A Message from Consumer Action

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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

Protecting democracy from a lawless president
For decades, as the executive branch has increased its power, Congress has increasingly struggled to fulfil its constitutional duties to protect the rule of law by holding presidents accountable for overreaches and preventing abuses of presidential power. Advocates joined together to support the Protecting Our Democracy Act (HR 8363 and S 4880) in an effort to push for necessary institutional reforms to protect our democracy and restore Congress’s ability to check and balance the executive branch, without infringing on the president’s constitutional powers.

Requiring SSN collection by peer-to-peer payment services puts consumers at risk
Consumer rights groups sent a letter to Senators Ron Wyden and Mike Crapo of the Senate Finance Committee regarding a proposal under consideration in the budget reconciliation bill that would require peer-to-peer payment apps such as Square Cash and Venmo to collect Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) for virtually all payee accounts. Because, unlike businesses, most individuals do not hold a separate TIN from their Social Security number, these companies will be collecting the SSNs of millions of Americans, potentially putting their privacy and financial health at risk.

Congress to protect all Medicare beneficiaries in reconciliation bill
Consumer Action joined 45 leading consumer, disability, minority health and provider organizations in thanking Congress for taking steps to protect Medicare Advantage beneficiaries when adding new benefits to fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare and encouraging lawmakers to maintain this language in the final bill. The letter comes as Congress considers adding vision, hearing and dental benefits to FFS Medicare as part of its emerging reconciliation package.

HUD to tackle systemic racism and housing discrimination
Advocates joined together to support the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) decision to reinstate its Discriminatory Effects Standard, which ensures that housing practices that appear neutral in their design do not create or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and other characteristics protected under the Fair Housing Act. During the Trump administration, HUD gutted this critical civil rights protection and made it nearly impossible to seek redress for fair housing violations that had discriminatory effects. HUD’s announcement today ensures that strong protections against discriminatory housing practices are clear and remain the law of the land.

A call for President Biden to end Big Pharma monopolies
Coalition members wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra demanding that the White House take on Big Pharma in an effort to curb drugmakers’ monopoly power in the soon-to-be-released HHS drug pricing competition plan. Advocates called on President Biden to end the era of abusive drug pricing and treatment rationing by challenging patents and expanding generic-drug competition. As Americans face a new surge in the ongoing pandemic, there is no better time than now to break up Big Pharma monopolies.

Everyone should have equal opportunities and access to products and services
Both Republicans and Democrats are calling for the continued universal acceptance of U.S. currency as a payment option for all consumers in the United States. The bipartisan Payment Choice Act of 2021 would make it illegal for retail businesses to refuse to accept cash for in-person, consumer transactions at stores nationwide. Consumer advocates support this important legislation, explaining that there are roughly 37 million adults in the United States who lack a bank account or credit card and need to use cash to pay for their necessities. 

Stop the proposed first-class mail slowdown
Advocates urged the U.S. Postal Service to abandon its plan (effective Oct. 1) to slow down some first-class mail deliveries as part of effort to save money. Slowing down as much as 40% of first-class mail would not only leave the public’s needs and expectations unmet, it risks creating disparate impacts, hastening the public’s flight from the U.S. mail and further jeopardizing the Postal Service’s already fragile finances.

It’s time to dig deeper into sources of unfairness in auto insurance market
Consumer groups wrote to the Department of Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) asking that the FIO prioritize an immediate update of its auto insurance affordability study using improved methods and conduct additional research on uninsured drivers, socioeconomic factors in auto insurance pricing, and how these factors have a disparate impact on people of color. As many families rely on automobiles to take them to school and work, it’s particularly important that auto insurance is available, affordable and priced fairly in the marketplace.

Grant FHA-backed borrowers the full forbearance relief they are legally entitled to
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), coalition advocates urged HUD to give Federal Housing Administration-backed borrowers who start forbearance plans after July 1, 2021, access to a full 12 months of forbearance, in line with policies from the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In doing so, HUD would rightfully recognize the continued economic turmoil from the global pandemic. HUD’s current decision unnecessarily limits forbearance for borrowers accessing plans after June 30, 2021, to only six months of relief instead of the standard 12 months pursuant to the CARES Act.

It’s time for the Department of Education to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in higher education
Groups wrote a joint letter to the Department of Education (ED) sharing their priorities for its negotiated rulemaking process that aim to protect student loan borrowers and taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse. Advocates asked the ED to include substantial student and borrower representation among its negotiators, and to strengthen safeguards against predatory practices by for-profit institutions by reinstating strong borrower protection regulations, like the gainful employment and borrower defense rules.

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