Coalition EffortsConsumer 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.
Proposed bill would damage credit scores of millions
Consumer Action joined consumer and civil rights advocacy groups in expressing their opposition to The Credit Access and Inclusion Act of 2016 (H.R. 4172). Proponents of the bill argue it helps those with little or no credit build their credit scores by allowing utility and telecom companies to repot their customers’ on-time payments to credit-reporting agencies. However, this proposed legislation will preempt existing state and local privacy protections that prevent companies from sharing a customer’s financial information without their consent. It would also create a negative credit score for “thin file” or “no file” consumers–consumers who are disproportionately from low-income and moderate-income African American communities. For areas like employment and insurance–where a negative credit report or low score could harm job prospects or increase rates–it is often better to have no credit history.
More policy riders intended to threaten retiring Americans, hijack budget process
A coalition of 254 groups is urging Congress to reject any federal appropriations bill that contains inappropriate and “ideological” policy riders. These riders, which were wildly popular during the last budget cycle, would jeopardize policies that restrain Wall Street abuses and would weaken new legislation intended to protect American families and their retirement savings. These policy riders are little more than special favors and sweetheart deals for big corporations and ideological extremists and have no place in the appropriations process.
Keep the CFPB strong on forced arbitration
Here we go again—those who have opposed increasing consumer protections and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), are at it once more. Coalition advocates are urging Appropriations Committee members to reject any proposals that might weaken or limit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) ability to take action against companies who have used forced arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts. After the well-documented abuses that led up to the 2008 financial crisis, Congress included in the Dodd-Frank Act a provision that specifically authorized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to restore consumers’ legal rights by regulating, curbing, or outright prohibiting forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts.
For-Profit colleges seek reprieve on regulation intended to protect students
The for-profit school industry has requested that the Department of Education (ED) delay implementation of the gainful employment rule—reform that is aimed at cracking down on under-performing career-training programs. In response, coalition advocates wrote to ED reminding the department that the rule is needed to protect students and taxpayers from over-priced, poor-quality education programs that consistently saddle students with debt they cannot repay and degrees or certificates they cannot use.
Protect Pell Grant funding for students
As House and Senate Appropriations Committees prepare to announce top line allocations, advocates urged Congress to protect Pell Grant funding from being reallocated for any other non-Pell Grant related programs. Despite strong opposition last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut the maximum Pell Grant for students by at least $845 and eliminate $56 billion more in mandatory funding for Pell Grants over the next 10 years. These cuts reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for nearly 9 million students, making it impossible for many to receive a higher education.
A strong FCC preserves net neutrality
Consumer Action joined other consumer rights and privacy advocates in sending a letter to House of Representatives leadership expressing opposition to H.R. 2666, the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act.” This bill would strip the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of authority to review certain practices of broadband providers related to their customers’ privacy. Despite its name, the bill has much less to do with preventing the FCC from setting rates for broadband service than with preventing the FCC from investigating practices that may undermine the open Internet rules.
ACICS fails to enforce education standards; wastes $3.5 billion in federal aid
Consumer Action joined a coalition of 22 student and consumer protection organizations in asking the Department of Education to revoke the recognition of the much-criticized Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). This is the same agency that allowed Corinthian College to keep its accreditation up until the day it filed for bankruptcy. A recent ProPublica report found that students at schools accredited by ACICS were worse off than students at other schools: only 35 percent of students graduate from ACICS-accredited schools, the lowest rate of any accreditor (the national graduation rate is around 59 percent) and within three years of leaving school, one out of five students who graduated from an ACICS-accredited school defaulted on their student loans.
It’s time to protect travelers from airlines’ soaring fees
In 2015, U.S. airlines collected $10.8 billion in ancillary fees, an increase of 24 percent since 2014. These fees, combined with historically low fuel prices and increasingly cramped seats drove record profits for the industry in 2015, a trend that is expected to continue in 2016. Consumer Action joined consumer advocates in urging Senate leadership to support the inclusion of the “FAIR Fees Act” (S. 2656) with the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658). FAIR Fees would prevent airlines from charging consumers unreasonable or disproportionate cancellation, baggage or other ancillary fees.
What is the Department of Education waiting for?
In a letter to the Department of Education, coalition advocates urge the department to discharge the federal loans of students who were scammed and defrauded under current regulations more quickly and efficiently. The group also proposes regulations that will make it easier, not harder, for such borrowers to get the relief they are entitled to under existing law.
Dept. of Education should protect students–not the schools that bully them
The for-profit college industry should not be able to profit from federal tax dollars while defrauding its students and escaping liability by hampering the exercise of students’ legal rights through forced arbitration clauses. The coalition expressed serious concern about the impact of forced arbitration proceedings—including the secrecy surrounding them—on the department’s ability to identify and address fraud. Private arbitration shields critical information from public view and regulators and allows for-profit schools like Corinthian College to escape accountability for years.