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

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Lead in Fidget Spinners

The MASSPIRG Education Fund found fidget spinners with high levels of lead for sale at Target stores in Massachusetts and across the country.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG CONSUMER ADVOCATE MIKE LITT TESTIFIES AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON EQUIFAX

Our Consumer Advocate, Mike Litt, was invited by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, to testify this week at a Congressional hearing on the Equifax data breach. This was a continuation of the committee's previously held hearing on October 5th entitled "Examining the Equifax Data Breach."

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Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

MASSPIRG Education Fund applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

CarMax Survey Finds 27% of Vehicles for Sale with Dangerous Unrepaired Safety Recalls

The nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, has more than doubled the percentage of dangerous, defective unrepaired recalled used cars for sale to consumers, according to Used Car Roulette, a new report released today by the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and the Center for Auto Safety. 

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Report | MASSPIRG Ed Fund, CARS Foundation, Center for Auto Safety | Consumer Protection

Used Car Roulette

One in four vehicles surveyed at eight CarMax locations contain dangerous, unrepaired safety recalls, a significant increase from 2015.

 

 

 

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Pages

News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

New report from leading consumer group shows millions are victims of aggressive tactics from medical debt collectors

MASSPIRG, released the ninth in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The latest report explores consumer complaints about medical debt, a major source of problems for consumers, since medical debt items on credit reports are often wrong or about the wrong consumer.  The report also demonstrates the need to defend the CFPB from partisan and special interest attacks.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission to America’s used car buyers: Drop Dead.

Consumer and safety organizations blasted the FTC Commissioners’ decision, announced today, to finalize consent orders with GM and the Lithia and Koons auto dealership chains that will allow them to advertise that unrepaired recalled used cars with lethal safety defects are “safe,” have been “repaired for safety,” passed a “rigorous inspection” and qualified to be sold as “certified” cars without repairing the safety defects, if they merely include a meaningless disclosure that the cars “may” be under an  open recall.  In addition, FTC has proposed the same settlement with CarMax and  other dealers. 

 

 

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'How You Drive' Takes a Backseat to 'Who You Are'

Under the new “managed competition” rating system, “who you are” has become more important than “how you drive.” Starting in April, factors relating to “who you are” – income, marital status, homeownership, education, age, race, and other factors supposedly prohibited for use by the Division of Insurance – will take center stage in the Massachusetts auto insurance market. Driving record is no longer the primary rating factor and is now a diluted factor.

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Mixed Signals

MASSPRG conducts survey of national TV retails stores and finds that consumers are getting Mixed Signals.

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Trouble in Toyland

For several years, we have reported that toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates and parents and the leadership of Congress, state legislatures and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Yet, as many have noted, 2007 has been described as the “year of the recall.” Millions of toys, including famous playthings like Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie, have been recalled in 2007. Many of these toys have been from leading manufacturers like Mattel, and most were imported from China.

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Consumers Guide to Credit Cards

The credit card industry has stepped up marketing and changed the rules to trap consumers into a cycle of high fees, penlaty, interest charges and other unfair practices. The following are tricks and tips to know to avoid credit card debt.

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Toxic Pollution And Health

Industries across the United States pump billions of pounds of toxic chemicals into our air, land, and water each year, many of which can cause cancer and other severe health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program provides Americans with the best information about toxic chemicals released in their communities.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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

News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund

Boston—Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Maura Healey joined a bipartisan group of 33 attorneys general, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with co-leading Attorneys General Hector Balderas (NM), William Tong (CT), and T.J. Donovan (VT), in sending a letter today urging the companies -- Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart -- to quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that discount stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods sold 19 different recalled products to consumers between 2014 and 2019. In the case of five products, the stores’ parent company TJX initiated the recall. The products included the Rock ‘N Play and Kids II inclined infant sleepers, which are responsible for a number of fatalities, rattles that can break and pose a choking hazard, and electronics that overheat or explode.

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