Postings

It’s buyer beware with the SEC’s latest best interest proposal
Coalition advocates called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify its proposed “best interest” standard, and asked that it make the required disclosures much easier to understand for consumers. They also asked the SEC make the standard no less stringent than the Advisers Act fiduciary standard. Otherwise, unsuspecting investors may not be aware that their advisers are selling them products they don’t need in order to turn a profit.

3M seniors could lose critical benefits if Benchmark Cap remains in Medicare Advantage
Three million American seniors are at risk of being denied critically important benefits like care coordination, vision, dental, hearing, and wellness programs if Congress allows the benchmark cap to stay in place. In a letter to Congress, coalition advocates supported the bipartisan Improving Seniors Access to Quality Benefits Act (HR 4952), which aims to lift the benchmark cap, thus giving beneficiaries higher-quality care.

Health insurance tax would hit seniors hard
An approximate $22 billion health insurance tax (HIT) is scheduled to impact 20 million seniors and disabled individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage in 2020. In a letter, coalition advocates urged Congress to delay the HIT for 2020, otherwise millions of American seniors and others with health insurance coverage could face a major premium increase, including $500 in additional annual premiums for the typical Medicare Advantage couple.

Protecting Pell Grants in 2019 spending bill is critical for strong, diverse economy
As Congress works to finalize the education spending bill, advocates call on appropriators to support a robust Pell Grant fund. At a time when a postsecondary credential or degree is an increasingly necessary gateway to a meaningful career, a strong Pell Grant is critical to ensuring that students from all financial backgrounds are able to participate and grow a strong, diverse economy.

A terrible agenda for students and taxpayers
86 organizations working on behalf of students, veterans, servicemembers, civil rights, consumers, faculty and staff, and college access, including Consumer Action, wrote to Congress to convey their strong opposition to provisions that roll back or eliminate existing guardrails relating to program integrity and consumer protections in higher education in the PROSPER Act (H.R.4508).

Border wall funding is a waste of taxpayer dollars
Funding for a border wall has faced strong opposition from a diverse coalition of organizations that include Latino, civil rights, consumer, environmental, faith and border community groups. The coalition has spent months advocating against the militarization of the border and the vilification of border and immigrant communities. As Congress moves forward with the FY2019 appropriations process, we urge leadership to reject efforts to continue funding additional border wall construction that draws scarce resources away from urgently needed infrastructure.

Last-ditch effort to prevent auto lending discrimination fails
Consumer Action and its allies wrote to Congress on April 16 to plead that it not interfere with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to prevent auto loan discrimination. The Bureau’s “guidance” to car lenders sought to end a common discriminatory practice to charge some borrowers more in interest and fees, regardless of their creditworthiness (“dealer mark-ups”). Even though these discriminatory violations still occur, the Senate on April 18 moved to eliminate the 2013 guidance document, allowing the practice to continue. These discretionary auto dealer mark-ups result, in some cases, in African Americans and Latinos paying more than similarly situated white borrowers.

Advocates alarmed as HUD considers dropping key mission
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), responsible for stopping housing discrimination, proposed new language in its mission statement that seemed to encourage consumer “self-sufficiency” over strict enforcement. The move alarmed civil rights, consumer, and fair housing advocates, who worry that the government agency expressly responsible for combating housing discrimination would deemphasize the importance of its mandate under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The groups joined in a March 8 letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking him to correct this “unfortunate impression.” (It’s been reported that Carson subsequently responded in a HUD memo, saying: “The notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense.”)

10 years after Great Recession, Senate considers Dodd-Frank rollbacks
Crapo (R-ID) introduced a bill that takes aim at Dodd-Frank Act protections for consumers and the ability to monitor big banks to prevent another financial meltdown. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S 2155) would put consumers at greater risk of predatory lending and weaken other important safeguards passed since the last crisis. Consumer Action joined advocates in a March 8 letter asked that the legislation be given full floor consideration as a separate bill and an open amendment process.

Stringent safety requirements needed before driverless cars hit the road
In a March 5 letter to Senate leadership, coalition advocates conveyed strong objections to the lack of safety protections in proposed driverless car legislation and urged Senate leaders to make essential improvements to the AV START Act (S.1885). The groups warned that prioritizing the protection of private investments in unproven technologies instead of protecting public safety could have dangerous consequences, and there are numerous critical concerns regarding the rushed deployment of driverless cars. (Last week the earlier warning took on new urgency when an automated Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in Arizona.)

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