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.
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.
FTC Holder Rule strengthens consumer rights
Consumer advocates have described the Holder Rule as the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) most effective tool against fraud. In a letter to the FTC, advocates urged the Commission to preserve the Holder Rule to assist consumers in the ongoing struggle to curb unfair or abusive business practices and reiterate its key features and remedies available to consumers, and to consider our recommendations to facilitate effective application of the rule.
Building a resolution-focused complaint database students need
In a letter to Acting Education Secretary John King, Consumer Action and 50 other organizations that advocate on behalf of students, consumers, veterans, faculty and staff responded to the Department of Education’s request for comments on their proposed Enterprise Complaint System. The organizations applaud the Department for proposing a student and borrower complaint tracking system that accepts complaints about loans, other aid, and colleges, while urging the Department to make the system public, searchable, resolution-focused and inter-connected to the complaint systems at other government agencies.