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

Advocates call on Amtrak to end forced arbitration policy
Consumer Action joined a coalition of more than 30 groups in urging the federally-controlled and federally-subsidized Amtrak to remove the arbitration clause it implemented earlier this year for passengers. This new policy means that for any dispute ranging from a customer complaint to a mass casualty crash, passengers and their families are stripped of their right to go to court. Under forced arbitration, Amtrak disputes must be resolved in a secretive, privatized system, replacing and judge and jury with arbitrators.

Congress steps in to overturn DeVos borrower defense rule
In September, the Department of Education released a new version of the "Borrower Defense to Repayment" rule that would make it virtually impossible for students cheated by their college to cancel their student loans. Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Susie Lee have introduced a Congressional Review Act challenge to repeal this rule and restore stronger student protections put in place in a 2016 Borrower Defense rule.

The sale of .org a big concern for non-profit organizations
A private equity firm will soon run the internet’s top domain name extension for non-profits after purchasing the non-profit organization that runs it. Millions of non-profits around the world rely on .org domain. Yet, the Internet Society, the American nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in internet-related standards, decided to sell it, causing concern that fees to renew domain names will drastically increase in order for the firm to recoup its billion-dollar investment. Proponents of the deal reasoned that competition will keep renewal prices in check, but non-profit associations with established web addresses are wary to risk changing their web address and losing their online identity—in doing so, organizations may not be found by clients and donors under a new web address.

Advocates applaud the Fed’s faster payments system, but urge fraud protection
Consumer and privacy advocates applauded the announcement by the Federal Reserve Board (the Fed) that it will develop a real-time payment system, while urging the Fed to ensure protection against scammers and criminals who use faster payment systems to receive and move money.

Stop banks from helping predatory payday lenders evade state regulations
More than five dozen public interest groups expressed deep concern about “rent-a-bank schemes” in letters to federal banking agencies, explaining that several nonbank consumer payday lenders have set their sights on using partnerships with banks to evade newly enacted interest rate restrictions in California.

A new bill aimed at helping students lacks robust borrower protections
Consumer Action joined over 40 organizations in a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander to express concerns regarding his recently introduced bill, the Student Aid Improvement Act. Unfortunately, the bill fails to include any provisions that hold low-quality and sometimes predatory colleges accountable, and better protect students and taxpayers. Any reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) must include robust consumer protections.

Further cuts to Pell will put college out of reach for many low-income families
Consumer Action joined a letter to Senate appropriators urging them to oppose the overall Labor-HHS-Education spending allocation and the accompanying proposed $1.3 billion rescission from the Pell grant reserve fund. Instead, advocates urged the Senate to fully retain all current Pell funds where they belong - in the Pell Grant program.

New proposed rule empowers debt collects and their attorneys
In an effort to update the rule that governs debt collectors, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a proposed rule that would make debt collector harassment worse for consumers.

Healthcare mergers result in less choice and higher prescription drug prices for consumers
As the Federal Trade Commission considers signing off on the $63 billion deal between AbbVie and Allergen, advocates warn that the merger will reduce competition in a number of markets where AbbVie and Allergan directly overlap with each other. The deal will also exacerbate competitive problems that already exist in the pharmaceutical drug industry relating to rebate walls and patent abuses.

Revamping the CFPB's "Qualified Mortgage" standard could impact credit availability
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) proposed changes to the Qualified Mortgage (QM) definition would allow the government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) patch to sunset in 2021. Advocates warn that terminating the patch could cut off adequate access to mortgage credit to borrowers who are self-employed or more likely to work non-traditional jobs and don’t often conform to traditional QM standards, including borrowers of color and borrowers with student debt.

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