Consumer Action INSIDER - June 2015

Table of Contents

What people are saying

Your 2014 National Consumer Empowerment Conference was excellent. It provided a wealth of information that can be used in the work we do with our community members. The networking opportunities, with both the attendees and the presenters, were extremely beneficial. — Betty Habershon, Community Financial Center of Prince George's Community College, MD

Did you know?

You can check if a charity or non-profit organization is trustworthy before you make a donation. Often, illegitimate charities take names that are similar to those of legitimate charities. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general filed suit against bogus “look alike” cancer charities, charging that they scammed donors out of $187 million. To learn how you can vet charities and non-profits before giving, read the FTC’s Before Giving to a Charity.

Consumer Action is now mobile-friendly

If you’ve checked out the Consumer Action website on your smartphone in the past, you probably noticed it didn’t display too well on a mobile device. Recently we made changes to the site to make it more mobile-friendly.

When web design is mobile-friendly (also known as responsive), the device on which you’re viewing the site automatically adjusts the view according to your screen—whether it’s a desktop computer, a laptop or a smartphone screen.

Consumer Action’s new design makes it easier to navigate the site on your smartphone. Main section links are found under the green “hamburger” (three stacked lines) icon in the top right corner. After you click this menu icon, a submenu automatically displays vertically, enabling you to select the page you want.

Our consumer advice and referral complaint form has always been a popular destination for visitors. With the responsive design in place, one can easily fill in complaint information—even on a smartphone.

Frequent visitors might ask what happened to the right-hand sidebar links. On a small screen they are now found below the main content—just scroll down the page to access them.

We hope we’re meeting our goal of offering helpful resources regardless of what device you use to view our site. You can let us know how we’re doing by clicking here.

Award-winning film: Destroying your right to sue

“Lost in the Fine Print,” the short documentary on forced arbitration that Consumer Action wrote about in January’s INSIDER, had its Los Angeles premiere on May 7 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Consumer Action co-sponsored the screening, along with Consumer Attorneys of California, Consumer Watchdog, the California Employment Lawyers Association and the Los Angeles Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society.

The non-profit advocacy group Alliance for Justice (AFJ) created Lost in the Fine Print as part of its campaign to educate the public about forced arbitration. AFJ explains that activists can use the film as a tool to demystify arbitration and to galvanize others to take action.

At the Los Angeles screening, AFJ's president and founder Nan Aron facilitated the evening's program and panel discussion. Panelists included Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of the School of Law of the University of California at Irvine; Ronald Goldman, attorney and senior partner of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC; and Michael Bidart, attorney and senior partner of Shernoff, Bidart, Echeverria Bentley LLP.

The film focuses on forced arbitration clauses, also known as “pre-dispute binding mandatory arbitration” or “pre-dispute arbitration” clauses. This legalese is found in virtually all types of consumer contracts, including in cable and video service contracts from Time Warner and Comcast; in online services’ terms of use agreements, from providers like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify; in contracts with health insurance companies and medical providers; and in employment contracts. Click here to view AFJ's list of major companies that include arbitration clauses.

When a consumer wants to receive a particular service—or wants a job—from a company requiring dispute resolution through binding arbitration, he or she has little choice but to comply with the non-negotiable terms. With a signature or often a mere “click” on a web page, a consumer agrees to resolve any legal disputes through private arbitration instead of in the courts.

“Lost in the Fine Print” describes how the odds are stacked in favor of the company and against the consumer in binding arbitration. The film even highlights a study showing that arbitrators rule in favor of the company 94 percent of the time!

Panelist Goldman explained that there is no right of appeal in arbitration, even if the arbitrator gets the facts or the law wrong. In his article The Largest Heist In History, Goldman discusses this and several other anti-consumer aspects of forced arbitration and looks at the significance of American Express v. Italian Colors, the Supreme Court case featured in “Lost in the Fine Print.”

