Consumer Action INSIDER - April 2021

What people are saying

Thank you guys so much for providing this [‘COVID-19’s impact on food insecurity’ webinar] training. The presentation was GREAT and I am already thinking of ways to incorporate the new information into parent resources. I look forward to attending trainings in the future! —Kambria Tolbert, MAdEd, Early Head Start family engagement advocate

Did you know?

If you are a homeowner with a mortgage who is experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may have the right to an initial COVID hardship forbearance (a temporary pause in mortgage payments) of up to 180 days. You also may have the right to one or more extensions of that forbearance. However, you must request these options—they’re not automatic! If your loan is backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration (HUD/FHA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the deadline for requesting an initial forbearance is June 30, 2021. If your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is currently no deadline for requesting an initial forbearance. Learn more at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

New campaign shows FinTech users how to be ‘security savvy’

When used wisely, financial technology—FinTech—can provide big benefits. Consumer Action’s new Share Financial Data with Care educational campaign expands public awareness around how financial apps access, collect, store, use and share customers’ personal information. The campaign helps FinTech users make wise choices and protect their data, while still taking advantage of what FinTech has to offer.

Launched on Feb. 23, with funding from The Clearing House (a banking association and payments company), the Consumer Action project includes the following materials and resources online, at no cost:

In its 2019 Consumer Financial Apps and Data Privacy Survey, The Clearing House found that while over half of U.S. banking customers had used at least one FinTech app in the past year, the users lacked general awareness of what data was being collected. For instance, 80% of the users were not entirely aware that their bank account username and password could be stored by the apps or third parties, or how long that data could be accessed.

Most, if not all, FinTech companies place great importance on protecting the privacy and security of their users. However, the companies typically grant themselves great latitude in accessing, storing, using, and sharing users’ data. Furthermore, many of the “terms and conditions” users agree to are designed to limit an app company’s liability in the event of a data breach.

Consumer Action is a proponent of FinTech when used knowledgeably and discerningly. In fact, we have been actively engaged in multiple efforts to introduce FinTech to underserved communities, with the goal of helping low- and moderate-income and limited-English-proficiency (LEP) consumers use the digital tools wisely to improve their financial health (raise their credit standing, save money, buy a home, manage expenses, etc.). Consumer Action is a member of the Financial Solutions Lab Exchange, a marketplace for nonprofit and FinTech providers to collaborate and build partnerships.

Grants from the Financial Solutions Lab Exchange and pioneering financial services companies Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have enabled us to implement financial technology distribution programs; conduct trainings for community-based organizations on the integration of FinTech into existing financial coaching and counseling programs; produce, translate and distribute educational resources (including our FinTech fact sheet and videos); and continue to scale our work in this area. See our latest article (in this INSIDER) on how our FinTech work has helped consumers save thousands during the pandemic.

“The best FinTech apps can be a valuable tool to help users manage their money and achieve their financial goals—consumers just need to be better informed about the access they are giving apps and how to control what personal information is shared,” said Linda Sherry of Consumer Action. “Our goal with this project is to suggest ways to use these apps in a safer manner while preserving the benefits they offer.”

By considering our practical guidance and tips, visitors to the Share Financial Data with Care webpage can prepare themselves to play an active role in protecting their personal and account information.

Millions go hungry during COVID-19

In 2019, 50 million U.S. adults and 12 million children in the U.S. were "food insecure," revealed Dr. Katherine Alaimo, associate professor of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. (This number, which excluded homeless people and those who couldn’t be reached via phone for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual questionnaire, was likely an underestimate.) In defining food insecurity for Consumer Action’s webinar on how the coronavirus has impacted the crisis in the U.S., Dr. Alaimo first outlined its opposite: food security, which is the “reliable access to the food needed to live a healthy, active lifestyle.”

Food insecurity occurs when households must cut back on the quality and/or quantity of food for adult members—and, in more dire circumstances, for children. By many estimates, instances of this dire situation had tripled to 38% of the U.S. population by April 2020 (from 12% during the 2019 count) due to the high unemployment rate after the start of the pandemic, Alaimo explained.

