposal should be evaluated.
     
    After seven months since news of the scandal broke, Volkswagen still has not committed to making consumers or the environment whole again for the harm caused by its deceitful use of “defeat devices” in 567,000 “clean” diesel cars, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of smog causing NOx pollutants.  
     
    A proposal to hold Volkswagen accountable to consumers, our environment, and public health and that deters future violations by VW or other companies should be evaluated by the following criteria:
    1. Mitigate past, ongoing, and future emissions
      • Affected cars that can be fixed to meet emission standards should be fixed.  
      • Affected cars that can only be partially fixed should receive the available repair if owners choose not to accept buybacks of their cars.
      • Volkswagen should offset its past and ongoing emission violations. The future emission violations of cars that are not fixed or only partially fixed should also be calculated and offset.
      • Develop a robust in-use testing protocol to ensure that if the vehicles are repaired, the vehicles remain in full compliance for the vehicles’ full useful life, in real world driving conditions.
      • The emissions control system must not be allowed to degrade over time to exceed the standards, and EPA and CARB must assure the public that there is no further cheating by Volkswagen.   
    2. Make consumers whole by offering to buy back their affected cars
      • Simply fixing the cars still leaves customers less than whole. Whether a full or partial fix is available, the cars could get lower gas mileage and have weaker performance than promised and advertised, and the Kelley Blue Book values will likely diminish further. 
      • Full compensation is a buyback at full purchase price of the cars.
      • However, VW should at least compensate owners 1.5 times the Kelley Bluebook value of the affected vehicles on the day before the scandal was discovered or publicized, as NHTSA has ordered manufacturers in some other recalls to do. 
      • Bought back cars that cannot be fully repaired to meet emission standards should be scrapped.
    3. Mitigate environmental harm caused by scrapping cars
      • Environmental harm caused by scrapping cars should be assessed and offset
    4. Assess large civil penalties.
      • The Clean Air Act sets a maximum penalty of $37, 500 per car or over $18 billion in total penalties. A large civil penalty will send a strong deterrent message to others not to violate the law.
      • VW should not be allowed tax write-offs for any penalties.
    5. Set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
      • In addition to offsetting the NOx emissions directly attributable to the defeat devices and offsetting environmental harms caused by scrapping cars, VW should set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). 
      • Volkswagen would be motivated to work with the EPA to create a SEP, which could offset a portion of the civil penalties while achieving concrete pollution reductions. The SEP should direct a substantial amount of funds, perhaps calculated on a per-car basis, to create a fund for state and local governments, as well as private-sector entities, to implement projects to reduce pollution from on-road vehicles and increase deployment of zero-emission electric vehicles.
      • Any SEP should be above and beyond other remedies so automakers don’t take the lesson that all they need to do to cure cheating is to pay money as a cost of doing business. 
    6. Criminally charge responsible executives and hold the firm criminally accountable
      • Full justice includes criminally charging individual executives who are responsible for the scandal. 
      • It also includes the full array of criminal monetary penalties and other criminal remedies available under the law against the firm, not only to punish it but also to deter similar misconduct by others.
         
    Sincerely,
     
    Clean Air Watch
    Environment America
    Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus Public Citizen
    Public Citizen
    U.S. PIRG Education Fund
    Seeking Compensation for Consumers and Environment
    U.S.PIRG Education Fund

    Four leading consumer, environmental, and public health organizations wrote an open letter in advance of the April 21st deadline set by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal.


    0 0

    Seeking Compensation for Consumers and Environment
    Dear Judge Breyer, Attorney General Lynch, Administrator McCarthy, Chair Nichols, and President Woebcken:
     
    We, the undersigned consumer, environmental, and public health organizations, write in advance of the April 21st deadline for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal. We would like to submit our criteria by which we believe a proposal should be evaluated.
     
    After seven months since news of the scandal broke, Volkswagen still has not committed to making consumers or the environment whole again for the harm caused by its deceitful use of “defeat devices” in 567,000 “clean” diesel cars, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of smog causing NOx pollutants.  
     