Professor Chemerinsky explained that binding mandatory arbitration clauses, when they are part of an agreement between corporations, are voluntary. However, when the agreement is between a consumer and, for example, a cell phone service provider, the agreement is rarely voluntary. Despite this, Chemerinsky emphasized, the current Supreme Court has ruled that these clauses are enforceable. Mr. Chemerinsky's opinion piece Big Business Unfairly Favored by Justices discusses recent Supreme Court decisions limiting class-action suits, including American Express v. Italian Colors. Of note is the fact that arbitration clauses often bar customers from joining class-action lawsuits, not just individual lawsuits.

Despite the bad news, panelists and audience members at the film screening expressed some hope—or seemed to at least consider it a possibility—that a future Supreme Court may be more consumer-friendly. Speakers talked about how the next U.S. president, especially if in office for two terms, may have the opportunity to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices to replace those retiring in the coming years.

Other sources of possible consumer relief were discussed as well. These include the newly reintroduced Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015 (introduced by Sen. Al Franken and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson) and the Court Legal Access and Student Support (CLASS) Act of 2015 (introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Dick Durbin). Both bills are pro-consumer.

During his remarks at the AFJ film screening, attorney and panelist Bidart described how his firm uses the law to fight arbitration clauses. Bidart, who leads his firm's health maintenance organization (HMO) litigation work, explained that under California law, HMO plans must alert subscribers to the existence of arbitration clauses in their contracts. Bidart said, surprisingly, that not all HMOs have gotten the disclosure requirements right. In cases where the HMO has failed to technically comply with California's disclosure requirements, his firm has helped clients avoid arbitration so that they can purse their claims in court.

In March of this year the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) completed a study on the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in consumer financial markets. The study found that these arbitration agreements restrict consumer relief by limiting class actions. The CFPB has the authority to issue regulations to prohibit or limit arbitration agreements if, based on such a study, this action would further the public interest and protect consumers.

AFJ’s Aron said she has urged the Bureau to prohibit forced arbitration and asked all Americans to join in petitioning the CFPB to enact the ban. She also mentioned AFJ’s efforts to convince Spotify to drop its forced arbitration clause with a social media campaign and petition.

If the General Mills case featured in “Lost in the Fine Print” serves as an example, with enough consumer outrage there’s a chance that targeted companies will drop their arbitration clauses. Under General Mills' old arbitration terms, simply "liking" the company on its Facebook page meant that the consumer had supposedly agreed to forced arbitration. After the backlash, the company was forced to drop its consumer unfriendly policy.

Consumer Action will continue to monitor developments related to forced arbitration and will keep our community partners informed of opportunities for involvement. We encourage readers to watch and share Lost in the Fine Print, which is available for free online.

Hotline Chronicles: Rent to (never) own? A leasing nightmare

Molly* from Issaquah, WA submitted a list of grievances to Consumer Action’s hotline about Why Not Lease It (WNLI), a financing option offered through retailers, including Sears, Kmart, Jennifer Convertibles, Discount Mattress and Ashley Furniture.

Molly took issue with what she called the “company’s chief incentive”—its promise to report lease payments (after six on-time payments) to the TransUnion credit bureau in order to help users build credit.

After five months of making payments, consumers can pay off the remaining balance and own the product, or extend the installment payments for 13 more months to own the item. (Some consumers who choose the extended payment plan are promised that the payments will be reported to TransUnion and help them build a credit history.) The WNLI lease agreement states: “We own the property. You have no ownership rights until you comply fully with the ownership provisions in the agreement.”

“They told me that once I enrolled, all lease payments after the sixth one will thereafter be reported to TransUnion,” said Molly. “Seven months later nothing was reported to TransUnion. Moreover I was told the program is not available and the representative offered no explanation.”

She was told that by immediately paying the remaining balance on her merchandise (“early buyout”), the account would be noted as paid in full with TransUnion. She paid in full last November, but nothing had been added to her TransUnion credit file by late April. “I was assured by a WNLI rep that the matter would be investigated and I would receive a follow-up call. Instead, I received an email with directions to contact TransUnion,” said Molly.

We advised Molly to complain to the Washington attorney general and to the Federal Trade Commission.

Molly is not the only one complaining about WNLI. Online complaint boards feature laments like this one from a New Hampshire consumer: “The buyout price only goes down by like $2 per month. And if you go to the end of the lease they make you return the product even after you have made payments that total three times the cost of the product.”

