Coalition Efforts

Consumer 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.


Preventing FinTech from avoiding regulation and preying on consumers
In a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Action joined consumer, civil rights, small business, and other community organizations to express strong opposition to new federal nonbank lending charters that would enable financial technology companies (also known as “fintech”) to avoid state consumer protection laws and state oversight, putting consumers and small businesses at risk.

ED’s complaint database a useful tool for students, but improvements could be made
President Obama’s Student Aid Bill of Rights directed the Education Department to implement an efficient and responsive complaint system to increase both accountability and transparency in higher education. Launched to the public last summer, the database serves as a useful tool for students and whistleblowers that holds colleges, loan servicers and collectors accountable, and prevents waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. However, advocates are pushing for system improvements to be made before the end of the year. These changes include making complaints public; seamlessly coordinating government agencies that manage complaint databases; and holding contractors accountable when the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution.

Stand up for low-income students by protecting Pell Grant funds
Consumer Action joined a group of 33 higher education groups and civil rights organizations in calling on Congress to restore year-round Pell Grants, increase the maximum Pell award amount and extend inflation adjustments. Millions of low-income students can receive up to $5,815 annually in Pell funding and advocates argue the money is vital in making higher education affordable and preventing students from being forced to take out pricey loans to pay for their degrees. In 2011 the Obama administration reached a bipartisan agreement to cut year-round Pell grants in response to funding shortfalls. However, advocates argue that the current Pell surplus provides a unique opportunity to reinvest in the program.

Green loans may cause homeowners to see red
PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loans are a special kind of financing sponsored by local governments and used to pay for energy-efficiency improvements, such as solar panels, energy-efficient appliances and windows. The Department of Energy (DOE) provides best practice guidelines for homeowners, but these guidelines don’t adequately educate property owners of the loans’ drawbacks. In a letter to the DOE, Consumer Action joined advocates in urging the agency to better alert consumers of the serious risks associated with taking out the seemingly appealing loans.

Facial-recognition programs being used without safeguards
Consumer Action was one of fifty national civil rights, civil liberties, faith, and privacy organizations that sent a letter to the Justice Department urging it to investigate the increasing use and impact of face recognition by police. The letter comes amid mounting evidence that the technology is violating the rights of millions of Americans and having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

More can be done to protect immigrant victims of Wells Fargo’s fraud
Consumer Action joined consumer and civil rights groups in pressuring credit bureaus to give immigrant victims of the Wells Fargo fake account scandal free copies of credit reports in their native languages so they can dispute any fraudulent accounts. In a coalition letter to Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, Early Warning Services and FIS, advocates asked that the reports be made available, at a minimum, in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Arabic and Haitian Creole.

Desperate students need protection from debt “relief” scams
Advocates called on the White House to crackdown on private companies that charge fees for student debt assistance, loan discharge forgiveness and consolidation services that are otherwise free. Often, the scams are passing off the federal government’s income-based repayment programs as their own and billing borrowers for it. These companies, known for preying on desperate student borrowers, must be closely monitored and shut down to protect borrowers and prevent them from paying for unnecessary services, adding to their mounting financial problems.

Monitoring availability and affordability of auto insurance requires key data
Consumer advocates have long argued that low-income drivers are price-gouged when it comes to car insurance quotes. In response, the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) set a standard that recognizes auto insurance as “unaffordable” when the average premium in a community exceeds two percent of the community's median household income. The FIO is also preparing to publish its first report on auto insurance affordability with help from the insurance industry. Advocates are urging the FIO to require mandatory participation from some of the biggest insurance companies, instead of relying on the companies’ voluntary submission of data. The group also asks the office to evaluate premiums at the zip code level to ensure the affordability analysis accurately represents the cost of insurance around the nation.

A checklist for organizations dealing with data breaches
Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has released a new checklist to guide companies and organizations when considering using third-party identity theft monitoring services.

FCC’s proposed privacy rules provide important consumer protections
Broadband internet providers have access to massive amounts of browsing data, which can reveal sensitive personal information regarding the user’s lifestyle, health and and finances. Given the limited choice of internet providers, consumers looking to compare privacy standards are at a disadvantage. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering rules that would fill a critical gap in the patchwork of U.S. privacy laws by giving consumers meaningful control over the ways in which their data can be used and disclosed by broadband internet service providers. The FCC’s proposed rules would require customers to opt-in to most uses of their data that are not directly related to the services to which they have subscribed. These proposed regulations would be a big step in protecting consumers’ online privacy and should not be weakened by industry groups looking to make a profit at the expense of their customers.

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