Consumer Action INSIDER - April 2023


What people are saying

"Great apps to use to stay on top of your financial goals. My credit score went up 26 points after using the apps."

—Participant in Consumer Action financial capability/credit education project in Dallas, TX (#CAExperian) (read about this initiative, supported by Experian, here)

New interim ED comes on board as longtime Consumer Action leaders retire 

By Monica Steinisch

The first quarter of 2023 brought significant changes to our staff, as two longtime Consumer Action leaders retired and a new interim executive director took the helm.

Consumer Action is saying good-bye to two staff members who dedicated most of their careers to consumer advocacy and education and successfully led the organization into its sixth decade. We also welcome a new interim executive director.

Ken McEldowney served as Consumer Action's executive director for 45 years. Under his leadership, the organization grew from a loosely-connected coalition of local community groups in the San Francisco Bay Area to a nationally recognized and respected consumer advocacy and education organization with a network of more than 6,500 CBOs that we support with free multilingual consumer education materials and training; engage through projects to improve consumers’ financial health and capability at the community level; and mobilize to advocate on behalf of consumers and communities. While McEldowney is officially retiring, he will continue to serve on Consumer Action’s board of directors and as a senior fellow.

Not long after joining Consumer Action in San Francisco in the mid-nineties, Linda Sherry opened the organization’s Washington, D.C., office, serving as chief liaison to Capitol Hill, and leading the organization’s transition from a state education and advocacy group to a national one. Under her guidance as director of national priorities, Consumer Action’s national advocacy impact grew, with the organization adding several advocates to represent underserved consumers before Congress and federal regulators. Sherry was Consumer Action's lead advocate for coalitions fighting for airline passenger rights, prescription drug price controls, privacy, and other protections for the nation’s consumers. During her 28 years with the organization, she also served as communications director and editorial team leader for all Consumer Action websites, publications and social media.

We will officially recognize McEldowney and Sherry for their many years of invaluable service to Consumer Action at our 52nd anniversary celebration later this year, in Washington D.C. We hope you will join us as we thank them for their dedication and commitment to ensuring access, fairness and financial empowerment for underserved consumers.

We also welcome Anna Flores as Consumer Action’s new interim executive director. While new to the position, Flores is not new to the organization, having served on Consumer Action’s board of directors for a number of years. Prior to joining the Consumer Action team, Flores served as the executive director of Credit Abuse Resistance Education and, before that, as vice president of consumer affairs for American Express.

As Flores takes the helm and helps transition the organization into the next chapter, we thank McEldowney and Sherry for the indelible contributions they’ve made to both Consumer Action and the greater consumer rights movement.  

Consumer Action and partners promote National Consumer Protection Week

By Monica Steinisch

Consumer Action is a longtime participant in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), an annual effort bringing together government agencies, consumer protection groups and other organizations to share information with consumers that will help them recognize, avoid and report scams and understand their rights.

Held the first week of March every year since 1998, NCPW participants this year got the word out in all sorts of ways, from webinars and workshops to social media messaging and radio programming. 

Consumer Action’s contributions to NCPW 2023 included devoting the March issue of our SCAM GRAM newsletter to recognizing and reporting impersonation scams—attempts to defraud consumers by posing as a legitimate business, government agency or other trusted source—with a special focus on Amazon impersonators. According to the FTC, about 1 in 3 people who reported a business impersonator from July 2020 through June 2021 said the scammer claimed to be Amazon. 

Government agency imposter scams are another significant threat—losses to consumers climbed to more than $446 million in 2021 and $509 million in 2022—so we took part in the Social Security Administration’s Slam the Scam Day (March 9) by posting about Social Security-related scams on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. 

Check out our tips and resources for avoiding and reporting impersonation (and other) scams in the March SCAM GRAM. To have the newsletter go directly to your inbox each month, sign up for our mailing list

In addition to helping Amazon arm consumers with the knowledge to avoid imposter scams, we joined the company and some of our nonprofit allies—National Consumers League, Project GOAL, and Safe Kids Worldwide—to co-host a National Consumer Protection Week reception in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, March 9. The evening was a way to celebrate the importance of government, industry and consumer advocacy working together to protect consumers, and an opportunity to look ahead to what we can accomplish together in 2023.

From left to right: John Breyault, National Consumers League; Debra Berlyn, Project GOAL; Anna Flores, Consumer Action; Alyssa Betz, Amazon; Torine Creppy, Safe Kids Worldwide; Jennifer Lane, Amazon




From left to right: Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action; Queen Jones, VETS Group; Anna Flores, Consumer Action; Joe Wynn, VETS Group/Consumer Action board member


New Consumer Action video highlights CFPB’s language access efforts

By Monica Steinisch

There are 25 million U.S. residents with limited English proficiency, meaning they don’t speak, read, write or understand English well. These consumers frequently experience barriers in the consumer financial marketplace. While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has worked diligently to improve access to financial products and services for LEP consumers, the agency is also engaged in ensuring that LEP consumers have meaningful access to the agency’s services. Consumer Action is helping to share the CFPB’s recent efforts and progress toward this goal.  

