Postings

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.

Proposed Senate bill fails to Protect Student Borrowers during pandemic
Consumer Action joined 55 other organizations in submitting a letter to Senate leadership in opposition to the Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act. This proposed legislation falls far short of what young Americans need and should expect from their elected leaders. Rather than extend vital support during a dual public health and economic crisis, this bill would leave millions of student loan borrowers without protections while failing to extend and expand a repayment suspension put in place by the CARES Act. Doing so would only make the burden of student debt heavier, leaving many young Americans financially insecure.

Millions of struggling families need housing counseling now
In the economic fallout of the current pandemic, more than 20 million Americans are out of work. Black and Latino workers are experiencing disproportionate economic challenges, including an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively. American households are expected to face a wave of evictions and foreclosures even worse than they experienced in the last financial crisis. Coalition advocates wrote to Congress in support of the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act, which expands access to housing counseling so that these individuals and families can get help in finding affordable ways to stay in their homes.

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.

Labor Department should withdraw policy that lets private equity loot retirement plans
Nineteen organizations and individuals that advocate on behalf of consumers, workers, investors and retirees have called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to withdraw its controversial policy statement opening the door to private equity investments in 401(k) plans. These investments are likely to saddle middle-class retirement savers with high costs and lock them into unnecessarily complex investments that underperform publicly available alternatives. The coalition called on DOL to withdraw the policy statement until it can conduct a more careful and balanced analysis of the potential risks and benefits of including a private equity component in retirement plan investments.

DOT’s proposed rules favor airlines over passengers
Consumer groups called the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to modify how it protects passengers from unfair and deceptive acts and practices in the air travel marketplace "fatally flawed” and urged the agency to abandon its rulemaking. Consumer advocates argue that the proposed rules, formulated at the behest of the airline lobby, would not benefit consumers. If adopted, they would give airlines even greater incentives to engage in the kinds of anti-passenger practices—like leaving passengers stuck on the tarmac for hours on end—that Congress intended the DOT to prevent.

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.

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