While the company says it is not a “rent-to-own” concern, it sounds very much like one. For years Consumer Action and other consumer advocacy organizations have advised consumers to avoid rent-to-own companies, which grossly inflate the cost of goods via installment payments.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received 462 complaints about WNLI in the last three years, with 248 handled in last 12 months alone. According to the BBB website: “Specifically, customer complaints allege that the company is inconsistent in its billing practices and that it has, without consent, changed payment dates and the amounts due as stated in the original lease agreement. In addition to the billing practices, there is a consistent pattern of confusion regarding this company's contracts. Consumers allege they were never informed of the necessary steps to proceed with the buyouts and of the payments process in general.”

The BBB recommends that consumers “always read a company’s terms and conditions before rendering the company's product or service.”

“I’d go further and recommend that people avoid this program altogether,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action. “Save the money in advance for merchandise you want, or use a low interest rate credit card and pay it off quickly to limit the interest you pay. Leasing and rent-to-own programs are a waste of money.”

*Not this consumer's real name.

Fraudulent for-profit colleges in hot water

Things keep getting worse for the for-profit education complex as news of industry-wide government investigations, school closures and sell-offs continues to splash across headlines. Just last month, Education Management Corporation, owner of the for-profit Art Institutes schools, announced it will be closing 15 campuses around the country over the next two years. This means that close to 15,000 students will be dumped from their classes.

Also last month, Corinthian Colleges filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed their 28 remaining campuses, leaving 16,000 students deeply in debt with incomplete or worthless degrees. The news came a month after the U.S. Department of Education (ED) fined Corinthian $30 million for defrauding students by falsifying post-graduation job-placement rates.

Consumer Action has worked in tandem with student advocacy groups around the country to urge the government and the ED to implement regulatory measures to end the cycle of deception and corruption that leave so many for-profit college students with worthless degrees and mountains of debt.

In light of the Corinthian College campus closings, Consumer Action joined 50 organizations in signing a petition asking the Department to wipe out Corinthian students’ federal education debt. The petition, circulated by the National Consumer Law Center, lays out a blueprint for providing widespread relief to Corinthian students and other borrowers harmed by other for-profit schools and asks that the DE protect future students and taxpayers by taking more aggressive action to crack down on schools that violate state or federal laws.

In addition, Consumer Action joined coalition advocates in providing the ED with a list of next steps that the agency should take in order to provide adequate assistance to the Corinthian students that were impacted by the company’s shutdown. The coalition recommends the agency provide accurate and clear information on the choices that enrolled students have moving forward and expand access to borrower assistance at the department.

The future of the for-profit college industry is still up in the air. But it’s clearer that intensified oversight by attorneys general in nine states where investigations have been launched and the ED’s pending gainful employment proposal to ensure that students are prepared for real careers should lead to some positive change for students. Meanwhile, Consumer Action will remain committed to working with Congress and relevant government agencies to ensure students are protected from unscrupulous educational institutions that recruit attendees using deceptive, aggressive and manipulative tactics.

Coalition Efforts: Protecting troops, homebuyers, students and more

Here are some of our recent Coalition Efforts.

Opposition to bill delaying issuer liability under new mortgage rules. Last month, coalition advocates wrote to the House of Representatives asking it to oppose HR 2213, a bill which would temporarily suspend liability through the end of 2015 for lenders who fail to provide new mandatory disclosures to help consumers better understand costs and terms when buying a home or refinancing their mortgage. (Click here to learn more about the disclosures.) The groups argued that homeowners who fail to receive mortgage cost disclosures during that period would have no legal recourse. Learn more and read the letter.

Amendment to delay financial protection for servicemembers. In May, Consumer Action and coalition advocates wrote to the House Committee on Rules asking members to oppose an amendment that would delay new rules to protect troops from payday lenders. (The Department of Defense proposed the rules to close loopholes in the Military Lending Act so that the law would cover payday and other lenders that offer abusive loans specifically designed to evade current troop protections.) Learn more and read the letter.