Over the last year, the CFPB has been testing if the agency’s resources are succeeding in helping non-English-speaking communities navigate financial hardships and studying how to strengthen the Bureau’s resources for LEP consumers. Last month, Consumer Action invited David Lock and Christel Roldan, from the CFPB’s Office of Financial Education, to present what they have learned about the needs of LEP consumers, how well the CFPB’s resources are meeting those needs, and where improvement is needed, in both resource availability and delivery.

Watch the 15-minute video—The CFPB Speaks Your Language: In-language tools from the CFPB for community educators and advocates—on Consumer Action’s YouTube channel to learn about the LEP resources currently available, the opportunities for improvement that the agency uncovered in its study, and recent steps the CFPB has taken toward its goal of reaching more LEP consumers (for example, launching newly redesigned language landing pages, including culturally relevant images and iconography, on the agency’s website).

One of the key observations to come out of the analysis was that community-based organizations that assist LEP consumers on financial matters are well positioned to help raise awareness and understanding of the CFPB, including the agency’s ability to take consumer complaints about financial products and services in more than 180 languages at 855-411-2372. 

Credit Building Symposium registration is open!

By Monica Steinisch

Credit Builders Alliance (CBA), one of Consumer Action’s longtime partners in consumer education and advocacy, will be holding its 10th Annual Credit Building Symposium June 7-9, in Washington, D.C. The event brings together community development financial institutions (CDFIs); nonprofit financial coaches, counselors and educators; philanthropists; allies and partner organizations; Tribal entities; nonprofit lenders; government agencies; credit reporting agencies (CRAs); FinTechs; and regulators to learn about the latest innovations in the credit field and to develop and deepen relationships with credit building peers.

The theme of this year’s symposium is “Bridging the Credit Gap.” Diverse voices will highlight new credit building programs across the country, exchange ideas, and share solutions to unlock credit as an asset for all. Sessions will cover, among other topics, credit building for youth; integrating credit building products into your services; credit as an asset for small business; rent reporting; credit resources for foster care youth; and improving credit resiliency in credit deserts.

To register for the symposium, click here.

Both Consumer Action and CBA are members of the Financial Solutions Lab Exchange, a meeting place for nonprofit and FinTech providers to explore ways of collaborating that help U.S. consumers achieve financial health.

Coalition Efforts

By Monica Steinisch

Consumer Action and its allies recently called on policymakers and regulators about these important issues:

Cash refunds for flight cancellations and significant delays. Consumer Action spoke up in support of legislation proposed by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal and Representatives Cohen and Raskin that would give consumers the right to a full cash refund when airlines cancel or significantly delay a flight, or if the consumer cancels their flight at least 48 hours before the scheduled departure time. Under the Cash Refunds for Flight Cancellations Act, a covered airline or ticket agent would be required to notify consumers of their right to a full cash refund and offer the refund within 30 days of a qualifying delay or cancellation. The legislation also authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to impose a $1,000 civil penalty on an airline for failing to provide a full cash refund to a passenger within 30 days. Read the legislation here. Read supporters’ quotes here.

Excessive overdraft fees. Advocates wrote to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to urge the agency to require that OCC-supervised banks make necessary reforms to their inequitable, predatory overdraft fee programs. The effort comes as a merger between Toronto-based TD Bank and Memphis-based First Horizon Bank is pending. While TD charges the equivalent of US$3.50 per day for overdrafts in Canada because the country regulates such fees, the bank levies U.S. customers more than $100 per day—an amount that bears no relationship to the bank’s actual costs. The vast bulk of these fees are paid by low-balance accounts. The letter requests the comptroller to require reform of these abuses before any OCC-supervised bank is allowed to expand. Read the letter here.

Harmful so-called data privacy bill. Consumer Action and half a dozen other consumer advocacy groups wrote to the House Financial Services Committee to express opposition to data privacy legislation proposed by the Republican committee chair, Representative Patrick McHenry, that would preempt a broad array of stronger state laws while offering no or little new protections at the federal level. Among the current protections the bill would preempt are any state laws regulating financial institutions’ collection or disclosure of personal information. The bill also fails to address the need for a private right of action or remedy for harmed consumers, which many existing state laws provide. Read the letter here.

Unfair forced arbitration clauses in telecommunications services contracts. Consumer advocacy groups responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) call for comment on proposed rulemaking on data breach reporting requirements, commending the stated goal of providing greater protections to the public while pointing out that a major step in that direction would be to ban forced arbitration clauses in service contracts between telecom companies and their customers. Such clauses allow companies to avoid consequences when they violate consumers’ rights. Studies show that few customers bring their claims to arbitration, and those who do typically lose. When bad actors have to answer claims in court, it has a strong deterrent effect from future negligent behavior. It also offers consumers a real chance at being made whole. Read the letter here.

CFPB Watch: Data broker feedback, rental reports, and illegal collections

By Ruth Susswein

We often have little to no control over companies’ use of our personal data. While advocates work to achieve a strong national data protection law, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has begun gathering information on the companies that are tracking and collecting data on you. 

