Consumer Action INSIDER - January 2024


What people are saying

"I have learnt a lot from [Consumer Action’s] webinars in 2023—please keep them coming!" —Lorena Munoz-Holladay, AFC, Financial Pathways of the Piedmont (view our webinars and videos on our YouTube channel)

Webinar attendees learn key saving and investing concepts

By Monica Steinisch

Last month, Consumer Action hosted our final webinar of the year: Saving and Investing for Long-term Prosperity. The free 90-minute webinar, which also offered 1.5 continuing education units for AFCPE professionals, was presented with support from Wells Fargo.

While saving and investing can sometimes seem like a daunting task, there are simple steps everyone can take to ramp up their wealth-building and make strides toward a stronger financial future. Along with practical information and tips to help newcomers get started investing, the expert speakers on the webinar panel made clear the distinction between saving and investing, and presented key concepts all savers and investors must understand to make wise choices about where to put their money to achieve their financial goals.

The experts on our panel were John Moses, deputy director of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA); Dylan Bruce, financial services counsel for the Consumer Federation of America; and Richard Eisenberg, personal finance writer and editor and co-host of the “Friends Talk Money” podcast

In addition to providing a wealth of advice about what savers and investors should do (for example, contribute at least as much to an employer-sponsored retirement plan as needed to get the full employer match; automate contributions to savings and investment accounts; and vet any investment professionals you’re considering hiring), the speakers also cautioned consumers about what they should not do if they want to avoid fraud, scams and high-risk investments (for example, don’t put money into complex or high-risk assets or strategies as a an inexperienced investor, and don’t rely on social media posts, celebrity endorsements or TV investing pundits for investing advice).

Said one of the 249 webinar attendees in the post-webinar survey: 

“Today's workshop was very informative and I especially appreciated the portion that described how brokers are different from investment advisers and financial planners. I feel that having this workshop organized by Consumer Action gave me confidence that the information was honest and balanced.”

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, you can view it on Consumer Action’s YouTube channel. (And please subscribe while you’re there.)

To make sure you don’t miss out on future webinars, new publications, and our monthly newsletters (INSIDER and SCAM GRAM), subscribe to our mailing list here, and keep an eye on our Upcoming Events page.

Coalition Efforts

By Monica Steinisch

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

Faulty “earned wage access” legislation. Consumer Action joined 118 other advocacy organizations in a letter to U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, author of the draft Earned Wage Access Consumer Protection Act, to voice their opposition to the bill. The bill purports to regulate the business of offering and providing earned wage access services—presumably, with protections for consumers—but in reality, largely codifies lenders’ current business model. Earned wage advances are loans to wage earners that are repaid on payday. The loans, often offered by FinTech companies, tend to be expensive (with an average APR of over 330%, according to California data based on nearly 6 million transactions), and repayment is debited from the employee’s bank account. The legislation would allow FinTech and other wage advance businesses to escape protective constraints imposed by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, and state fee and rate laws by characterizing their product as an advance—not a loan or credit. The costs of FinTech cash advances fall primarily on low-wage workers who need a living wage, not a product that just makes them pay to be paid. Read the letter here.

Rulemaking on Fair Credit Reporting Act. Consumer Action and allies wrote to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra to urge him to reject a request by 15 industry trade organizations, including the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the US Chamber of Commerce (Chamber), to delay the agency’s planned Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) rulemaking by issuing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). The groups pointed out that the three major components of the rulemaking—a proposal to cover many data brokers under the FCRA, a proposal to ban the reporting of medical debt on credit reports, and a proposal to improve aspects of dispute handling under the FCRA—have already been the subject of extensive public input or fact gathering, and thus do not require an ANPR. Millions of consumers are impacted by the abuses that the proposed FCRA rule would address—the medical debt issue alone impairs the credit histories of over 10 million Americans—and the CFPB should move forward with the rulemaking as expeditiously as possible. Read the letter here.

Gutting of the residential home market by profiteers. Consumer Action voiced its support of the bicameral End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act of 2023, introduced by Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA-09). The purchasing of single-family homes by hedge funds, especially in the current housing market, has made it more difficult for middle-class Americans to become homeowners and is contributing to America’s twin crises of housing unaffordability and wealth inequality. Hedge funds and other institutional investors, which, as of June 2022, owned roughly 574,000 single-family homes, maximize profits by imposing high rent increases, inflating fees, and delaying home maintenance and improvements. Quoted in the legislators’ press release about the Act, Consumer Action’s Ruth Susswein said: “Large corporate investors are gutting the U.S. housing market and making it nearly impossible for the average person to purchase a single-family home. This is destroying the American Dream. The End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act creates the sorely needed incentive to curb corporate homeownership and reinvest in underserved communities by imposing a hefty 50% tax on hedge funds that insist on gorging on single-family homes.” Read the press release here

CFPB Watch

By Ruth Susswein

The CFPB charged Toyota Motor Credit Corporation with illegally withholding refunds, damaging consumers’ credit records, and scheming to prevent borrowers from cancelling optional products and services.