    A proposal to hold Volkswagen accountable to consumers, our environment, and public health and that deters future violations by VW or other companies should be evaluated by the following criteria:
    1. Mitigate past, ongoing, and future emissions
      • Affected cars that can be fixed to meet emission standards should be fixed.  
      • Affected cars that can only be partially fixed should receive the available repair if owners choose not to accept buybacks of their cars.
      • Volkswagen should offset its past and ongoing emission violations. The future emission violations of cars that are not fixed or only partially fixed should also be calculated and offset.
      • Develop a robust in-use testing protocol to ensure that if the vehicles are repaired, the vehicles remain in full compliance for the vehicles’ full useful life, in real world driving conditions.
      • The emissions control system must not be allowed to degrade over time to exceed the standards, and EPA and CARB must assure the public that there is no further cheating by Volkswagen.   
    2. Make consumers whole by offering to buy back their affected cars
      • Simply fixing the cars still leaves customers less than whole. Whether a full or partial fix is available, the cars could get lower gas mileage and have weaker performance than promised and advertised, and the Kelley Blue Book values will likely diminish further. 
      • Full compensation is a buyback at full purchase price of the cars.
      • However, VW should at least compensate owners 1.5 times the Kelley Bluebook value of the affected vehicles on the day before the scandal was discovered or publicized, as NHTSA has ordered manufacturers in some other recalls to do. 
      • Bought back cars that cannot be fully repaired to meet emission standards should be scrapped.
    3. Mitigate environmental harm caused by scrapping cars
      • Environmental harm caused by scrapping cars should be assessed and offset
    4. Assess large civil penalties.
      • The Clean Air Act sets a maximum penalty of $37, 500 per car or over $18 billion in total penalties. A large civil penalty will send a strong deterrent message to others not to violate the law.
      • VW should not be allowed tax write-offs for any penalties.
    5. Set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
      • In addition to offsetting the NOx emissions directly attributable to the defeat devices and offsetting environmental harms caused by scrapping cars, VW should set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). 
      • Volkswagen would be motivated to work with the EPA to create a SEP, which could offset a portion of the civil penalties while achieving concrete pollution reductions. The SEP should direct a substantial amount of funds, perhaps calculated on a per-car basis, to create a fund for state and local governments, as well as private-sector entities, to implement projects to reduce pollution from on-road vehicles and increase deployment of zero-emission electric vehicles.
      • Any SEP should be above and beyond other remedies so automakers don’t take the lesson that all they need to do to cure cheating is to pay money as a cost of doing business. 
    6. Criminally charge responsible executives and hold the firm criminally accountable
      • Full justice includes criminally charging individual executives who are responsible for the scandal. 
      • It also includes the full array of criminal monetary penalties and other criminal remedies available under the law against the firm, not only to punish it but also to deter similar misconduct by others.
         
    Sincerely,
     
    Clean Air Watch
    Environment America
    Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus Public Citizen
    Public Citizen
    U.S. PIRG Education Fund

    0 0

    For Immediate Release
    Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement.

    “Seven months after news of Volkswagen’s emission scandal broke, we're glad to hear that there is a 'framework' for a settlement in the cases related to VW's 567,000 fraudulently marketed, illegally polluting cars. This framework appears to include all of the elements that a deal should include, but the devil will be in the details.

    Given the nature of VW's violations, a settlement needs to make consumers whole and compensate for the environmental damage while totaling a penalty large enough to discourage VW and others from this behavior in the future. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that further delay means that these polluting cars remain on the road -- emitting up to 40 times the allowable level of pollution -- for even longer.

    For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter.

                                                                           -30-  
    U.S. PIRG Education Fund is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. On the web at http://uspirgedfund.org.  

    The letter was signed by Clean Air Watch, Environment America, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 


    Dear Judge Breyer, Attorney General Lynch, Administrator McCarthy, Chair Nichols, and President Woebcken:
     
    We, the undersigned consumer, environmental, and public health organizations, write in advance of the April 21st deadline for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal. We would like to submit our criteria by which we believe a proposal should be evaluated.
     
    After seven months since news of the scandal broke, Volkswagen still has not committed to making consumers or the environment whole again for the harm caused by its deceitful use of “defeat devices” in 567,000 “clean” diesel cars, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of smog causing NOx pollutants.  
     