Alaimo was one of three speakers invited to present at the free webinar, produced as part of Consumer Action’s larger COVID-19 Educational Project (which consumers can explore here). Farmer and activist Karen Washington also spoke on the impact of food insecurity on communities and how we can fight back, while Dr. Lisa Jahns, national program leader of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program, spoke on the types of federal food- and nutrition-related grants available to the community-based organizations helping to fight hunger and poverty.

Alaimo noted that millions more people annually experience “hidden food stress,” the concern that food will run out before being able to afford more, and anxiety over the quantity or quality of food (e.g., “Are those apples too rotten to eat, or can we make them stretch longer?”).

The webinar helped answer the widespread question of how those of us who are more secure can help balance inequities. Speakers emphasized that individual charity isn’t necessarily what needs to improve in order to counter food insecurities. Instead, society must tackle the longstanding systemic problems, such as racism, that fuel a history of power imbalances around our food system. One example? The Washington Post recently revealed how George Floyd’s great-great-grandfather had once acquired 500 acres of farmland on which to grow food. As was common for his era, it was seized from him by “white farmers using legally questionable maneuvers that were common in the postwar South.” There has been a dramatic reduction in Black farmers over the last century: In 1920, they represented 17% of all farmers, and in 2019, less than 2%, due to what Alaimo termed “clear discrimination” and land theft by individuals, but also by the Department of Agriculture.

“If I don't leave you with anything else in this presentation, I hope I can leave you with this one fact,” Alaimo said. “Before the pandemic, 78% of food insecure households with children were working; only 7% of food insecure families with children were not working and not disabled. Why do we see this? The major issues are low wages and under-employment. In essence, the main cause of food insecurity is not unemployment, but poverty.” Poverty—caused by unequal pay and workers’ rights; a system that leaves the sick and disabled without sufficient safety nets; land loss due to rampant gentrification; a shamefully low minimum wage (which Congress just refused to raise); monopolies on seeds, farms and farm subsidies; and food “deserts” in under-invested urban or rural areas.

The solution is to fight for more just social and economic environments, as activist and proponent of community gardens and urban farms Karen Washington pointed out, and listen to what the people in the communities you’re serving want. Since the 1980s, this NYC-based activist has marched on City Hall and partnered with housing and labor organizations to fight for green space—and power for downtrodden communities.

“The struggle for good food and clean water brings to the surface the social/economic disparities we often see in communities of color and [among] poor folks, and when we don’t talk about and act on these disparities, it just reinforces a food system that is controlled mainly by a handful of people with power. Food alone has no power, but has become a commodity and a tool used to have power over others,” Washington said.

A healthy food system is not just about growing food, but about making sure all parties along the food chain are treated fairly and humanely, Washington added, stating that now, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s critical to support farm workers, grocery workers and restaurant workers—as these are our essential workers—and to speak up against hazardous working conditions in food facilities and businesses.

“Folks, this is our defining moment as a nation to examine the food system,” Washington concluded.

Lisa Jahns, with the NIFA federal grants program, joined the webinar to outline the Department of Agriculture’s strategic goals, one of which is to supply all Americans with access to a safe and nutritious food supply. In doing so, the agency has millions in grants available for qualified community-based organizations. Jahns outlined the three main types of grants: community food projects, to fight food insecurity and promote self-sufficiency; grants to increase knowledge of agriculture for K-12 school children in underserved rural and urban communities; and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, to encourage households (including SNAP participants) to purchase foods to improve their health.

As Alaimo had pointed out, prior federal food assistance/entitlement programs must be preserved and strengthened (from SNAP to WIC to school meals programs). While business, labor and charitable efforts can help, they can’t take the place of consistent and considerable government aid.

“The average American taxpayer pays nine times more for the military then for SNAP,” Alaimo said. “These are choices that we as a country are making.”

“The value of the minimum wage, if we had kept up with productivity since the 1950s, should be $20 an hour [as opposed to the current $7.25],” Alaimo added “It’s directly tied to food insecurity. You can think about SNAP as the taxpayer subsidizing these companies’ earnings,” she said, leaving webinar listeners even hungrier for justice.

