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

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Georgia PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Complaints

The CFPB’s searchable complaint database is the newest of a set of federal government consumer complaint databases that help consumers make better economic and safety choices by reviewing others’ experiences and searching for problems or product recalls. This report is the first of several that will review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state basis. In this report we explore consumer complaints about bank accounts and services with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their banks.

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State government ethics a work in (sort of) progress

As lawmakers continue debating ethics and transparency in Georgia government, with the hourglass emptying fast on the 2013 session, yet another independent nonprofit think tank has given the state a less than encouraging grade.

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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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News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Georgia PIRG Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children died from toy-related injuries that year.

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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

The Right Start

A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy. 

Unfortunately, not all products marketed for children and babies are completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mistakes Do Happen

The most valuable thing we have is our good name. The most common reflection of our reputation as a trustworthy consumer is our credit report. Unfortunately, the information contained in our credit reports, which are bought and sold daily to nearly anyone who requests and pays for them, does not always tell a true story.

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Deflate Your Rate

At the end of the year 2000, U.S. households were accruing interest on $574 billion of revolving credit card debt, or debt carried over to the next month rather than paid off entirely. The average household with a credit card balance carried revolving debt of nearly $10,000. A household making the minimum payments—commonly only two percent of the unpaid balance or $20, whichever is greater—on this debt would pay nearly $1,500 in interest just in the first year. Nationally, consumers pay interest of more than $87 billion annually on this revolving debt.

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