    A proposal to hold Volkswagen accountable to consumers, our environment, and public health and that deters future violations by VW or other companies should be evaluated by the following criteria:
    1. Mitigate past, ongoing, and future emissions
      • Affected cars that can be fixed to meet emission standards should be fixed.  
      • Affected cars that can only be partially fixed should receive the available repair if owners choose not to accept buybacks of their cars.
      • Volkswagen should offset its past and ongoing emission violations. The future emission violations of cars that are not fixed or only partially fixed should also be calculated and offset.
      • Develop a robust in-use testing protocol to ensure that if the vehicles are repaired, the vehicles remain in full compliance for the vehicles’ full useful life, in real world driving conditions.
      • The emissions control system must not be allowed to degrade over time to exceed the standards, and EPA and CARB must assure the public that there is no further cheating by Volkswagen.   
    2. Make consumers whole by offering to buy back their affected cars
      • Simply fixing the cars still leaves customers less than whole. Whether a full or partial fix is available, the cars could get lower gas mileage and have weaker performance than promised and advertised, and the Kelley Blue Book values will likely diminish further. 
      • Full compensation is a buyback at full purchase price of the cars.
      • However, VW should at least compensate owners 1.5 times the Kelley Bluebook value of the affected vehicles on the day before the scandal was discovered or publicized, as NHTSA has ordered manufacturers in some other recalls to do. 
      • Bought back cars that cannot be fully repaired to meet emission standards should be scrapped.
    3. Mitigate environmental harm caused by scrapping cars
      • Environmental harm caused by scrapping cars should be assessed and offset
    4. Assess large civil penalties.
      • The Clean Air Act sets a maximum penalty of $37, 500 per car or over $18 billion in total penalties. A large civil penalty will send a strong deterrent message to others not to violate the law.
      • VW should not be allowed tax write-offs for any penalties.
    5. Set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
      • In addition to offsetting the NOx emissions directly attributable to the defeat devices and offsetting environmental harms caused by scrapping cars, VW should set up Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). 
      • Volkswagen would be motivated to work with the EPA to create a SEP, which could offset a portion of the civil penalties while achieving concrete pollution reductions. The SEP should direct a substantial amount of funds, perhaps calculated on a per-car basis, to create a fund for state and local governments, as well as private-sector entities, to implement projects to reduce pollution from on-road vehicles and increase deployment of zero-emission electric vehicles.
      • Any SEP should be above and beyond other remedies so automakers don’t take the lesson that all they need to do to cure cheating is to pay money as a cost of doing business. 
    6. Criminally charge responsible executives and hold the firm criminally accountable
      • Full justice includes criminally charging individual executives who are responsible for the scandal. 
      • It also includes the full array of criminal monetary penalties and other criminal remedies available under the law against the firm, not only to punish it but also to deter similar misconduct by others.
         
    Sincerely,
     
    Clean Air Watch
    Environment America
    Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus Public Citizen
    Public Citizen
    U.S. PIRG Education Fund
    Devil Will Be in the Details
    U.S.PIRG Education Fund

    Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.


    0 0
  • 05/16/16--13:28: Consumer Tips
  • 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.

    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.

    Issue updates
    The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

    Related topics

    Consumer Protection

    0 0

    This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! We're very proud to have been a part of building it and defending it; we're also very proud of the many achievements the youthful CFPB has made to make the financial marketplace fairer for consumers. As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB explaining what the CFPB does for you.  (Check out the infographic at the end, too.) We hope you agree with us: The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

    Consumers Count: Five years standing up for you

    July 21, 2016, marks five years since we opened our doors.

    By Zixta Q Martinez 

    We want you to join us as we reflect on five years working to ensure that banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly.

    After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress created the CFPB as the only federal agency with the sole mission of protecting consumers in the financial marketplace.

    Since we opened our doors, we’ve focused on making the financial marketplace work for consumers. We’ve listened to your complaints about problems with your financial companies, created new consumer protections for financial products and services, and held bad actors accountable for breaking the law. We’ve also created new tools and resources to help you navigate financial decisions, like choosing a mortgage or an auto loan, or deciding at what age to claim Social Security retirement benefits.

