Financial Reform

NYT Points Out Overdraft Fees Still A Problem

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

A major article in today's New York Times, "Overdraft Practices Continue to Gut Bank Accounts and Haunt Customers," points out that while 2010 reforms put in place by the pre-CFPB regulators have helped, there's still work to be done to protect consumers from unfair overdraft practices. While years ago banks used "bounced check" fees to deter what was then seen as a negative behavior, more recently they have encouraged overdrafts by offering "standard overdraft protection" as if it is a feature, not a bug. They've made billions.

Digital Data and Consumer Protection: Ensuring a Fair and Equitable Financial Marketplace

Below find links to reports and other work on our Data and Consumer Protection project. Americans face new challenges and opportunities to their financial security as our economy is transformed by the convergence of digital media with “Big Data” technologies. Our use of mobile phones, social media, “apps,” and other online tools have created new ways for us to spend, save and borrow money. Powerful forces are at work, however, that can undermine a consumer’s ability to make the best choices and may place those already financially at risk even more vulnerable.

Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

New Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About Most

Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the Maryland PIRG Foundation. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.

Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Complaints

This report is the first of several that will review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state basis. In this report we explore consumer complaints about bank accounts and services with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their banks.

News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

NEW SURVEY SHOWS FREE CHECKING WIDELY AVAILABLE AT SMALL BANKS BUT BANKS STILL HIDING FEES FROM CONSUMERS

A survey of hundreds of banks and credit unions in 24 states and the District of Columbia found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits). The survey released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

BIG BANKS, BIGGER FEES

Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states. This report, “Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Fees and Disclosure Compliance,” examines the following questions:

 How easy is it for consumers to shop around? Are banks complying with the Truth In Savings Act, which requires disclosure of a schedule of account fees to prospective customers?

 Can consumers still find free or low-cost checking accounts or has free checking ended?

 What can the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulators do to help improve transparency in the financial marketplace?

Big Banks Bigger Fees

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.

Tax Shell Game

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system.

Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. The rise in childhood obesity has many causes, but one of the most important is the increased prevalence of high-fat, heavily sweetened junk food.  And shockingly, American taxpayers are spending billions to subsidize junk food ingredients, making the problem worse.

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