A Message from Consumer Action

Consumer Action's MoneyWi$e educational materials have moved to our Managing Money Project website. Here you may view, download and order bulk copies of the MoneyWi$e materials. Please make a note of the Managing Money Project address— www.managing-money.org —and add it to your address book.

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

Choice of retirement plan disclosure notice still important for workers and retirees
Consumer Action joined coalition members in urging the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Department of Labor to address the severe shortcomings in the Department’s recently adopted “Notice-and-Access” rule. Until the changes last May, the default had been to deliver retirement plan disclosures on paper, sent through the mail. Under the new rule, the retirement plan merely sends an email or text message to a consumer letting them know that a disclosure is available on a website. 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.

The FTC and CFPB must do more to prevent mass homelessness during the pandemic
Over 11 million families are at risk of losing housing. Protection from evictions and foreclosures is greatly needed due to the ongoing economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, including the loss of household income in the near and long term. Consumer Action joined advocates in urging the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to work together to prohibit unfair debt collections and ensure financial and regulatory agencies confirm industry standards regarding forbearance availability for homeowners. Without these additional protections, many will lose their homes and be forced to move at a time when COVID-19 levels are still extremely high and vaccination access for many is still months away. As a result, the financial impact of COVID would result in substantially greater risk of spreading illness.

Over 100 groups call on Federal Reserve to Strengthen CRA
More than 100 national and local civil rights, fair lending and consumer rights organizations have urged the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a key anti-redlining and civil rights law. In detailed comments that addressed issues from access to credit, location of bank branches and investments in underserved communities, the groups laid out a plan for the Biden Administration to leverage CRA to ensure an equitable recovery from the ongoing economic, racial justice and public health crisis.

The pandemic's impact on the digital divide: Low-income Americans need help now
The pandemic didn't create the digital divide, but it has certainly exacerbated it. Consumer Action and National Consumers League wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to applaud its efforts to bring broadband internet connection to low-income households during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and its efforts to expand the Lifeline program to reach more low-income households. Today, Lifeline recipients can use a modest $9.25 monthly subsidy to connect to phone and/or internet services, yet only 1-in-4 eligible households enrolls in the program. As Americans continue to work, attend school, and conduct healthcare appointments online during the pandemic, it is critical that everyone has access to broadband internet.

Immediate action needed to help keep families in their homes
As millions of Americans face continued hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to urge the Bureau to keep individuals and families in their homes. Advocates recommended specific steps the Bureau can take to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, including homeowners without federally-backed mortgages. They asked that the CFPB focus on implementing quick policies during this current crisis, rather than embarking on a larger disaster-related rulemaking, leaving time to analyze best practices and measure how well the policies adopted during this crisis worked to save homes.

The new California privacy agency should prioritize consumers’ privacy
The recently-passed California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) augments and supplements California’s existing privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). It also creates a new supervisory authority for data protection and privacy in California — the California Privacy Protection Agency. Privacy advocates wrote to Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to select members to the new agency who have demonstrated experience working on behalf of consumers and a commitment to civil rights and ending discriminatory business practices.

Prioritizing health equity to overcome the coronavirus pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stunning gaps in the U.S. public health and health care systems and highlighted the negative effects of hundreds of years of structural inequities and systemic racism on our communities. The U.S. COVID-19 response has been marked by politicization of public health, skepticism of science, and a lack of a national plan. For people with disabilities, low-income families, communities of color, and those living in congregate settings, COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities with fatal consequences. Advocates joined together in making recommendations to the Biden administration: from community mitigation to testing and tracing to safe quarantine, working and sharing lessons with nations around the world. An equitable and fair COVID-19 response ensures the safety and healthcare needs of our most vulnerable communities.

Advocates urge the Biden administration to slash drug costs
Advocates wrote to the Biden administration asking the President-elect to immediately implement a series of reforms to slash prescription drug costs once he takes office. Advocates urged the President-elect to authorize more generic competition through patent licensing, launch a demonstration project in Medicare to link payments to vastly lower costs paid broadly and prosecute pharmaceutical companies for anti-competitive behavior. Americans currently spend more on prescription drugs than anyone else in the world. There were 717 drug price increases so far this year, and just seven of them on generics, bumping prices up by 4.5 percent on average. It’s time to improve the lives of patients and families by lowering drug prices and making medicines affordable.

New banking rule aims to prop up fossil fuel industry
Consumer Action joined in opposing the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's (OCC) deceptively titled Fair Access to Financial Services proposed rule. The rule would pressure and, in some cases, require banks to lend to fossil fuel companies, without regard to strategic or reputational risk. The proposed rule flatly contradicts the OCC’s mission by threatening the safety and soundness of banks seeking to mitigate climate-related risks. It twists the language of racial justice and redlining to justify pressuring banks to lend to the increasingly risky fossil fuel industry. Forcing banks to take on dangerous investments will stress the financial system and prop up a dying industry that continues to damage the environment.

Protect limited-English speakers from harmful debt collection practices
A coalition of consumer, civil and human rights, labor, community and legal services organizations wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to voice concerns with the Bureau’s approach to consumers with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) in the recently finalized Debt Collection Practices (Regulation F) rule. There are many misconceptions about debt collection laws that are heightened by language barriers, leaving LEP consumers vulnerable to harassment and exploitation. Providing enhanced language access is essential to protect LEP consumers and provides the CFPB with the ability to enforce critical consumer rights.

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