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 | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

How Safe Is Our Food?

Americans rely on a vast network of farms and businesses to provide safe food daily.  But in recent years, a string of high-profile recalls ranging from romaine lettuce to millions of pounds of beef to Ritz and Goldfish crackers have called into question the system developed to ensure safe food reaches people’s plates. The ubiquity of the problem can make grocery shopping a game of Russian Roulette where what a family has for dinner could make them seriously sick.

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

Fiat Chrysler Settlement Fails to Protect Consumers

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

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

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

Los Angeles, CA (November 20, 2019) -- This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. CALPIRG Education Fund’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron in slime products and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues.

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

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

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

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

> Keep Reading

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

Los Angeles, CA (November 20, 2019) -- This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. CALPIRG Education Fund’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron in slime products and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards. Boron can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues.

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

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

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

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

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

CALPIRG Recommends Credit Freezes, Now Free for All By Law

Starting today, a new federal law eliminates fees for getting and removing credit freezes across the country at the three nationwide credit bureaus on September 21st. The consumer advocacy group CALPIRG Education Fund recommends getting credit freezes, not the similar locks offered by the bureaus, to prevent new account identity theft.

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

New Report: Protecting Consumers One Year After Equifax Breach

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, CALPIRG Education Fund is releasing a report containing suggestions on how Congress, state officials and consumers can safeguard personal information.

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Pages

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

California consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by CALPIRG Education Fund. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that California consumers filed the most credit card complaints.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Net Neutrality: What’s At Stake & How to Protect It

CALPIRG releases briefing paper on net neutrality, explains its relevance, outlines appropriate regulatory responses, and concludes with a Question & Answer section on net neutrality.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

CALPIRG releases 2013 Trouble in Toyland report, our 28th annual toy safety survey. In this report, CALPIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

Third CALPIRG Education Fund report that review complaints to the CFPB. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about credit bureaus with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with credit reporting.

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Parties Take a Stand for an Open Internet In 2012 | Jon Fox

There is at least one issue that both parties seem to agree on during this election cycle – that the Internet should remain free and open.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

California AG Launches New Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit | Jon Fox

CALPIRG applauds the creation of the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in the Department of Justice.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC Offers Consumers Tips on Unwanted Robocalls | Jon Fox

FTC Offers Consumers Tips on How to Respond to Unwanted Robocalls + Helpful Video.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On the Internet, Everyone Knows If You're A Big Dog, Or Just A Dog | Ed Mierzwinski

A Wall Street Journal story today has everyone talking about how Internet sites use profiles and cookies to offer different customers different offers, or the same product for different prices. On the Internet today, everybody knows whether you're a big dog, or just a dog.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As Wireless Plans Change, Consumers Are Priced Out

Verizon announced earlier this week that they would no longer be offering customers cheaper options for limited voice and text plans, shifting to unlimited voice and text minutes instead. While this change may benefit families or business on shared accounts, it will lead to price hikes for most individual smart-phone users.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund

Sacramento - Today, CALPIRG Education Fund released a new report, “What are Californians Trying to Fix?” which looks at what items people in California are trying to fix, and why that can be difficult to do. The report highlights the growing call for “Right to Repair” reforms, which would require manufacturers to make parts and service information available to consumers who want to reduce waste and save money by extending the life of the products they buy. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed today that the drug manufacturers Dr. Reddy’s and Perrigo have initiated a voluntary recall of all of their generic versions of Zantac (ranitidine) -- commonly used to treat heartburn -- due to carcinogen contamination.

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund

According to our review of data from iFixit, a self-described “repair guide for everything, written by everyone,” nearly 8 million unique users from California went onto their website, www.ifixit.com, to look up how to repair something in 2018.

Looking more closely into that data from iFixit, the top ten device types that Californians attempted to fix were cell phones, laptops, automobiles, gaming consoles, desktop computers, tablets, watches, wireless speakers, vacuums and headphones. Cell phone repair guides were by far the most popular, receiving about 27% of all the page views.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Despite more than 50 infant deaths from inclined sleepers, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, many versions of this type of product remain for sale and in homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is proposing a new rule that would virtually end the sale of inclined sleepers. 

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