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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join Groups in FTC Privacy Complaints Against Facebook and Google's YouTube | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined complaints that two behemoth firms are in violation of Federal Trade Commission privacy rules. In the first, U.S. PIRG joins the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other groups claiming that a number of Facebook's practices - particularly, its use of facial recognition techniques without consent -- violate a previous 2011 privacy order. The facial recognition practice may also violate PIRG-backed Illinois law. Second, we join the Center for Digital Democracy's filing alleging that Google's YouTube collects information about kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And we haven't forgotten about Equifax.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Home remodeling shouldn’t be a deadly project: Toxic paint removers being sold by Lowe’s and other stores | Dev Gowda

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Grieving parents & health advocates urge Lowe’s to pull deadly paint strippers from store shelves

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical NMP.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

32 state Attorneys General to Congress: Don't replace our stronger privacy laws! | Mike Litt

Some 32 Democratic and Republican state Attorneys General have sent a strong letter to the bi-partisan sponsors of a draft federal data breach and data security bill. The weak, industry-backed proposal from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) would override, or preempt, numerous better state privacy laws and, importantly, prevent states from ever again acting to protect their citizens' financial DNA better. We don't like the bill either.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Signed A Letter In 2014 But That Doesn't Mean We Support The Bank Lobbyist Act | Mike Litt

Why would we support an amendment to make a bad bill worse? We wouldn't. Here's our explainer on how our signature on a 2014 letter should not have been used to somehow imply we supported an amendment to S2155 on credit scoring favoring Equifax and the other Big 3 credit bureaus.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case Affecting Consumers Nationwide

U.S. PIRG experts comment on a case heard before the Supreme Court Monday concerning whether American Express rules preventing merchants from steering customers to alternative lower-cost cards violate the antitrust laws. Hint: We agree with and supported several states that brought the case on behalf of their citizens. We also make the point that unless the states prevail, the practices of dominant tech platforms like Google and Amazon and Facebook will also be immunized from action.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

As electric cars revolutionize the vehicle market, new study helps cities address infrastructure and parking challenges

With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group highlights best practices to help local officials make their cities as EV-friendly as possible. The new report, “Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles,” includes local and state data about the projected number of electric cars expected on the road in coming years, and how cities can accommodate these new EVs with enough places to park and recharge.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG/U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Bee-Killing Pesticides Found in Great Lakes Water

A recent scientific study found the presence of commonly-used pesticides known to harm bees ("neonicotinoids" or "neonics") in several Great Lakes waterways. This study shows we know very little about the effects of pesticides once released into the environment.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Consumer Advocates Explain Crucial Public Interest in a Strong CFPB

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) independence from external political influence is crucial to the agency’s mission of protecting consumers, 10 groups, including U.S. PIRG Education Fund, told a U.S. appellate court today in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The groups are supporting the appeal of CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English in her lawsuit against the President and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney over the proper leadership of the Bureau in the absence of a Senate-confirmed director.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Joint Statement: Transfer of CFPB Consumer Response Unit Offers No Clear Benefit

This week, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, now also acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, made several concerning "administrative changes," including to move the Consumer Response Office, responsible for handling consumer complaints and managing the Bureau's public consumer complaint database, which U.S. PIRG has relied on for 11 (so far) analytic studies of the consumer financial marketplace. We issued the following joint statement, along with Americans for Financial Reform and Consumer Action.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Why You Should Get Security Freezes Before Your Information is Stolen

Here are tips for preventing ID theft and using a security freeze:

How To Avoid Identity Theft

How To Use a Security Freeze

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Report | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

Our sixth report analyzing complaints in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database evaluates mortgage complaints, the number one source of complaints to the CFPB, totaling 38% of nearly 500,000 complaints posted since 2011.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2014

Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

The End for "Rent-A-Tribe" Payday Lending Schemes? | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, Scott Tucker, a payday lender who used his proceeds to fund a LeMans racing team, was sentenced to 16 years in jail on federal racketeering and other charges.   Last fall, his former business partner Charles Hallinan, known as the Philadelphia Main Line "godfather" of payday lending, was also convicted of federal racketeering charges. Tucker and Hallinan's main business model? Their claim that their payday loan enterprises were for the benefit of Native American tribal partners and therefore subject to tribal immunity. The authoritative public interest law firm Public Justice speculates: "Tribal Immunity" may no longer be a Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card for payday lenders." It's about time.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer Bureau Threatened By President's Assertion He Can Select Temporary Director | Ed Mierzwinski

With the departure yesterday of director Richard Cordray from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we don't doubt that the President has the authority to nominate a new director of the Bureau. But the President's assertion later that day that he can and would appoint his own temporary or acting director -- at odds with the plain language of two laws --  places the bureau's leadership in crisis.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Halloween Over, But Congress Mixing Up Witches' Brew of Bank Rollbacks Anyway | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee announced a bi-partisan bill designed to weaken bank regulations in numerous ways. Today the House Financial Services Committee votes on nearly two dozen bills. The worst would allow payday lenders and other seeking to avoid strong state laws under a new rent-a-bank scheme. It's Halloween again on Capitol Hill, with tricks for consumers and taxpayers, and treats for banks and payday lenders.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Warn Congress: After Equifax, Firms Will Step Up Trojan Horse Efforts to Eliminate State Privacy Laws | Ed Mierzwinski

Like clockwork, after any big data breach is disclosed, powerful special interests seek to turn the problem into a bigger problem for consumers by  using it as an opportunity to enact some narrow federal legislation that broadly eliminates state data breach notice, state data security and other privacy protections.  I testified yesterday in the House warning of their Trojan Horse efforts, which not only take away existing laws, but deny any new laws, even on new problems identified. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Crop Diversity: Good For Public Health, Good For The Bottom Line | Steve Blackledge

For more than a decade, Iowa State University has been testing the merits of a 4-crop rotation, such as planting corn, soy, oats, and alfalfa over the course of four years. The results? The ISU researchers have reduced their use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers by about 90% while maintaining profits. That’s a staggering number, and even if farmers don’t push the limits as aggressively as ISU agronomists, we’re still talking about major reductions in chemicals. Moreover, we would expect correlating reductions in cancers, respiratory problems, reproductive system disorders, and more.  

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