Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft, and more.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices — everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts — can take time, energy and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans — millions of consumers — have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself. We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources that can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints, and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney.

Issue updates

News Release | Consumer Protection

Unilever: 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.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach Presents Opportunity for Strong Response

Although it failed its responsibility to protect its users, Yahoo has an opportunity to provide the most consumer friendly response to likely the largest breach of its kind by alerting its users to the benefits of credit freezes and offering to pay for credit freezes with all three major national credit bureaus.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

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

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

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).

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

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

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections 

Oakland - Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the CALPIRG Education Fund. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

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. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Leading Groups Send Criteria for Evaluating VW Settlement

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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

For 30 years, CALPIRG 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. 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 toxic standards.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

"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 CALPIRG Education Fund that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

CarMax’s Sales Practices Endanger Lives in California

This report finds that CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, is selling many unsafe, unrepaired, recalled vehicles in California that are hazardous not only to the people who buy CarMax cars, but also to their families, other motorists, bike riders, and pedestrians.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2014

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.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Unfriendly Skies

It seems as if every consumer has an airline problem story—how they were trapped on the tarmac, tricked by fees, missed their connection, or lost their bag. What many consumers don’t know is that they have a number of new rights as well as a right to complain, both to the airline and to the government. This report tracks five years of consumer complaints and highlights which airlines received the most complaints and what kinds of complaints were most common.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Chairwoman Answers Privacy Questions on Reddit | Jon Fox

Maureen Ohlhausen, the newly appointed FTC Commissioner, took questions on a broad range of privacy issues on Reddit, a user-generated interactive news website.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Democracy

Coming together, pushing back | Jon Fox

 

Observations from the annual National Conference on Media Reform.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Free Cookies - Strings Attached | Jon Fox

The price consumers pay to access most online content is the tracking of their every click on the World Wide Web by data miners and ad networks. Consumer and privacy advocates are seeking to address such online tracking through Do-Not-Track regulation.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Food

Dangers on Our Dinner Tables | Ed Mierzwinski

Sequestration is one of the hottest topics in D.C. right now, but one consequence that has been largely overlooked is the impact that these budget cuts would have on our dinner tables and our health.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Public Utility De-Regulation: A Losing Game for Consumers | Jon Fox

San Francisco Chronicle reportes that state de-regulation of copper-wire phone lines leads to skyrocketing price hikes for consumers.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports CALPIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support CALPIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.