Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Two big consumer stories so far this week offer hope to consumers victimized by credit bureau errors and, more generally, by an inability to take credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks or payday lenders to court when harmed. On Monday, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Big Three credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Then today, the CFPB released a report finding that consumer legal rights are infringed by small-print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts.  The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today (Tuesday) to discuss the report's findings and next steps.

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

Today, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray will present the CFPB's sixth semi-annual report to the House Financial Services Committee, whose majority members have been harsh critics of the successful consumer agency. Americans for Financial Reform, joined by the state PIRGs and a total of 340 national, state and local groups, sent Congress a letter explaining why the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

When companies use illegal practices to keep prices high or limit entry of innovative or lower-cost competitors, everyone loses. Learn more about our recent efforts under the antitrust and competition laws to make markets for prescription drugs and payments cards work fairly.

We've joined AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups to support an imminent Department of Labor rule to require retirement advisors to put consumers first. Wall Street brokerages and insurance companies have already launched a fierce lobbying attack, since they've been using loopholes to put themselves first to the tune of an estimated $17 billion/year by pocketing what should be your retirement income.

The Anthem hackers reportedly obtained that mother lode of information on up to 80 million consumers all at once -- including employers, birth dates, social security numbers, medical account numbers, phone numbers, and home and email addresses (but no medical records).

Following their embarrassment a few weeks ago when a vote on Wall Street rollbacks using "name that post office" procedures failed, the good news is that House leaders are taking a hiatus from attacking financial reform directly this week. The bad news: instead, the House plans to move two proposals placing roadblocks in front of any agency -- from FDA and EPA to the CFPB -- seeking to establish public health, safety or financial safeguards. We're on the case.

Banks and debt collectors are leading a phalanx of powerful special interests seeking backdoor action to weaken the consumer protection law that prevent robocalls to your cell phone without your consent. We've joined other consumer and privacy leaders, and senators led by Ed Markey (MA), to stop them.

Emulating the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, London's Financial Conduct Authority has ordered 11 big UK banks, including a Capital One subsidiary, to return "hundreds of millions of pounds" to consumers over "mis-selling" of unnecessary "card security" insurance that duplicates protection by law. In the psat two years, the CFPB has ordered $1.5 billion in refunds to U.S. consumers duped by similar add-on subscription products. The products were sold by a Stamford, CT based "loyalty club" marketer, Affinion, that has been the subject of enforcement actions by a number of U.S. state attorneys general.

Today the President announced support for a variety of privacy protections, most of which are laudable. However, it remains our view that Congressional consideration of a "uniform national breach notification standard" is unnecessary and, worse, will give powerful special interests an opportunity to use the proposal as a Trojan Horse to enact sweeping preemptive limits on state privacy protections.