Hotline Chronicles: Sneaky renewal ‘service,’ with poor customer service

Auto-renewal clauses lurk in all kinds of consumer service agreements, from magazine subscriptions to “prime” shopping plans. Often, “free” trial memberships convert to paid subscription services with no warning that the payment cards customers provided at sign-up will be charged. More often, a year later, when the auto-renewal is not foremost in a subscriber’s mind, another charge is made for a new term of service.

We could tell that Zara*, from Long Island, New York, was incensed when she wrote to our hotline in ALL CAPS about a renewal charge to her credit card by 1-800-Flowers for its “Celebrations Passport” membership program.

“They auto renewed a membership that I didn’t authorize,” complained Zara. “I am sure there is fine print hidden somewhere, but they never sent an email reminding me of the upcoming renewal, or even confirming that they renewed it and charged my credit card.” She learned of the charge via an alert she set up with her credit card company to let her know when transactions are made. “If it hadn’t been for the alert, I might not have noticed the charge for some time,” she wrote.

Zara noted that she called the company to cancel and found that there “is only a certain department that can handle cancellations and they have very inconvenient hours. I am upset…they charged my card without even a notice and then they had all these obstacles and hurdles to canceling the membership.”

We advised Zara to contact the New York State attorney general’s office and to let it know that she never received advance notice of an upcoming charge. New York has a law that requires businesses to send a renewal reminder between 30 and 15 days before a service term subject to auto-renewal expires. Reminders must be in writing and alert the customer to the automatic renewal provision, which should give the recipient enough time to cancel if they desire. (An updated New York law that requires companies to provide a web-based opportunity to cancel recently went into effect as well. Learn more here.) To learn more about such laws in your state, search online with the phrase “automatic renewal laws (ARLs)” plus the name of your state.

At the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates aspects of auto-renewal via the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act (ROSCA). It requires companies that automatically charge customers for products or services on a recurring basis to clearly and conspicuously disclose the material terms of the offer, obtain consumers' consent to the offer terms, and provide customers with a simple way to cancel.

While the FTC doesn’t resolve individual complaints, it can be helpful to submit a complaint to the agency to alert it (and other law enforcement agencies) when a company is not following the law. The FTC has filed a slew of cases for violations of ROSCA.

Be aware that most “free trial” offers for digital services and paid apps do result in automatic renewals, which you might not recall ever having agreed to. (That “fine print” that Zara refers to contains many such disclosures that customers rarely view, but that can result in costs when they are ignored.) The FTC has tips for avoiding such traps.

Magazine subscriptions often feature auto-renewal—and many subscribers view this as helpful. We suggest that when you get your first issue of a new magazine subscription, you visit the magazine’s online customer support page using the information from your mailing label to “opt out” of auto-renewal if you don’t want it. (If you acquire a subscription through a third party unrelated to the publisher, you may have to reach out to that company to cancel auto-renewal.)

Consumer advocates have grown increasingly critical of the ways companies steer customers into decisions that might not be in their best interest. Having to speak to a separate department to cancel a subscription, as Zara was made to do, means that many customers simply won’t bother to follow up. Companies know this, and often create “dark patterns” to manipulate customers. Learn more in this WIRED magazine story, “How to Spot—and Avoid—Dark Patterns on the Web.”

Whenever you subscribe to a new service, consider using a credit card rather than a debit card. It can be easier to dispute a charge via your credit card (and get it removed). But before reaching out to your credit card company, try to address the issue with the vendor. If you are ignored, your credit card dispute will carry more weight.

*Not this consumer’s real name

How FinTech has helped consumers save thousands during the pandemic

Consumer Action launched two financial health and technology programs in 2020 with support from Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. The programs included mini-grants for 13 community-based partners across the country to provide financial coaching or counseling, distribute Consumer Action’s financial technology (FinTech) guide, measure financial health, and distribute FinTech applications to individual users for real-world evaluation. All told, Consumer Action helped 352 consumers and nonprofit staffers save nearly $515,000 within a five-month period during the pandemic through the use of FinTech (financial technology) apps and online platforms.

