Coalition Efforts

Consumer Action is working on these important issues along with other organizations. If you would like to know more about these issues, please see "More Information" at the end of each article.
 
 

Postings

Last-ditch effort to prevent auto lending discrimination fails
Consumer Action and its allies wrote to Congress on April 16 to plead that it not interfere with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to prevent auto loan discrimination. The Bureau’s “guidance” to car lenders sought to end a common discriminatory practice to charge some borrowers more in interest and fees, regardless of their creditworthiness (“dealer mark-ups”). Even though these discriminatory violations still occur, the Senate on April 18 moved to eliminate the 2013 guidance document, allowing the practice to continue. These discretionary auto dealer mark-ups result, in some cases, in African Americans and Latinos paying more than similarly situated white borrowers.

Google and YouTube are invading children’s privacy
Consumer Action joined 23 consumer and privacy groups in taking a major step to protect children’s privacy by filing a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint detailing how Google is collecting personal data from children on YouTube without parental consent. The coalition asked the FTC to hold Google accountable for violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The groups charge that the company collected and profited from the data of millions of children without parental permission.

Facebook’s facial recognition violates consumers’ privacy
Consumer Action joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other consumer and privacy advocates in filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding Facebook’s use of facial recognition software. The Facebook feature identifies people uploaded in users’ photos by suggesting the names of “friends” it recognizes. This practice of scanning and collecting biometric facial matches is deceptive and ignores the explicit privacy preferences of many Facebook users.

Transparency lacking in California arbitration proceedings
More than 30 national and California-based consumer, labor and civil rights organizations—including Consumer Action—wrote to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on March 21 urging him to investigate private arbitration firms for violating state law. California requires these firms to periodically disclose basic information about claims they’ve heard so as to inform the public. The 2003 law requires that firms name the corporations and firms involved in the proceeding, the nature of the dispute, and whether the consumer or non-consumer party prevailed, among other information.

Personal data of 50M Facebook users wrongly harvested for use in 2016 election
Consumer and privacy advocates expressed outrage at the news that Facebook shared the personal user information of 50 million with a data-mining firm that later when on to work for President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Consumer Action joined privacy and consumer advocates in a March 20 letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the social media giant may have violated a landmark privacy consent decree from 2011, stating that it would not change access to Facebook users’ data without users’ consent.

Advocates alarmed as HUD considers dropping key mission
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), responsible for stopping housing discrimination, proposed new language in its mission statement that seemed to encourage consumer “self-sufficiency” over strict enforcement. The move alarmed civil rights, consumer, and fair housing advocates, who worry that the government agency expressly responsible for combating housing discrimination would deemphasize the importance of its mandate under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The groups joined in a March 8 letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking him to correct this “unfortunate impression.” (It’s been reported that Carson subsequently responded in a HUD memo, saying: “The notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense.”)

10 years after Great Recession, Senate considers Dodd-Frank rollbacks
Crapo (R-ID) introduced a bill that takes aim at Dodd-Frank Act protections for consumers and the ability to monitor big banks to prevent another financial meltdown. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S 2155) would put consumers at greater risk of predatory lending and weaken other important safeguards passed since the last crisis. Consumer Action joined advocates in a March 8 letter asked that the legislation be given full floor consideration as a separate bill and an open amendment process.

Stringent safety requirements needed before driverless cars hit the road
In a March 5 letter to Senate leadership, coalition advocates conveyed strong objections to the lack of safety protections in proposed driverless car legislation and urged Senate leaders to make essential improvements to the AV START Act (S.1885). The groups warned that prioritizing the protection of private investments in unproven technologies instead of protecting public safety could have dangerous consequences, and there are numerous critical concerns regarding the rushed deployment of driverless cars. (Last week the earlier warning took on new urgency when an automated Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in Arizona.)

PROSPER Act puts for-profit schools’ interests ahead of students and taxpayers
In a Feb. 23 letter to Congress, Consumer Action and its allies working for fairness for student borrowers reiterated support for higher-education safeguards, including the gainful employment rule to ensure for-profit schools actually prepare students for real jobs; the borrower defense rule to protect student borrowers when their schools go bust; the 90-10 rule limiting the number of students using the GI Bill at specific schools; and the ban on incentive compensation, commissions for-profit school recruiters who often cross ethical lines when signing up students. These four commonsense regulatory measures—which Consumer Action supports and has written much about—should be present in any bill that targets higher education in the future. However, the groups note in their letter that the PROSPER Act (HR 4508) seeks to weaken or gut these protections, leaving students and taxpayers susceptible to for-profit school fraud.

Bill would block competition and choice in the contact lens market in Kentucky
Consumer Action joined the National Taxpayers Union in a letter to members of the Kentucky State Senate opposing legislation (HB 191) that would restrict the right of state residents to renew contact lens or glasses prescriptions online.

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