    In observance of our 5th anniversary, here are five ways we’ve made consumers count:

    1. Our actions have resulted in $11.7 billion in relief for more than 27 million harmed consumers.
    We believe you have the right to be treated fairly in the financial marketplace. We’ve worked to stamp out illegal and predatory practices in the marketplace by supervising financial companies and enforcing consumer protections. Over the past five years, our actions have resulted in billions in relief for millions of consumers harmed by financial companies and individuals that broke the law. We’ve taken legal action against:

    • Credit card companies for engaging in unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices related to marketing, billing, and enrollment for credit add-on products and services
    • Banks for charging overdraft fees to consumers who had not agreed to overdraft services
    • Payday lenders for pressuring borrowers into debt traps
    • For-profit colleges for exploiting students and pushing them into unaffordable loans
    • Debt collectors for using illegal tactics to intimidate consumers into paying debts they may not owe
    • Mortgage companies for wrongly foreclosing on consumers’ homes

    2. We’ve handled nearly one million consumer complaints.
    You have the right to be heard when you have a problem with a financial product or service. You can submit a complaint to us and we’ll work to make sure you get a response from the company. So far, we’ve handled nearly one million complaints from consumers around the country about problems with their credit cards, bank accounts, credit reports, mortgages, prepaid cards, and more.  We also publish complaints to amplify consumers’ voices and improve the consumer financial marketplace.

    3. We’ve empowered millions of consumers to  “Know Before You Owe.”
    When you’re shopping for a mortgage, a student loan, or a credit card, you have the right to clear, reliable information about those products so you can make informed financial decisions. Our “Know Before You Owe” initiative is making information about mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and other financial products and services more understandable to you. Consumers closed on 1.9 million mortgages during the first three months of this year and received our new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms to help them understand the true cost of borrowing. The financial aid shopping sheet we developed with the Department of Education has been voluntarily adopted by more than 3,400 colleges to help students better understand the type and amount of grants and loans they qualify for. Our newest “Know Before You Owe” tool is a worksheet you can use to compare auto loans before you sign for a loan.

    4. We’ve put in place new rules to make the mortgage market safer for you.
    We created new “back-to-basics” mortgage rules to address the risky lending and shoddy mortgage servicing that helped cause the financial crisis. Our new rules protect you at every stage of the process—from shopping for a loan, to closing on a mortgage, to paying it back. Our “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rule gives you clear, easy-to-understand information so you can understand the terms of the deal and comparison shop. Our Ability-to-Repay rule protects you from dangerous lending practices by requiring lenders to verify that you can actually afford to pay back the mortgage they offered you. Our mortgage servicing rules protect you from surprises and runarounds while you are paying back your mortgage, and provide additional protections to help you if you fall behind on your mortgage payment. More than 49 million households have benefited from our mortgage servicing protections.

    5. We’re curbing potentially harmful financial practices with new consumer protections nationwide.
    You have the right to be protected from harmful financial practices nationwide. We’re working to put in place new consumer protections in several markets, some of them previously unregulated at the federal level. For payday lending, we are seeking comment on a proposed new rule to put an end to payday debt traps that plague a large percentage of the 12 million consumers who take out payday loans each year. This rule would require lenders to assess your ability to repay your debt before they offer you a loan.

    Did you know that millions of consumers have entered into contracts for consumer financial products and services that contain an arbitration clause that denies you the right to band together as a group to have a day in court? We’re seeking comment on a proposed rule that would ban companies from using arbitration clauses to block groups of consumers like you from filing lawsuits to pursue justice and relief for wrongdoing.

    If you have debt in collection, we’re developing rules to protect you against bad debt collection practices.

    If you’re interested in learning more about different aspects of our work, we have factsheets that cover several topics, including an overview of our work by the numbers.

    We’ll keep working to protect you in the financial marketplace and empowering you to make informed financial decisions. For more information about our work and our tools, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.


    0 0

    Released by: WashPIRG Foundation

    Executive Summary

    This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB. In this report we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

    This is our first report to incorporate an analysis of consumer narratives or written explanations of problems — an addition to the database we advocated for with Americans for Financial Reform and achieved last year.

    This report looks at payday loan complaints from multiple angles:

    • The type of problem, such as loan interest that wasn’t expected
    • Complaints by company
    • Whether and how companies responded to complaints

    This report includes a section highlighting the CFPB’s top accomplishments. We also present a history of the fight to rein in the predatory lending industry and discuss the significance of a rule the CFPB is expected to finalize this year. We provide recommendations for this rule, as well as improvements the CFPB can make to enhance the complaint database and its work on behalf of consumers.

    Findings

    Consumers have submitted nearly 10,000 complaints in the payday loan categories of the database in less than three years.

    More than half the complaints were submitted about just 15 companies. The other half of the complaints were spread across 626 companies. (See Table ES-1.)

