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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.

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.

It’s time to regulate airline distribution and display practices
On the three-year anniversary of the suspension of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) request for information (RFI) on "Exploring Industry Practices on Distribution and Display of Airline Fare, Schedule and Availability Information," coalition advocate groups sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao calling for the RFI's reinstatement. Advocates are concerned that the extended pause is harming consumers by limiting their ability to see all airline, flight, fare and fee options and shop in a transparent, convenient and efficient way. It’s time for the DOT to release a final regulation of the matter and ensure consumers are treated fairly in the air-travel marketplace.

Advocates call for automatic discharge of student loan debt for disabled borrowers
A coalition of more than 30 advocate groups asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to automatically erase the federal student loan debt of roughly 350,000 student borrowers with disabilities nationwide. Currently, the Department’s application process is so burdensome that most disabled borrowers never get the help they're entitled to under law, while many more are not even aware that they qualify for a loan discharge. In fact, over 60% of eligible borrowers identified have not applied for the relief. In the worst cases, the Department has gone as far as seizing disability benefits that many borrowers with disabilities depend on to survive, as a means to collect on defaulted federal student loans. These borrowers are due critical relief now.

Congress: Pass a clean budget for FY2021
Advocates called on Congress to pass an upcoming federal budget that funds the things that Americans care about, not undo essential consumer and environmental safeguards through policy riders. Policy riders are attached to legislation and rarely have anything to do with the bill. In fact, most riders are handouts to big corporations and special favors for interest groups that could not become law on their own merits. As Congress prepares the federal budget for fiscal year 2021, no appropriations titles, package of bills, or continuing resolutions should pass if they contain poison pill policy riders that go against the public interest, including policies that ensure safe and healthy food, restrain Wall Street abuses, provide access to justice and fair housing, and guarantee access to safe healthcare.

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.

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.

HUD’s attack on core civil rights tool opens the door for discrimination
Consumer Action joined hundreds of organizations in submitting comments in response to a Department of Housing & Urban Development proposed rule that would gut an essential civil rights tool. The Trump administration’s proposal would severely weaken a critical tool for addressing housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, called “disparate impact.” This is one of the Trump administration’s most extreme moves to dismantle anti-discrimination laws.

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