The mini-grantees included Birmingham Urban League; Bon Secours Community Works of Baltimore; Catholic Charities Dallas; Delhi Center of Santa Ana (California); Easter Seals of Greater Houston; Northern Virginia’s Homestretch; Housing and Family Services of Greater New York; Houston Area Urban League; Washington, D.C.’s Latino Economic Development Center; Louisville Urban League; Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation; and Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.

The savings occurred as part of two FinTech distribution programs that Consumer Action conducted with participants between March and December 2020, using a number of leading FinTech providers, including Albert, Digit, Esusu, SaverLife and Self.

“We hope to do more in 2021 to continue our FinTech work and help consumers—including those less fortunate, such as communities of color and other underrepresented consumers who are living through the harshest realities of the pandemic,” said Consumer Action’s director of strategic partnerships, Audrey Perrott.

“Many people did not have buffers, such as emergency savings, to weather the financial storm that resulted from the pandemic, leaving consumers that were already financially vulnerable exposed to additional hardships, such as food insecurity, utility shut-offs, evictions and foreclosure,” Perrott added. “FinTech is critical to helping these populations build or replenish savings, build or maintain credit, and essentially reboot their financial lives.”

By the numbers

Consumer Action helped 321 consumers use a FinTech tool to create a budget. Tools included Albert’s Genius (a personalized, interactive online financial planning and accounting tool), EveryDollar (a monthly budgeting tool) and Mint (a customized money management/tracking service by Intuit).

Consumer Action helped over 200 consumers improve their credit. The online tools used to monitor credit scores included CreditWise’s free credit monitoring service, Esusu’s savings and credit building platform, and Self’s credit building accounts. Consumers using Esusu saw an average increase in their credit scores of 27 points, while the average increase for consumers using the other tools was 43 points.

Other consumers used: Fresh EBT to manage their EBT (food stamp) benefits online; estate planning app Tomorrow to create a free will; and WiseWage to obtain a fee-free FDIC-insured bank account. As consumers developed confidence in using the technology, many also began to use online banking apps and other non-project-related FinTech tools.

Consumer Action trained 1,121 community-based organization and community college staff members, consumers, entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, students, and other stakeholders on financial health measurement, technology and inclusion at a series of in-person and virtual events.

Other Consumer Action FinTech program activities included updating our fintech guide and translating it into Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean; developing FinTech educational videos based on the guide in three languages; and tracking the outcomes of those consumers who used the provided FinTech tools over a six-month period.

Making FinTech count for every consumer

FinTech program participants were selected from Consumer Action affiliates’ client programs (which provide credit, housing/transitional housing and/or workforce development counseling, financial coaching, disability and assistive technology services, immigrant services and more). All of the participating agencies serve low-to-moderate-income consumers who are also “income vulnerable” (defined as being at greater risk of falling into poverty or experiencing a greater level of poverty).

Consumer Action used a human-centered approach to select a suite of FinTech apps/tools for the participants at each site, based on the common financial needs identified by the participants. Each participating affiliate distributed the apps or tools to its clients and staff, collected survey data using the Financial Health Network’s FinHealth Score® Toolkit Survey and collected the resulting savings and credit data.

As a member of the Financial Solutions Lab Exchange (a marketplace for nonprofit and FinTech providers to collaborate and build high-impact partnerships), Consumer Action has gained from the opportunity to learn and share best practices for measuring financial health and deploying FinTech solutions to help consumers improve their financial capability.

FinTech can allow consumers to perform financial management tasks quickly using a smartphone, tablet or computer. However, consumers must exercise care, review user agreements, develop strong passwords and review privacy policies. Visit our newest project on how to Share Financial Data with Care here.

If you are interested in supporting our FinTech innovation work and financial capability programs, please contact Consumer Action’s executive director, Ken McEldowney, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or Audrey Perrott at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Coalition Efforts: From deceptive student recruiting to retirement disclosures

Government agencies must do more to prevent mass homelessness during the pandemic. Over 11 million families are currently at risk of losing housing during the pandemic. Protection from evictions and foreclosures is greatly needed due to the ongoing economic crisis and the devastating loss of jobs and household incomes. Consumer Action joined advocates in a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to work together to prohibit unfair debt collections and to ensure financial and regulatory agencies conform to industry standards in offering forbearance (pauses in mortgage payments) to homeowners. Without these additional protections, many will lose their homes and be forced to transition (including to the streets and crowded shelters) at a time when COVID-19 levels are still extremely high and vaccination access for many is months away (leading to a risk of even greater infection rates). Learn more.