    Complaints against these 15 companies cover problems with a full spectrum of predatory products and services.

    These 15 companies include:

    • Storefront and online lenders;
    • Short-term payday, long-term payday installment, and auto title lenders;
    • Debt collectors;
    • Lenders claiming to operate as tribal lending entities; and
    • Members of industry associations, whose members are said to abide by best practices they claim ensure responsible lending.

    Enova International (doing business as CashNetUSA and NetCredit) has the most total complaints in the payday categories with 737, making up about 8% of all payday complaints, followed by Delbert Services, CNG Financial Corporation (doing business as Check ‘n Go), CashCall, and ACE Cash Express.

    The two largest types of problems under the payday loan categories were with communication tactics and fees or interest that was not expected. These two issues made up about 18% of all complaints each. (See Figure ES-1.)

     

    Beginning in March 2015, the CFPB added an option for consumers to share the written explanations of their problems in the database. Since then, 3,695 complaints in the payday categories have been published. A total of 1,663 or 45% of these complaints include publicly available explanations, also known as narratives, in the database.

    • Although consumers may select only one type of problem when filing a complaint, a review of the narratives reveals many complaints involve multiple problems.
    • 91% of all narratives showed signs of unaffordability, including abusive debt collection practices, bank account closures, long-term cycles of debt, and bank penalties like overdraft fees because of collection attempts.

    Commendations and Recommendations

    We commend the CFPB for proposing a rule in June to rein in high-cost lending.

    The proposed rule takes an historic step by requiring, for the first time, that payday, high-cost installment, and auto title lenders determine whether customers can afford to repay loans with enough money left over to cover normal expenses without re-borrowing.  

    However, as currently proposed, payday lenders will be exempt from this requirement for up to six loans a year per customer. To truly protect consumers from the debt trap, it will be important for the CFPB to close exceptions and loopholes like this one in what is otherwise a well-thought-out proposal. The CFPB proposed rule could go further to enhance enforcement tools such as deeming that a loan in violation of state law is an unfair, deceptive, or abusive practice.

    Actions the CFPB should take to improve the quality of the Consumer Complaint Database include the following. See further explanation of these recommendations and additional suggestions under the “Conclusions, Commendations and Recommendations” section toward the end of this report.

    • Make it easier for consumers to know which categories to select when filing a payday complaint.
    • Add more detailed information to the database, such as complaint resolution details.
    • Add a field listing company subsidiaries, which are often the firms with which consumers actually interact.

     


    0 0
  • 11/19/16--17:03: Trouble in Toyland 2016
  • Released by: WashPIRG Foundation

    Executive Summary

    For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

    Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

    U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff examined toys recalled by the CPSC between January 2015 and October 2016 and looked at whether they appeared to still be available for sale online. 

    Since January 2015, the CPSC, in cooperation with manufacturers and distributors, has announced over 40 recalls of toys and children’s products totaling over 35 million units. We found that over a dozen recalled toys appeared to be available for sale. Also, parents should watch out for recalled toys that could still be in their homes.

    Despite recent progress in making toys safer, toys are still being recalled for hazards such as lead, choking hazards, and overheating. To keep children safe from potentially hazardous toys, there is still more to do.

    Policymakers should continue building upon recent progress in the strengthening of toy safety standards by:

    • Maintaining the CPSC’s funding and authorities to protect the public; and
    • Understanding that regulations protect health and safety.

    The CPSC should improve recall effectiveness:

    • Engage in efforts to increase consumer and researcher awareness of the public hazard database SaferProducts.gov;
    • Aggressively seek to increase recall effectiveness by making sellers agree to conduct more effective outreach campaigns that stress the real hazard posed, rather than simply promote the purported good will of the firm;
    • Perform regular online sweeps checking for the availability of previously-recalled toys; and
    • Hold companies reselling recalled products accountable, which also sends a message to others.

    The CPSC should continue to enforce and improve strong safety standards:

    • Continue to vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s mandatory standards for toys, including strict limits on lead and lead paint in any toys, jewelry or other articles for children under 12 years;
    • Vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s permanent ban on the use of three specific phthalates in all toys and children’s products; 
    • Enlarge the small parts test tube to be more protective of children under three;
    • Change the small-ball rule to include small round or semi-round objects, and not just “balls” in the strictest definition, since these toys pose the same hazards as small balls (this is especially true of rounded toy food, since it is “intended” to be eaten;
    • Enforce the use of the United States’ statutory choke hazard warning label, as many toys now are wrongly labeled with less explicit foreign warnings; and
    • Continue to enforce CPSC rules requiring online warning labels.

    Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

    • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov;
    • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org;
    • Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf. Check the CPSC recall database at CPSC.gov before buying toys online;
    • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at Saferproducts.gov;
    • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples of previously recalled toys only. Other hazards may exist;
    • Review the recalled toys list in this report and compare it to toys in your children’s toy boxes; and
    • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.
    The 31st Annual Survey of Toy Safety

    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    Seattle – Some toys that have been recalled for lead, powerful magnets, or other hazards  can still be available for sale in online stores, according to WashPIRG Public Interest Research Group Foundation’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that consumers should be wary when shopping this holiday season.

    The report lists toys recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from January 2015 to October 2016 with the message to consumers that these recalled toys may still be in homes. For large items such as cars, when they get recalled, owners will usually be contacted immediately through VIN numbers. However, that’s not the case with toy recalls. 

    “We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, consumers should understand two things: first, not all recalls may be well-publicized so you should check your house for previously recalled toys and second, some toys that are recalled may still be available online,” Bruce Speight, WashPIRG Director.

    For over 30 years, the WashPIRG Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children. Over the years, our reports have led to over 150 recalls and other enforcement actions. 

    “Parents are the last line of defense against toy related injury,” says Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of pediatrics at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. “To prevent problems with holiday toys, read the labels, follow age-limits, and check for recalls. Above all, use common sense: the most serious injuries come from riding toys, toys with small parts that pose a choking hazard, toys that include small magnets and toys that use button batteries.”

    Some of the recalled toys that our researchers found were still available for sale at online stores include:

    • A toy glockenspiel which was recalled in February 2016 due to high levels of lead in the paint. If the paint is scraped off and ingested lead can cause adverse health effects.
    • A remote-controlled flying toy which was recalled in June 2016. The toy’s USB charging cord can overheat, posing a hazard.
    • A pencil case which contains two magnets that hold the case lid closed can detach, posing an ingestion hazard. If these two magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside a child's intestines and result in serious internal injuries.

    Read our full report which includes a full list of recalled toys, those that we found available for sale online, as well as specific information including manufacturers’ names, pictures, and remedies for what consumers should do if they have the recalled toys in their homes. 

    It is illegal to sell a recalled product under CPSC rules. We have notified the CPSC about these potentially illegal sales and have asked them to investigate these toys further and take appropriate action. 

    The CPSC should improve recall effectiveness by:

    • Engaging in efforts to increase consumer and researcher awareness of the public hazard database SaferProducts.gov.
    • Aggressively seeking to increase recall effectiveness by making sellers agree to conduct more effective outreach campaigns that stress the real hazard posed, rather than simply promoting the purported good will of the firm.
    • Performing regular online sweeps checking for the availability of previously-recalled toys.
    • Holding companies reselling recalled products accountable, which will also send a message to others.

    Parents and caregivers can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

    • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov.
    • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org.
    • Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf. Check the CPSC recall database at CPSC.gov before buying toys online.
    • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at Saferproducts.gov.
    • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples of previously recalled toys only. Other hazards may exist.
    • Review the recalled toys list in this report and compare it to toys in your children’s toy boxes.
    • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.

    Over the past eight years, stronger rules have helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market. Rules put in place by the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act tightened lead limits and phased out dangerous phthalates.

    To download our full Trouble in Toyland report, click here or go to our website at www.washpirgfoundation.org. 

    # # #

    WashPIRG (Washington Public Interest Research Group) Foundation, is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being. www.washpirgfoundation.org.

    Consumers should watch out for recalled toys still in homes
    WashPIRG Foundation

    Some toys that have been recalled for lead, powerful magnets, or other hazards  can still be available for sale in online stores, according to WashPIRG Public Interest Research Group Foundation’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that consumers should be wary when shopping this holiday season.


    0 0

    For Immediate Release

    Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products.  Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

    You can find P&G’s preservative tracker here, as well as their new policies on triclosan/triclocarbon, and a list of common ingredients that they do not use.