The CFPB wants to hear your firsthand experiences with data brokers—companies that make money off the details of your personal life. Data brokers include companies that compile and sell employment background reports, criminal and insurance background reports, tenant screening reports, credit reports, and other such dossiers. They build profiles of consumers based on things like their credit card purchases, online browsing activity, or particularly sensitive data, such as health information, religious affiliation, financial records and location.

The Bureau has heard complaints about companies that abuse our personal data and violate our privacy—even spreading misinformation or committing fraud.

The CFPB is eager to learn more about the types of data that brokers collect and sell and who the data brokers get their information from. The Bureau also wants to know if you’ve ever tried to remove, correct or delete your personal data from these companies’ databases. If so, what was your experience? The agency will use this information to analyze whether data brokers are following consumer financial protection laws. 

You can email your stories to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Please include Docket Number CFPB-2023-0020 in the subject line and submit your feedback by June 13. 

Click here to view the CFPB’s latest list of specialty credit reporting companies that collect and sell access to consumer data.

Tenant screening reports

In a separate effort, the CFPB and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are jointly seeking information on tenant screening reports from organizations and individuals. These background reports include eviction, criminal, employment and credit history for the last seven years. Tenant screening reports—and scores—are relied on by landlords and property management companies to help them determine who to rent to. 

As we’ve reported in Consumer Action News, tenant screening reports can contain old or inaccurate information as well as data, such as eviction filings that were never pursued by the landlord, that can brand an applicant for automatic rejection.

Here, the Bureau and the FTC want to know:

  • What application fees were charged to prospective tenants?
  • Did the applicant learn that a tenant screening report or score was used, and did they receive access to it?
  • Was the applicant denied housing based on a background report or score?
  • Did the consumer find inaccuracies in the tenant report? Did they dispute that information and was it corrected?
  • Is the applicant a limited-English-proficient consumer, a rural resident or a consumer with a disability, and is there is any reason to suspect that that part of their identity may have affected their access to rental housing?

Tenants and rental housing applicants who believe they’ve been harmed by tenant screening reports and scores can share their feedback here by May 30.

Warning shot to student loan servicers

Examiners for the CFPB have found student loan servicers were collecting on some private student loans that had already been discharged in bankruptcy court. The Bureau has ordered that the illegally collected payments be returned to borrowers and the unlawful collections must cease.

“When a court orders the discharge of a loan, lenders and servicers should not treat this as a suggestion,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. 

Most student loans are very hard to discharge in bankruptcy because they must meet a strict standard of “undue hardship” to qualify, but the Bureau explained that some private student loans can be discharged if the loans were made:

  • to unaccredited schools;
  • to students who attended less than part-time; or
  • for more than the cost of attending school, and were disbursed directly to the borrower.

The CFPB plans to continue scrutinizing loan servicers and stopping the unfair practice of collecting on debts that are no longer legally owed.

Class Action Database: IKEA settles over FACTA violation

By Monica Steinisch

Among recent settlements added to the Consumer Action Class Action Database is the $3.5 million settlement Lufthansa agreed to in a case alleging that the company failed to refund customers as required when it canceled flights due to COVID-19. (See "Coalition efforts," above, for news of proposed legislation that would give consumers the right to a full cash refund when airlines cancel or significantly delay a flight, or if the consumer cancels their flight at least 48 hours before the scheduled departure time.)

Of note is the $24.25 million settlement in a class action case against Swedish furniture and home goods retailer IKEA for allegedly violating the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). According to plaintiffs, IKEA printed receipts for credit and debit card transactions in its retail stores that revealed the first six and last four digits of the payment card number, exceeding the FACTA-allowed last five digits. You may be eligible for a payment if you used a credit or debit card at any IKEA store between Oct. 18, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2019.

The claims deadline is May 4, 2023.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action is a nonprofit organization that has championed the rights of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. Throughout its history, the organization has dedicated its resources to promoting financial and consumer literacy and advocating for consumer rights both in the media and before lawmakers to promote economic justice for all. With the resources and infrastructure to reach millions of consumers, Consumer Action is one of the most recognized, effective and trusted consumer organizations in the nation.

Consumer education. To empower consumers to assert their rights in the marketplace, Consumer Action provides a range of educational resources. The organization’s extensive library of free publications offers in-depth information on many topics related to personal money management, housing, insurance and privacy. At, visitors have instant access to important consumer news, downloadable materials, an online “help desk,” the Take Action advocacy database, and more. Our in-language media outreach allows us to share scam alerts and other timely consumer news with a wide non-English-speaking audience.

Community outreach. With a special focus on serving low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers, Consumer Action maintains strong ties to a national network of more than 6,500 community-based organizations. Outreach services include in-person and web-based training and dissemination of financial and consumer education materials in many languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Consumer Action’s network is the largest and most diverse of its kind.

Advocacy. Consumer Action is deeply committed to ensuring that underrepresented consumers are represented in the national media and in front of lawmakers. The organization promotes pro-consumer policy, regulation and legislation by taking positions on dozens of bills at the state and national levels and submitting comments and testimony on a host of consumer protection issues. Additionally, its diverse staff provides the media with expert commentary on key consumer issues supported by solid data and victim testimony.



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