Coalition EffortsConsumer Action is working on these important issues along with other organizations. If you would like to know more about these issues, please see "More Information" at the end of each article.
Table of Contents
The FBI is watching you, but who is watching the FBI?
Forty-six privacy, civil liberties and immigrants' rights organizations sent a letter to Congress urging their Senate and House of Representative committees to hold oversight hearings to assess the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Next Generation Identification program and their use of citizen’s biometric data. There are several privacy, civil liberties, and human right issues raised by the biometric database and the FBI’s use of facial recognition technologies. To date, all of these biometric searches have been done without any judicial oversight or internal audits. Furthermore, unnecessarily retaining vast amounts of personal and biometric information exposes millions of Americans to a potential data breach.
Strong student protections still critical in higher education industry
Consumer Action joined a coalition of advocates in urging the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Provisions (HELP) to ensure any changes made to the Higher Education Act prioritize students above all else. The letter comes in response to concerns that Congress is considering ways to reduce oversight of colleges by implementing recommendations about higher education de-regulation by a task force made up of only representatives of the higher education industry and not a single student, consumer advocate or non-industry representative. This comes at a time when, more than ever, higher education regulations and oversight need to be strengthened and improved to better protect students and taxpayers and to reduce unnecessary burdens on colleges that serve students well.
Demand real consumer protection from pyramid schemes
Consumer Action joined consumer advocates in urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 5230, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2016. The bill, which is currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, purports to strengthen consumer protections from fraudulent pyramid schemes. In reality, it would rob the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of its ability to protect Americans from all but the most egregious forms of pyramid schemes.
Proposed bill would damage credit scores of millions
Consumer Action joined consumer and civil rights advocacy groups in expressing their opposition to The Credit Access and Inclusion Act of 2016 (H.R. 4172). Proponents of the bill argue it helps those with little or no credit build their credit scores by allowing utility and telecom companies to repot their customers’ on-time payments to credit-reporting agencies. However, this proposed legislation will preempt existing state and local privacy protections that prevent companies from sharing a customer’s financial information without their consent. It would also create a negative credit score for “thin file” or “no file” consumers–consumers who are disproportionately from low-income and moderate-income African American communities. For areas like employment and insurance–where a negative credit report or low score could harm job prospects or increase rates–it is often better to have no credit history.
More policy riders intended to threaten retiring Americans, hijack budget process
A coalition of 254 groups is urging Congress to reject any federal appropriations bill that contains inappropriate and “ideological” policy riders. These riders, which were wildly popular during the last budget cycle, would jeopardize policies that restrain Wall Street abuses and would weaken new legislation intended to protect American families and their retirement savings. These policy riders are little more than special favors and sweetheart deals for big corporations and ideological extremists and have no place in the appropriations process.
Keep the CFPB strong on forced arbitration
Here we go again—those who have opposed increasing consumer protections and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), are at it once more. Coalition advocates are urging Appropriations Committee members to reject any proposals that might weaken or limit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) ability to take action against companies who have used forced arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts. After the well-documented abuses that led up to the 2008 financial crisis, Congress included in the Dodd-Frank Act a provision that specifically authorized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to restore consumers’ legal rights by regulating, curbing, or outright prohibiting forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts.
For-Profit colleges seek reprieve on regulation intended to protect students
The for-profit school industry has requested that the Department of Education (ED) delay implementation of the gainful employment rule—reform that is aimed at cracking down on under-performing career-training programs. In response, coalition advocates wrote to ED reminding the department that the rule is needed to protect students and taxpayers from over-priced, poor-quality education programs that consistently saddle students with debt they cannot repay and degrees or certificates they cannot use.
P&G asked to provide chemical disclosures on all personal care products
Most people assume cosmetics and personal care products are tested for safety before being stocked on store shelves. In truth, personal care products are one of the least regulated industries in the U.S. In an effort to improve the public’s health by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, Consumer Action joined consumer advocates in asking Procter & Gamble to implement a chemical ingredient policy that will fully disclose the mixture of ingredients in all of its products. Doing so gives consumers more information about the products they buy and use every day and pushes the industry as a whole to be more transparent.
Protect Pell Grant funding for students
As House and Senate Appropriations Committees prepare to announce top line allocations, advocates urged Congress to protect Pell Grant funding from being reallocated for any other non-Pell Grant related programs. Despite strong opposition last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut the maximum Pell Grant for students by at least $845 and eliminate $56 billion more in mandatory funding for Pell Grants over the next 10 years. These cuts reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for nearly 9 million students, making it impossible for many to receive a higher education.
A strong FCC preserves net neutrality
Consumer Action joined other consumer rights and privacy advocates in sending a letter to House of Representatives leadership expressing opposition to H.R. 2666, the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act.” This bill would strip the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of authority to review certain practices of broadband providers related to their customers’ privacy. Despite its name, the bill has much less to do with preventing the FCC from setting rates for broadband service than with preventing the FCC from investigating practices that may undermine the open Internet rules.
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