The Bureau has ordered Toyota to pay $60 million for their illegal conduct.

In addition to financing car purchases, Toyota Motor Credit sells extended warranties, Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance, and Credit Life and Accidental Health (CLAH) coverage. The CFPB says the cost of these bundled products averages between $700 and $2,500 per loan. While these products are optional, thousands of consumers complained to the CFPB that they were falsely told these items were mandatory or found them slipped into their sales contract.

When consumers tried to cancel the bundle, the CFPB says, they were directed to a “dead-end cancellation hotline” intended to dissuade cancellations. Customers who asked to cancel three times were then told they could only cancel by putting their request in writing. 

Toyota also told customers they would not issue a direct refund. Instead, they would apply the money to the loan’s principal, effectively delaying the refund to the end of the car loan. In some cases, the Bureau says, Toyota failed to refund insurance premiums or they returned the wrong amount.

According to the CFPB, Toyota wrongly reported customer accounts to the credit bureaus as delinquent, when consumers had already returned the leased car to the company. Toyota did not correct the erroneous reports in a timely manner, even when they knew the information was false, said the CFPB.

Toyota will pay nearly $48 million to consumers who: 

  • did not receive refunds;
  • were unable to cancel their optional insurance; and/or
  • had their credit records damaged.

In addition to stopping these practices, Toyota must make it easy for consumers to cancel unwanted coverage, and must pay a $12 million fine to the CFPB’s victims relief fund.

CFPB considers a ban on all medical debt in credit reports

The CFPB is proposing to prohibit credit bureaus from reporting any medical debt—and medical debt collections—on people’s credit reports. 

About 20% of Americans have medical debt listed on their credit records, some of which they don’t owe. Medical debts may be the responsibility of a health insurer or an error on one’s credit report. 

Based on CFPB research, the Bureau believes that medical bills should be removed from credit reports because medical debt is “less predictive” of whether consumers will pay future bills than other types of debt are. Often, medical bills are unexpected and unavoidable, whether we can afford them or not. This proposal would not eliminate consumers’ responsibility to pay their legitimate medical bills; it would help limit the influence medical debt can have on people’s ability to get future credit. Poor credit scores and credit reports can destroy a consumer’s chances to get loans, insurance, a mortgage or rental housing, or a job.

Opponents might sue the CFPB over the plan to ban medical debt on credit records, believing that it would hurt lenders’ ability to evaluate a borrower’s capacity to repay their loans. Meanwhile, New York and Colorado recently passed laws making it illegal to report medical debt on a credit report in their states.

As part of this same effort, the Consumer Bureau is proposing to have data brokers fall under the obligations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which would limit data brokers’ ability to sell some of our personal financial data to only when consumers have applied for credit, insurance, housing or employment. It would also require data brokers to ensure the data’s accuracy and to resolve problems when consumers dispute incorrect information that is connected to them. 

The Bureau’s formal proposed FCRA rule is expected to be released early this year. 

Class Action Database: CoreLogic settles over erroneous "deceased" reporting

By Monica Steinisch

Among recent settlements added to the Consumer Action Class Action Database is the $494 million settlement Philips Respironics  must pay in a case claiming that users and buyers/renters/lessees of the company’s CPAPs, Bi-PAPs and ventilators (breathing assistance devices) were harmed when the company recalled the devices due to health concerns. If you have (or had) one of the devices, which were sold in the U.S. between 2008 and 2021 and recalled beginning in June 2021, you may be eligible for payment. The deadline for claims is Aug. 9, 2024. 

Of note is the settlement reached with CoreLogic Credco, a consumer reporting company that furnishes consumer information to banks, mortgage companies, lending institutions and other clients. The company has agreed to pay $5.695 million to resolve claims that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by inaccurately reporting as deceased individuals who were very much alive, even after one or two of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) provided information that did notinclude that the consumer was deceased.

If you were the subject of a consumer report resold by CoreLogic Credco to a third party between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 2, 2023, that indicated you were deceased, despite one or more of the major credit bureaus reporting you as alive, you may be eligible for payment. Not all class members need to submit a claim form; visit the settlement website to find out if you must submit a claim or if your payment will be automatic. The deadline for claims is Jan. 5, 2024. 

This is the third month in row that we have reported on FCRA violations. In November’s INSIDER, we wrote about TransUnion’s Rental Screening Solutions subsidiary being ordered by the CFPB and FTC to pay $15 million in restitution and fines for selling tenant screening reports “riddled with errors,” harming consumers’ ability to obtain housing. And in December, we highlighted a class action settlement that must pay for violating the FCRA by including in the tenant reports it provided to landlords outdated criminal non-conviction information.

It is very common for consumer reports to contain errors. In a September 2023 report, the CFPB noted that in the last year, the agency had received an increasing number of complaints related to consumer reporting compared to prior years—the most common complaints being about inaccurate information. Learn about your rights under the FCRA here.

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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