    This is a step in the right direction, but more should be done to ensure our everyday personal care products are toxic-free. P&G should make sure information regarding their preservative policy is well-publicized to the public by putting this information on product boxes and promoting their new preservative policy websites. P&G should also remove chemicals of concern from all product categories, and disclose fragrance ingredients.

    Preservatives are often used in personal care products in order to prevent the growth of microbes in product containers. Common preservatives include parabens, formaldehyde, and phenoxyethanol. Many of these preservatives have been linked to negative health effects like cancer and reproductive problems.

    One positive change that P&G made is phasing out the chemical phenoxyethanol from their baby wipes. Phenoxyethanol was used in Pampers baby wipes, and has been linked to nervous system problems in infants exposed orally. It is also linked to allergic reactions and eczema. P&G should completely phase out phenoxyethanol, which they currently use in certain skin care and hair care products.

    P&G has also committed to phase out the use of triclosan/triclocarbon by 2017. Studies have linked triclocarbon to hormone disruption.

    P&G does not use parabens in their baby wipes, but they still use parabens such as methyl-, ethyl-, and propyl-parabens in their skin and hair care products. These parabens have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems and P&G should remove them completely from all of their personal care products.

    The ingredient “fragrance” or “parfum” refers to a mixture of scent chemicals and ingredients that are not disclosed. According to the International Fragrance Association approximately 3,000 chemicals can be used to make fragrance, some of which are linked to cancer, reproductive and respiratory problems, and allergies. P&G should take the lead and fully disclose to the public which chemicals are in their fragrances.

    P&G’s new preservative tracker and policies are positive changes in the industry which other manufacturers should follow, but more should be done to ensure that our families are using safe, non-toxic products on their bodies.

    Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.


    0 0
  • 02/14/17--14:04: Unilever: Go Toxic-Free
  • For Immediate Release

    More than 50% of Americans said they will celebrate Valentine’s Day. This Valentine’s Day, consumer, public health, and environmental groups are thanking Unilever for its great first step in committing to disclose certain fragrances that it uses in its products, and calling on Unilever, as one of the largest personal care product companies in the world, to phase out chemicals of concern.

    Consumers want to know what’s in the products they’re using and Unilever, the manufacturer of popular brands like Dove and Axe, has taken the lead and committed to disclose to the public certain chemicals that make up their fragrance ingredients, but it should take one step further to help protect public health and remove chemicals of concern from its products.

    “This Valentine’s Day, don’t give your loved ones an unwanted dose of toxic chemicals,” said Dev Gowda, Toxics Advocate with WashPIRG Foundation. “Unilever should make a sweet move and remove chemicals of concern such as parabens and PEG compounds from its products. These ingredients have been linked to cancer and other health problems.”

    Today, PIRG organizers dropped off more than 25,000 petition signatures to Unilever USA’s headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, collected by WashPIRG Foundation, the state PIRGs, Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families calling on Unilever to pledge to go toxic-free. Petition signers also wanted Unilever to fully disclose fragrance ingredients.

    The average American is exposed to 100 different chemicals from personal care products before they leave the house in the morning. Consumers should be able to trust that the products they buy are safe — especially those that are used every day, directly on the body. However, when people shampoo their hair or wash their hands, they are often dosing their bodies with chemicals like parabens that have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and hormone disruption.

    Last month, Target Corp. made a bold move and announced that it will remove chemicals like phthalates, propyl- and butyl-paraben, and formaldehyde donors from personal care products by 2020. WashPIRG Foundation is urging personal care product manufacturers like Unilever to follow Target’s lead and phase out chemicals of concern and to disclose which chemicals they use in their fragrances.

    Last week, Unilever made a giant first step and committed to disclose fragrance ingredients through SmartLabel by 2018 for fragrance ingredients that exceed 100 parts per million. Also, it will list on the label if the product contains a fragrance ingredient that has been classified as an allergen by the European Union. Consumers will be able to look up the fragrance ingredients that a product contains through their smart phone through the SmartLabel while shopping at stores or on their computer at home. Unilever should take the next step and list all fragrance ingredients it uses regardless of the amount contained in products, or if they have been classified as an allergen.

    Read U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Personal Care Product Safe Shopping Guide “Getting Personal with Chemicals” which lists common chemicals of concern and their health effects, here.

    On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call personal care giant to go toxic-free

    On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.


(Page 1) | 2 | 3 | newer