Help for Corinthian students who were misled. After Corinthian Colleges announced that it was closing its 28 campuses and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Consumer Action joined coalition advocates last month in asking the U.S. Department of Education to provide students enrolled at the time with the information and resources they need to make an informed decision about transferring their credits or filing for a closed school discharge. Learn more and read the letter.

Operation Choke Point protects consumers from fraud. In April, Consumer Action joined coalition advocates in letters to the House and Senate urging legislators to uphold the Department of Justice’s Operation Choke Point and to oppose any legislation that tries to restrict its authority. Choke Point is focused on regulating banks and other third-party payment processors that support or allow fraudulent activity. Advocates say that weakening Choke Point would make consumers more susceptible to data breaches, terrorism threats, scammers and Internet fraud. Learn more and read the letters.

Time to improve an outdated education data collection system. In April, Consumer Action joined the Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData) in answering a call from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for input on Higher Education Act reauthorization. The coalition expressed support for an upgraded federal student data system to help improve postsecondary opportunities for students in their communities, shrink opportunity and achievement gaps and improve college financial aid programs. Learn more and read the letter.

Holding for-profit schools accountable. New gainful employment rules taking effect later this year were created to make sure that for-profit schools demonstrate that their programs actually train graduates to earn a living. Consumer Action joined a coalition of 45 organizations in opposing the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act (HR 970, S 559), which seeks to repeal gainful employment rules. Advocates also objected to provisions that would give for-profit institutions access to billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded student aid without adequate oversight. Learn more and read the letter.

Consumer Action hosts community financial inclusion trainings

Consumer Action hosted two financial inclusion trainings using the Checking and Savings Accounts: A wise choice educational module developed with a grant from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. The module is designed to help unbanked and underbanked consumers learn how to use mainstream financial products and avoid high-cost or alternative financial services.

Consumer Action trainers Linda Williams and Nelson Santiago traveled the country to educate 37 staff and volunteers from community-based organizations in Los Angeles and 43 in Philadelphia on consumer protections and resources related to mainstream and alternative financial services. The training in Philadelphia was co-hosted by Clarifi, a consumer credit counseling service.

The trainers opened with a video on overdraft fees. In it, consumers were asked if they had ever overdrawn their bank account. Quite a few had. After the video, Williams had the participants at each of the individual tables introduce themselves, explain why they were attending the training and describe what they hoped to learn. Philadelphia participant Tiffany Spraggins-Payne excitedly proclaimed: “I am at a table where organic collaboration is already beginning to happen!”

After that, participants went on to the first session of the morning, which covered financial inclusion for underserved consumers. Williams and Santiago had participants break into groups and take a “How Much Do You Know?” quiz. The fun, competitive quiz broke the ice and gauged how much the participants already knew about the subject. The Consumer Action team gave financial education games and budget kits to the winning tables.

Santiago then led a discussion on the differences between mainstream and alternative financial products and services, during which he explored the advantages and disadvantages of large banks, small banks, community banks, online banks, credit unions and alternative financial services providers and products (e.g., check cashing centers, bill pay services, money orders, remittances and prepaid cards). He provided participants with a reference/resource sheet that included geographic-specific information—for example, links to a community bank locator tool, a high-interest checking account locator tool and a tool for comparing money order fees.

When he spoke about sending money overseas (international remittances), Santiago recommended several tools, including Consumer Action's recently updated How to Send Money Home brochure and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's remittance fact sheet.

During the discussion of alternative financial services, Santiago focused on transaction-based alternative products and services, including check-cashing services, money orders, bill payment services, remittances and prepaid cards.

Williams covered credit-based alternative products, such as payday loans, auto title loans and refund anticipation loans. She then led a segment on online banking, discussing the benefits and risks of online banking. Some of the benefits are speed, lower fees and accessibility. She also addressed the risks of using online banking and provided several tips to protect consumers: Create strong passwords, don’t use the same password for all accounts, never conduct online banking transactions on public Wi-Fi, and remember to log out completely after transactions.

Williams showed a mobile banking simulation video that explained how consumers are able to use smartphones to search for a bank and conduct various transactions. Williams stressed that this has become particularly relevant as millennials have moved away from in-person banking to online and mobile banking.

