Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft, and more.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices — everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts — can take time, energy and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans — millions of consumers — have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself. We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources that can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints, and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney.

Issue updates

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Georgia Receives a "C+" in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

ATLANTA, March 26 – Georgia received a “C+” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fourth annual report of its kind by the Georgia PIRG Education Fund.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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Atlanta Gets "F" for Spending Transparency

How transparent is Atlanta’s city government when it comes to spending? Not very, according to a report released by a consumer advocacy group today.

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Watchdog group: Atlanta flunks transparency test

The city of Atlanta got an “F” for spending transparency in a study of the 30 largest American cities by a Georgia watchdog group.

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News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Atlanta Receives a Grade of “F” for Spending Transparency

ATLANTA –Atlanta received a grade of “F” for spending transparency, according to a new report released today by the Georgia PIRG Education Fund. The report reviews Atlanta’s progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

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News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers To Hidden Toy Hazards

While we can report substantial progress after 20 years of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, we are still finding trouble in toyland

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Total Recall

The year 2007 was called the year of the recall. But in 2008, recalls are up, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. Already, as these data show, more toys and children’s products have been recalled in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year, a supposed “100-year-flood” period. Yet the remedial CPSC reform legislation passed overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate in response to that 2007 recall wave has yet to become law.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

For several years, we have reported that toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates and parents and the leadership of Congress, state legislatures and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Yet, as many have noted, 2007 has been described as the “year of the recall.” Millions of toys, including famous playthings like Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie, have been recalled in 2007. Many of these toys have been from leading manufacturers like Mattel, and most were imported from China.

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Report | Environment California | Consumer Protection

Toxic Baby Bottles

Products marketed for infants and children are not always completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development. In this report, we analyze the extent to which five popular brands of baby bottles leach bisphenol A, a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant, into liquids coming into contact with them.  We found that all five brands leach bisphenol A at dangerous levels found to cause harm in numerous laboratory animal studies.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates and parents and the leadership of Congress, state legislatures and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Nevertheless, as parents venture into crowded malls this holiday season, they should remain vigilant about often hidden hazards posed by toys on store shelves.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates and parents and the leadership of Congress, state legislatures and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Nevertheless, as parents venture into crowded malls and browse for the perfect toy on the Internet this holiday season, they should remain vigilant about often hidden hazards posed by toys on store shelves.

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