Updated: December 2012

Looking back at Consumer Action’s milestones

1971

  • Opens in a San Francisco church basement under direction of founder Kay Pachtner
  • Publishes “Consumer Action News” newsletter
  • Establishes the consumer advice and assistance hotline

1972

  • Pickets British Motors in San Francisco, resulting in the arrests of Consumer Action staffers, representation by the ACLU and British Motors’s unsuccessful $6 million lawsuit against the organization

1973

  • Publishes “Break the Banks: A Shopper's Guide to Banking Services”
  • Publishes “A Guide to Public Records,” demystifying city hall by showing San Franciscans how to access public information at local government offices

1974

  • Publishes “Deceptive Packaging,” a scathing indictment of the California consumer affairs department
  • Publishes “A Shopper’s Guide to Pharmacies” in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Launches successful campaign to require item pricing at supermarkets with campaign slogan “Price the rice!”

1975

  • Holds “Lemonstration” in San Francisco to protest resale of defective autos

1976

  • Helps Federal Trade Commission draft new consumer protection regulations, under a federal grant
  • Releases “Optical Illusion,” an investigative study of the eye care industry, and urges an end to barriers to advertising prices for eye care services
  • Protests Bank of America’s ads for “low interest” car loans as misleading, causing bank to withdraw ads, reimburse customers and pay a penalty to the city of San Francisco
  • Publishes “Consumer Action’s Auto Insurance Guide,” California’s first shopper’s guide to auto insurance, and on basis of findings, calls for industry reform

1978

  • Releases “How to Complain” guide
  • Publishes “A Guide to Small Claims Court”

1980

  • Welcomes Ken McEldowney back to Consumer Action, now as its executive director

1984

  • Publishes first annual Credit Card Survey
  • Publishes first annual “Consumer Services Guide” (now a website: www.consumerservicesguide.org)

1988

  • Receives first of many court awards (Wells Fargo class action settlement)
  • Establishes Banking Information Project to inform low-income, senior and non-English speaking consumers about banking services

1989

  • Establishes community-based organization (CBO) network for distributing educational materials
  • Creates the Telephone Information Project (TIP) with grant from the California Public Utilities Commission
  • Testifies before US House Banking Committee on the need for federal Truth in Savings Act (became law 1991)

1990

  • First publishes 300-page Telephone Users Guide with grant from the California Public Utilities Commission
  • Publishes “Why Use a Bank Account?” in English, Spanish and Chinese
  • Testifies before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on “900” phone number ripoffs
  • Rallies national attention to pass laws regulating unsafe children’s car seats and providing better nutrition labeling
  • Advocates for “Caller ID” blocking to protect consumer privacy

1991

  • Co-sponsors bill with California Assemblymember Jackie Speier to reduce bank fees
  • Establishes the Lead Poisoning Prevention Project (later known as the Healthy Children Organizing Project)
  • Publishes Telephone Information Project (TIP) materials in seven languages
  • Calls public attention to telephone banking privacy threats
  • Publishes “Your Guide to Phone Service”

1992

  • Joins US Dept. of Consumer Affairs and Sprint in a project to educate limited-English speakers about phone services
  • Selected by California Public Utilities Commission to operate Telecommunications Education Trust (TET) repository
  • Prevails in a lawsuit against Bank of America for forcing binding mandatory arbitration on existing customers (Badie vs. Bank of America)

1993

  • Launches the Credit & Finance Advocacy Project
  • Establishes the San Francisco Foundation’s Bank of America Consumer Education Fund (BACEF) Resource Center, a repository for BACEF-funded materials
  • Initiates campaign to more effectively regulate cable TV rates
  • Advocates nationally for increased enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)

1994

  • Opens Los Angeles Office
  • Establishes first national corporate consumer education partnerships (American Express, AT&T, Sprint and Visa) to produce and distribute free, multilingual educational materials in five languages
  • Publishes “Teaching Money Management,” a catalogue of financial education materials, under a grant from the San Francisco Foundation’s Bank of America Consumer Education Fund (BACEF)
  • Begins campaigns to prohibit credit card marketing on college campuses, regulate the rent-to-own industry and fight pre-emption of state law by national banks

1995

  • Protests “Lemon Laundering” (resale of potentially dangerous used cars) at GM dealerships
  • Debuts first online library of materials via HandsNet
  • Challenges electric deregulation
  • Credited with passage of San Francisco law to protect renters from lead poisoning

1996

  • Publishes Prepaid Phone Card and Free Checking Account surveys

1997

  • Devises formal multilingual, multicultural community education model
  • Launches national HMO education campaign in partnership with PacifiCare
  • Publishes the “EBT/EFT Update,” a publication to educate consumers on electronic benefits, in partnership with the National Consumer Law Center, the National Urban League and NationsBank
  • Launches website Consumer-Action.org, a multilingual online consumer resource

1999

  • Receives $2 million grant from HUD to conduct a nationwide multilingual fair housing public education campaign
  • Publishes the California Home Electricity Survey

2000

  • Publishes Online Banking Survey

2001

  • Establishes MoneyWi$e financial empowerment program in partnership with Capital One
  • Prevails in an lawsuit against AT&T to block its binding mandatory arbitration clause. Consumer Action employee Darcy Ting becomes named plaintiff in the class action suit (Ting vs. AT&T) filed in federal court
  • Receives Excellence in Consumer Education Award from the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA)

2002

  • Conducts first MoneyWi$e train-the-trainer events in California, Florida, New York and Virginia (trainings continue to present)
  • Launches Money-Wise.org, website of the MoneyWi$e Project

2003

  • Advocates against predatory “bounce protection” service on checking accounts

2004

  • Opens DC office

2006

  • Begins “e-advocacy” services providing “Take Action” alerts to build grassroots support for our campaigns and to help consumers make their voices heard

2007

  • Joins Americans for Fairness in Lending (AFFIL) to raise awareness about predatory lending
  • Testifies on the need for credit card consumer protections before the US House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit

2008

  • Testifies in support of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights before the US House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
  • Helps pass the historic Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act
  • Launches sister websites Managing-Money.org, Privacy-Information.org, Insurance-Education.org and Housing-Information.org

2009

  • Attends the signing of the CARD Act by President Obama at the White House
  • Becomes a founding member of Americans for Financial Reform (AFR)
  • Testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in support of the Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act of 2009 (H.R. 3639)

2010

  • Rallies grassroots support to pass health reform (coalition effort)
  • Helps pass Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (coalition effort)
  • Launches Consumer Action’s National Financial Empowerment conference in Chicago, IL, an annual event for our community-based partners to share best practices for promoting financial empowerment
  • Publishes “Consumer Action INSIDER” monthly e-newsletter
  • Receives $1 million grant from HUD to conduct a nationwide multilingual fair housing public education campaign

2011

  • Launches WirelessEd website (www.wirelessed.org)
  • Chairs consumer group committee to advise the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on complaint handling
  • Celebrates 40th Anniversary in Washington, DC
 

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