During the segment introducing the Checking and Savings Accounts: A wise choice module, Santiago discussed the benefits of having checking and saving accounts, how to open an account and how to manage accounts to keep fees down. He discussed the disadvantages of using alternative financial services, which can be time-consuming, risky and expensive. He discussed the advantages of bank accounts, including lower fees and earned interest.

Los Angeles participant Dwayne Boddie commented, "With Consumer Action leading the way, our communities will become more aware of their banking options."

There was a check-writing exercise and checkbook register activity that was enlarged to poster size so that participants could work in teams and compete for prizes. Santiago demonstrated an inexpensive way to take an activity from the lesson plan and make it more interactive.

Towards the end of the training, Williams directed the participants to visit the Consumer Action website for additional games and activities to use in workshops, and to download the How to Complain booklet, an invaluable tool for learning how to effectively file a consumer complaint and get results.

The activities also provided the trainers an opportunity to feature several additional Consumer Action publications, including: the Prepaid Cards educational module, an Employee’s Guide to Payroll Cards, the Digital Dollars educational module, and brochures from the MoneyWi$e series. Participants were given the opportunity to order multilingual materials and receive expedited shipping.

Participants expressed their gratitude to staff for the training content, free training materials, lunch, and travel stipends that helped to offset the costs associated with attending.

As Los Angeles participant Mikeyonna Dedmon remarked, “Consumer Action always provides well-organized, well-presented and informative information. I look forward to continuing to attend their workshops.”

Philadelphia participant Kevin Feaganes had this to say: “A wonderful event. Everything was done correctly.”

Bill offers fix for California’s high poverty rate

President Obama recently called economic inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” California embodies this challenge as one of the country’s most vivid examples of economic disparity, with pockets of extreme wealth and poverty scattered across the state.

According to the Census Bureau, California has the highest poverty rate in the country at over 23 percent. This amounts to nine million people. Ten of the 18 least-affordable rental markets in the country are in California. To make things worse, sales taxes (the most regressive element of a state tax system) have reached 10 percent in some California cities.

Consumer Action’s California legislative representative Joe Ridout says, “For a state that loves to pat itself on the back as a leader in technological innovation and economic growth, this is downright embarrassing.”

Ridout noted that there is at least some good news: The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been one of the most effective government programs to reduce economic inequality since its enactment in 1975. Each year, it lifts about 1.3 million Californians out of poverty by reducing their income tax burden. And each EITC dollar received by a tax filer generates a further $1.50 to $2 dollars in local economic activity. “In other words, the EITC acts as a stimulus that helps businesses, not just the direct recipients of the credit,” said Ridout.

In addition to the federal EITC, states can choose to implement a statewide EITC as well. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have done so and have been rewarded with further economic benefits.

“Unfortunately, California has not yet developed a corresponding state EITC,” notes Ridout. “The moment to do so is now.” To push the effort, Consumer Action supports a new EITC bill (AB 43) introduced by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) that would provide a state EITC credit in addition to the federal EITC.

Since the end of the Great Recession, income has stagnated for the bottom three-fifths of earners, while the top one-fifth has experienced gains of over 50 percent. “AB 43 would finally bring the powerful, poverty-fighting EITC to the state level, effectively mitigating much of this economic disparity,” says Ridout. “And it would help California repair its shameful reputation as the state with the most economic disparity.”

Click here to read Consumer Action's publication about the federal EITC, Get Credit for Your Hard Work.

CFPB Watch: PayPal Credit revoked and ‘cramming’ costs cell phone carriers

In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a settlement with PayPal claiming that they had illegally enrolled consumers in an online credit plan, PayPal Credit (formerly Bill Me Later), and failed to resolve problems when consumers complained.

According to the CFPB, many consumers were trying to obtain a regular PayPal account or make a purchase online, but were signed up instead for PayPal Credit without their permission. According to the Bureau, even when consumers wanted to use another payment method, PayPal automatically enrolled them in PayPal Credit and made it the consumer’s default payment method.

In many cases, consumers missed payments because they didn’t know they had a PayPal Credit account and only learned of the credit account once debt collection calls began.