Closing the 90/10 loophole to protect students amidst the pandemic. On March 4, 36 organizations wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in support of closing the “90/10 loophole” in veteran education benefits through the American Rescue Plan of 2021. (We succeeded; it happened later that month, with the passage of the massive bill!) The 90/10 rule requires for-profit colleges to demonstrate that they generate at least 10% of revenue from sources other than federal student financial aid. (The intent of the rule is to ensure that no school relies 100% on federal funding.) A loophole, however, had allowed colleges to designate GI Bill funding for servicemembers and veterans as private rather than federal aid. The loophole led to well-documented aggressive and deceptive recruiting tactics directed at veterans and servicemembers. Closing this loophole will allow for the accounting of all taxpayer dollars that flow to for-profit colleges, and the ability to identify high-risk colleges that are overly dependent on federal subsidies. Learn more.

Choice of retirement plan disclosure notice still important for workers, retirees. Consumer Action joined coalition members in urging the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to address the severe shortcomings in the department’s recently adopted “notice-and-access” rule. Until the changes last May, the default had been for retirement plan administrators to deliver retirement plan disclosures on paper, sent through the mail. Under the new rule, retirement plans will be allowed merely to send an email or text message to a consumer letting them know that a disclosure is available on a website. Signers say the new rule’s default makes no provision for the sizeable proportion of individuals who still don’t have access to computers or internet service, and makes it much harder for ordinary Americans to access the documents they need to plan for retirement. Learn more.

Expanding access to homeownership for consumers with limited English proficiency. One in five U.S. residents speaks a language other than English at home, yet the financial services market still caters primarily to fluent English speakers. In a letter to Congress, coalition members wrote in support of the LEP (limited English proficiency) Data Acquisition in Mortgage Lending Act and the (as of now unnamed) “bill to promote language access in mortgage servicing.” LEP borrowers face many challenges that impede their full participation in the consumer marketplace, including, and especially, their ability to obtain and preserve ownership of a home. Together, these bills will make important strides in improving both access to the mortgage market for LEP borrowers, and awareness of the availability of assistance for LEP homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, which is especially critical during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.

CFPB Watch: Immigrant abuse, stimulus protection and housing help

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Massachusetts, New York and Virginia attorneys general jointly sued Libre, a Nexus Services company, for using a bond scheme to prey on immigrants seeking release from detention centers while awaiting their immigration hearings.

According to the lawsuit, Latino immigrants—who spoke little-to-no English—were allegedly pressured into signing a contract to pay a non-refundable up-front fee of more than 20% of their immigration bond and a $420 monthly GPS tracking fee that they were misled into believing included the costs to pay off their immigration bond. The suit says Libre described its services as “an easy and affordable alternative method of securing the detainee’s release.” (Libre’s 20-page contracts are written almost completely in English.)

Libre is also accused of threatening immigrants with detention or deportation if they did not pay its fees. Since immigration cases can take years for a determination, immigrants can end up paying more to Libre than they would for the refundable immigration bond, the lawsuit argues.

“Stopping these kinds of cash-grab schemes is part of the Bureau’s commitment to addressing racial injustice in the market,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio.

The Bureau and the attorneys general are asking the court to prevent Libre from “engaging in deceptive and unlawful conduct” in the future, and to make the company pay monetary relief to consumers.

Libre has publicly denied the charges and stated it plans to vigorously defend itself.

Complaints climb with skeleton staff

Given that complaint handling is a critical function of the CFPB, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which oversees the CFPB, raised concerns in its recent report over the volume of consumer complaints that the Bureau has struggled to address under a significantly reduced complaint-handling staff.

