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You private genetic testing information can be sold without warning—that needs to change
Help could be on the way for California consumers thanks to SB 980, a bill that was recently approved by the California legislature with strong bipartisan support. If signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill would provide strong privacy and security requirements over deeply personal data that Californians currently lack by way of consumer genetic testing services provided by companies like Ancestry and 23andMe.

State-based “bills of rights” needed to protect student loan borrowers
Consumer Action joined a coalition of over 50 organizations in support of a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights in Massachusetts. (We also supported a similar effort that recently passed the California legislature.) Even before the current pandemic, student loan borrowers have had to deal with a predatory student loan servicing industry that knowingly misleads borrowers to increase its profits. With the increased financial instability brought by the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that borrowers are informed of their rights and are protected by strong consumer guidelines.

The next COVID-19 relief package should include these critical consumer protections
Millions of people and small businesses in the United States are experiencing tremendous financial distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment is skyrocketing and families are struggling to put food on the table. Congress and the administration need to enact broad-based, efficient, and effective relief that goes far beyond the CARES Act to protect people’s homes, cars, bank accounts, income, and benefits so that they can weather this crisis. Consumer Action joined nearly 100 consumer, civil rights, community and other public interest groups weigh in on recommendations for Congress' next stimulus package.

Online marketplaces should do more to protect customers from harmful products
Consumer Action urged California lawmakers to support AB 3262, which helps protect consumers by ensuring that online marketplaces are held strictly liable for defective products to the same extent as brick-and-mortar retailers, incentivizing them to vet sellers and to remove harmful products from their sites. This important legislation is particularly timely, as shoppers are increasingly turning to online marketplace platforms in light of COVID-19. With uncertainty in the courts, clear legislative action is needed to incentivize online marketplaces to protect these consumers and verify the safety of products to the same extent as brick-and-mortar stores do.

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.

Protect consumers from price gouging during a state of emergency
In a letter to the California state legislature, advocates urged support of Senate Bill 1196, which aims to combat price gouging in the state of California during a declared state of emergency. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, California has seen countless examples of unscrupulous individuals using the crisis as an opportunity to turn a profit on essential goods and services. SB 1196 will tighten California law to assist law enforcement officials in prosecuting instances of price gouging that are committed by new sellers during an emergency.

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.

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