The CFPB also alleges that PayPal mishandled consumer billing disputes by not processing payments, double billing, not resolving errors and failing to remove late fees and interest.

PayPal has agreed to refund $15 million to customers who were unexpectedly enrolled in their credit program and charged penalty fees and interest. The online payments company will also improve its disclosures and pay a $10 million fine to the CFPB. Read more about this action.

‘Cramming’ refunds. Consumers will receive $120 million in refunds from Sprint and Verizon for illegal third-party charges. According to the complaint, consumers who clicked on ads for “free” ringtones and horoscopes were then charged repeatedly, often for months, without consent. The CFPB says the phone carriers permitted third-party merchants to cram charges ranging from a one-time 99¢ to $14.99 monthly subscriptions on wireless bills and ignored customer complaints.

According to the CFPB, Sprint and Verizon processed hundreds of millions of dollars in third-party payments and pocketed 30-40 percent of the unauthorized fees.

Verizon and Sprint do allow customers to block third-party billing. But rather than requiring customers to choose (opt-in) to allow third-party charges, the companies automatically allow the charges and require customers to request a block.

The CFPB reached a settlement with both phone companies requiring them to issue refunds, obtain informed consumer consent before applying third-party charges and improve dispute resolution by proving they have a consumer’s permission to bill for third-party charges.

Verizon customers can request a refund at www.CFPBSettlementVerizon.com or by calling 888-726-7063.

Sprint customers should visit www.SprintRefundPSMS.com or call 877-389-8787.

Class Action Database: Distributions for beer drinkers and video gamers

A number of class actions we're tracking in our Class Action Database have claims deadlines in June.

Wells Fargo (automated calls). Consumers who received an automated or pre-recorded credit card collection call on their cell phones from Wells Fargo between Nov. 1, 2009 and Sept. 17, 2014 may be eligible for a pro rata share of the $14.5 million settlement. The company reached a settlement over alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The claims deadline is June 9.

Anheuser-Busch (Kirin Ichiban & Kirin Light). Consumers who bought Kirin Ichiban beer or Kirin Light beer between Oct. 25, 2009 and Dec. 17, 2014 may be eligible for up to $50 cash. The company reached a settlement over allegations that it misrepresented that Kirin beer is brewed in and imported from Japan when it is actually domestically brewed. The claims deadline is June 15.

TracFone (unlimited data plans). Tracfone will provide $40 million in consumer refunds to settle a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint regarding the company’s deceptive advertisement of “unlimited” data plans. According to the FTC complaint, TracFone set data limits unknown to the consumer and would slow or terminate the data service when consumers reached the data limit. Consumers who had Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, or Telcel America unlimited data plans before January 2015 may be eligible for a refund. The claims deadline is June 19.

Thermos LLC (Foogo bottle). Consumers who purchased a Foogo stainless steel vacuum-insulated straw bottle or plastic straw bottle between Jan. 1, 2007 to Dec. 24, 2014 may be eligible for up to $8.50 in cash or a replacement bottle. The company reached a settlement over charges it falsely advertised the bottles as leak-proof. The claims deadline is June 22.

American Registry (unsolicited faxes). Individuals or businesses that received unsolicited faxes sent by American Registry on or before Nov. 14, 2014 may be eligible for up to $20 cash. It is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to send unsolicited commercial faxes. The claims deadline is June 23.

Sony (PlayStation Vita). Consumers who bought a PlayStation Vita before June 1, 2012 may be eligible for a $25 check, a PlayStation credit or a merchandise voucher with a retail value of $50. The company reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations of false advertising. The claims deadline is June 29.

T-Mobile (premium text messaging). T-Mobile agreed to a $90 million court settlement regarding unauthorized third-party charges for text message subscriptions of sports scores, weather, jokes, horoscopes and other information. Current and former T-Mobile customers who were charged for unauthorized premium text messaging services may be eligible for a refund of unauthorized premium text messages that were not reimbursed. The deadline for the account summary request form is April 30, 2015. The claims deadline is June 30.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action is a non-profit 501(c)(3) 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 nine topic-specific subsites. 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.

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 nearly 7,500 community-based organizations. Outreach services include training and free 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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