As we’ve reported, the Bureau received almost 54% more complaints in 2020 than in 2019. That's almost 200,000 more complaints last year, with nearly half the staff to handle them! Former CFPB director Kathy Kraninger (and her predecessor, Mick Mulvaney) cut complaint staff positions during their tenure. Meanwhile, as the pandemic continued, consumers complained in record numbers, primarily about credit reporting errors and mortgage problems.

The complaints staff acknowledged the challenges, but responded that they continue to keep up with the high volume and respond to consumers in a timely manner…for now.

Recover your COVID relief funds

You may recently have received “stimulus” money (an economic impact payment, or EIP) from the government to help reduce the financial burdens from COVID. However, if you didn’t receive the full relief payment because your bank account was overdrawn and your bank withheld some or all of the money, the CFPB recommends that you contact the bank and request access to all the funds due to you. Some banks and credit unions have been forgiving recent overdraft charges; many more are providing a temporary credit. If you’re given a credit, ask when the balance has to be repaid—and how to avoid another overdraft fee if you won’t have enough money in the account to repay it at that time. You can use the IRS’s Get My Payment tool to check the status of your EIP.

Housing help

Even with pandemic relief payments and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, new research from the CFPB reveals that more than 11 million people are at risk of losing their homes—and nearly 10% of renters may be evicted in the next two months—due to ongoing pandemic-induced hardships. Fortunately, the national eviction ban was just extended through June 30.

From videos on mortgage relief, to information on housing counseling help (and bans on lump sum mortgage and rental back payments), to links explaining emergency rental and utility assistance, the Bureau has been creating and compiling a plethora of resources to help you take action to protect yourself and your home. In many cases, the information is available in six (or more) languages. Check it out!

Class Action Database: Epic Games loses to in-game loot boxes

A class action settlement involving Safeway’s employee background check practices was among seven new settlements added to the Consumer Action Class Action Database during March.

Of note this month is the class action Zanca v. Epic Games, Inc. The action against online video game provider Epic Games alleged that Epic deceptively marketed and sold “loot boxes” and other in-app items.

Epic allows consumers to download and play the popular (especially among children and teens) games Fortnite and Rocket League for free, but the nature of the games incentivizes purchases of the so-called loot boxes, which contain items that allow players to progress further in the games. Epic sold the loot boxes without revealing the contents, and failed to disclose the odds of receiving rare items in the loot boxes. Plaintiffs claim that if they had known the unlikelihood of receiving rare items in the loot boxes, they would not have purchased them. (In 2019, Epic started revealing the contents of the loot boxes before players made purchases.)

Epic’s policy stated that all in-app purchases were final and nonrefundable. Plaintiffs alleged, however, that Epic withheld the fact that minors have a right to get a refund under state laws. One of the child plaintiffs, for example, wanted to cancel his in-app purchases but did not receive a refund.

Epic denied the allegations but agreed to a $26 million settlement to end the lawsuit.

You are part of the class if, between July 1, 2015, and Feb. 25, 2021, you paid for one or more virtual currencies or in-game benefits for use in Fortnite or Rocket League.

Epic will automatically add 1,000 V-Bucks (an in-game currency) or credits to each account that purchased a loot box. Class members who submit a valid claim form may be eligible for cash or additional V-Bucks/credits.

Class members who were legal minors at the time of the real money purchase of virtual currency or in-game items, and purchased them without parental/guardian permission, may be eligible to file a minor’s contract cancellation claim and receive a refund. (Contracts entered into by persons under 18 are typically considered void.) Claimants must disclose all of the Epic Games accounts that they opened as a minor, and Epic will close the accounts. If the class member is still a minor, their parents or guardians must complete the minor cancellation (aka “disaffirmation”) claim form.

The claims deadline is April 26, 2021.

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 in both 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, while its hotline provides non-legal advice and referrals. At Consumer-Action.org, visitors have instant access to important consumer news, downloadable materials, an online “help desk,” the Take Action advocacy database, and more. Consumer Action also publishes unbiased surveys of financial and consumer services that expose excessive prices and anti-consumer practices to help consumers make informed buying choices and elicit change from big business. 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 6,000 community-based organizations. Outreach services include in-person and web-based training and bulk mailings 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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