Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft, and more.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices — everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts — can take time, energy and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans — millions of consumers — have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself. We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources that can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints, and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Begins Payday Regulation Push In Richmond | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined the CFPB in Richmond Thursday for a field hearing on a proposed rule to regulate payday lending and similar high-cost short-term loans. The CFPB's draft rule is comprehensive, covering a variety of loans, but it contains potential loopholes that we and other advocates will urge the bureau to close before it finalizes this important effort. Here's a short blog with some photos from Richmond.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Adds Consumer Stories to Public Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the CFPB took a step to make its excellent public database of consumer complaints even better, by adding complaint narratives (stories), but only with the consumer's consent. It's a step we've long urged. It will enrich our research into the marketplace, help consumers make choices and help good-actor firms avoid bad practices by others.

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Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | 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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News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Transportation

Report: Spirit Is Most Complained-About Airline

Spirit Airlines passengers are most likely to complain about their experience, according to a report released today by the NJPIRG Law & Policy Center. Among major airlines, Spirit generates the most complaints for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, who recently made Trenton, NJ their East Coast hub, and, United Airlines, who recently expanded service to Atlantic City in addition to their major hub of Newark, NJ.

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Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Transportation

The Unfriendly Skies

This report analyzes these consumer complaints about U.S. air carriers for the five year period from 2009-2013, evaluates the effectiveness of new regulations and compares airlines’ performance.
This report tracks trends in tens of thousands of consumer complaints over time, finding how some airlines have improved their rankings and others have worsened. We also compare consumer complaint data with other DOT data that tracks airlines’ on-time performance and baggage handling.

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News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to New Jersey Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection

New Survey Shows Free Checking Widely Available At Small Banks

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 of 10 small banks and credit unions, but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks. The survey released today by the New Jersey 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.

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News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Food

New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by New Jersey PIRG.  Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs.  Here in New Jersey, in the last 21 months 121 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls; the cost of these illnesses to our state's economy was over $5.1 million.

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NJPIRG talks Toy Safety on New Jersey Now (Video)

NJPIRG's Gideon Weissman appeared on New Jersey Now to discuss toy safety tips for the holidays. 

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News Release | NJPIRG Law and Policy Center | Consumer Protection

Survey Finds Toxic or Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to NJPIRG’s 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report 

> Keep Reading

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