Consumer protections at risk

Consumer Action highlights recent consumer gains now in the cross hairs

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Washington, DC—To mark National Consumer Protection Week, Consumer Action reports on the real progress that has been made on behalf of American consumers by a variety of government agencies. In Consumer Action’s newsletter, Consumer Action News, we review many of the gains initiated to protect consumers’ personal safety, online privacy, dispute resolution rights and more. But, as our country is faced with a new administration and a GOP-controlled Congress, some of these critical consumer protections are at risk.

Privacy online: In October 2016, consumers gained the right to protect their privacy online when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to put customers in control of what internet service providers (ISPs) could do with their personal information. ISPs are required to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information. The rules specify categories of “sensitive information,” which include location, financial, health and children’s information, Social Security numbers, web browsing and mobile app usage history, and the content of electronic communications.

Risk: New FCC Chair Ajit Pai recently froze the online privacy rule. Pai, a Republican, consistently has opposed internet privacy rules, arguing that FCC rules “disproportionately burden ISPs” over online companies not under FCC jurisdiction, which puts the new ISP duty to obtain customer consent on the hit list.

Retirement advice: Thousands of dollars in retirement savings can quietly, legally be lost from retirement accounts over time because of recommendations from advisers with conflicts of interest. Conflicts can arise when an adviser focuses more on profits than on solid, personalized investment advice. The U. S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule eliminates many of those conflicts by requiring advisers to put their clients’ best interests first when offering investment advice about retirement funds.

Risk: The fiduciary rule’s April start date has been delayed for 60 days by the current administration’s Labor Department, under direction from President Donald Trump to once again study the rule’s impact on the market. While many investment firms have been preparing to abide by the “best interest” rule, the new administration is considering how to repeal or replace this protection that is opposed by others in the industry.

Prepaid card protections: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) new prepaid card rule enacts guidelines to protect cardholders from fraudulent charges and errors. The protections are similar to those that protect debit card users. The CFPB prepaid rule also requires free access to account balances and information about card fees.

Risk: Congress has threatened to repeal this rule using a tool called the Congressional Review Act, which would bar the CFPB from creating a similar rule in the future.

For a look at many of the actions that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies have taken to protect consumers, and where these gains are now at risk of being rolled back, read Consumer Action News.

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Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.

By providing consumer education materials in multiple languages, a free national hotline, a comprehensive website (www.consumer-action.org) and annual surveys of financial and consumer services, Consumer Action helps consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and make financially savvy choices. Over 7,000 community and grassroots organizations benefit annually from its extensive outreach programs, training materials and support.

 
 

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