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 | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Is E. Coli contaminated Cargill/Excel beef in your fridge?

Last Thursday, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled more than 25,000 pounds of ground beef products shipped to Colorado and California because of possible contamination with potentially deadly E. coli. Cargill is likely unfamiliar to shoppers as the beef it produces is labeled using other brands, in this case “Excel fresh meat”.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Consumer Protection

Equifax Extends Deadline for Free Credit Freezes

Equifax has yet again extended the deadline for getting free freezes on Equifax credit reports following its massive data breach. Although this gives consumers more time, there should be no deadline at all. Freezes should be free for consumers to get at any and all times. 

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

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to our 32nd annualTrouble in Toyland report.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

32nd Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Stores nationwide are still offering dangerous and toxic toys this holiday season and, in some cases, ignoring explicit government safety regulations in the process, according to our 32nd annualTrouble in Toyland report.

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

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinner From Website, But Still Available For Sale In-Store

Since late yesterday afternoon, Target appears to have made the 33,000 ppm-lead containing Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass unavailable for sale on its website. U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff went to a Target store today and found the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass was still available for sale in-store, despite the website saying it was unavailable there. Also yesterday, one of the CPSC’s Commissioners, Elliot F. Kaye, re-stated his opposition to the CPSC’s guidance and the acting chairman's statement when he tweeted, “Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards.”

> Keep Reading

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

CALPIRG 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.

> Keep Reading

Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from CALPIRG Education Fund Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Health Care

CALPIRG joint letter on Consumer protection for “California Covered”

CALPIRG joins a coalition of consumer advocates in preventing risks to consumers using the new health benefits exchange known as “California Covered.”

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Health Care

Comments on the Aetna Life Insurance Company Proposal to Increase Rates

Nearly 70,000 Californians in small group insurance plans will see rate hikes averaging 8%, with some as high as 22%, if the premium rate hike proposed by Aetna Life Insurance Company go forward. After careful analysis of Aetna’s filing, CALPIRG is concerned that Aetna has not provided sufficient information to justify this rate increase.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2012

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves. CALPIRG Provides Shopping Tips & Mobile Website To Help Parents Shop Safe.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Health Care

Your Price May Vary

New report finds that the price charged for common surgeries varies dramatically from one region to another within California.

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Still @ Risk

New Report on technology & identity theft shows that California victims lost more money in identity theft cases Investigated in 2011 than in previous year.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

LA Times highlights failure to provide cheap broadband Internet | Jon Fox

LA Times columnist David Lazarus highlights the fact that the USA is falling behind the rest of the world in providing access to low coast quality Internet service.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Release new tools to help students manage debt | Jon Fox

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launches a beta version of the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper - an interactive online tool designed to help students plan for the costs of higher education.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

FTC Supports Do Not Track, Meekly

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released today a new report calling on Internet companies to put in place a "Do Not Track" system that would give consumers more control over their personal data online by the end of the year . The FTC also called on Congress to pass privacy legislation that would allow consumers to see how their online data is collected, used and sold, and give consumers the ability to stop such practices. 
 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

CFPB launches new consumer Q&A resource page | Jon Fox

The CFPB launches a new interactive online tool that helps consumers find answers to their basic financial questions.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

Paying Taxes, Safe and Sound | Jon Fox

With less than a month left to “Tax Day”, that special time of year when taxes are due, CALPIRG releases a new Questions & Answer guide to paying taxes.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.

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.

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. 




CALPIRG Education Fund is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.