Postings

Advocates call foul as CFPB hides consumer complaint narratives from public view
Consumer Action joined nearly three dozen consumer, civil rights, community, housing, and privacy groups in urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to reconsider its decision to bury the narratives of consumer complaints, making it much harder for non-experts to find this essential material in its consumer complaint database. Access to the complaint narratives helps to educate and empower consumers to make wise financial decisions and meets the Bureau’s mandate to inform and protect consumers. Public access to this critical information also helps to hold companies accountable for their behavior in the financial marketplace.

More than 100 non-profit groups support bill that would require corporations to disclose important data to address potential profit shifting
A coalition of more than 100 non-profit groups called on Reps. Waters and McHenry to consider country-by-country reporting in the Disclosure of Tax Havens and Offshoring Act (H.R. 5933). The bill would require large, publicly-traded corporations to disclose key financial information (e.g. profits, revenues, taxes, number of employees, etc.) on a country-by-country basis to better inform taxpayers, investors, policymakers, academics, and other stakeholders and ensure that we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic on the path to sustainable and equitable economy.

FDIC plans to preempt state lending protections is met with ire from advocates
Consumer Action joined with a broad coalition of advocacy organizations in warning the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that its proposed rule for chartering additional underregulated Industrial Loan Companies (ILCs) would expand predatory, high-interest lending. The plan would grant the predominantly online non-bank companies that are approved for an ILC with preemptory powers over state consumer protection laws, including interest rate caps. The FDIC is already turning a blind eye to rent-a-bank schemes where non-bank lenders piggyback off ILC and bank charters to issue loans of around 100% APR and higher.

Federal deregulation attempts increase barriers to affordable housing
All over the country, housing unaffordability has become a crisis. The number of households spending more than half of their income on housing payments has skyrocketed in the past decade. Almost 50% of renters are struggling with unaffordable rents, and the homeless population is rapidly growing in high cost areas. In response to this national crisis, the Department of Housing and Urban Development published a request for information to examine how regulations could be creating barriers to affordable housing. In response, advocates point out that it's not regulatory efforts, but moves to deregulate the housing and financial markets that are eroding and withdrawing crucial commonsense oversights, thereby increasing barriers to affordable housing.

The FCC prepares to regulate providers’ efforts to curb annoying robocalls
The Federal Trade Commission received 3.78 million consumer complaints about robocalls in 2019, compared with 3.79 million in 2018. Congress passed the TRACED Act late last year, which aims to crack down on robocalls by requiring voice service providers to implement caller ID authentication technology, and directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the providers’ efforts. In preparation for its upcoming report on robocalls, advocates call on the FCC to take further action to hold voice service providers accountable in their efforts to stop annoying scam calls.

Backlash grows over use of facial recognition
In a letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency in the executive branch, consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups urged President Trump and his administration to prohibit the federal government from using facial surveillance on the American public. Advocates are ringing the alarm after a recent federal study by The National Institute of Standards and Technology found pervasive racial bias in facial surveillance technology, and a New York Times investigation found a startup, Clearview AI, was stockpiling more than 3 billion photos from online sites and offering them up to help law enforcement match photos of suspects to pictures online. Considering the startup’s obvious violations of existing privacy laws, and the prevalent bias and discrimination in the facial recognition systems that are currently in use, advocates recommend a blanket moratorium on the technology.

Advocates call on Amtrak to end forced arbitration policy
Consumer Action joined a coalition of more than 30 groups in urging the federally-controlled and federally-subsidized Amtrak to remove the arbitration clause it implemented earlier this year for passengers. This new policy means that for any dispute ranging from a customer complaint to a mass casualty crash, passengers and their families are stripped of their right to go to court. Under forced arbitration, Amtrak disputes must be resolved in a secretive, privatized system, replacing and judge and jury with arbitrators.

The sale of .org a big concern for non-profit organizations
A private equity firm will soon run the internet’s top domain name extension for non-profits after purchasing the non-profit organization that runs it. Millions of non-profits around the world rely on .org domain. Yet, the Internet Society, the American nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in internet-related standards, decided to sell it, causing concern that fees to renew domain names will drastically increase in order for the firm to recoup its billion-dollar investment. Proponents of the deal reasoned that competition will keep renewal prices in check, but non-profit associations with established web addresses are wary to risk changing their web address and losing their online identity—in doing so, organizations may not be found by clients and donors under a new web address.

Stop the onslaught of annoying robocalls
Consumer Action signed on to support public testimony to the U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee On Communications and Technology regarding potential legislative solutions to the rampant problem of illegal scam and spoofed robocalls.

Is Mercedes-Benz cheating us out of clean air?
Mercedes-Benz stands accused of installing cheat devices into its diesel vehicles to evade U.S. emissions laws at the expense of consumers and the environment. Consumer Action joined advocates in urging Congress to help hold Mercedes accountable.

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