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

A call for President Biden to end Big Pharma monopolies
Coalition members wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra demanding that the White House take on Big Pharma in an effort to curb drugmakers’ monopoly power in the soon-to-be-released HHS drug pricing competition plan. Advocates called on President Biden to end the era of abusive drug pricing and treatment rationing by challenging patents and expanding generic-drug competition. As Americans face a new surge in the ongoing pandemic, there is no better time than now to break up Big Pharma monopolies.

Everyone should have equal opportunities and access to products and services
Both Republicans and Democrats are calling for the continued universal acceptance of U.S. currency as a payment option for all consumers in the United States. The bipartisan Payment Choice Act of 2021 would make it illegal for retail businesses to refuse to accept cash for in-person, consumer transactions at stores nationwide. Consumer advocates support this important legislation, explaining that there are roughly 37 million adults in the United States who lack a bank account or credit card and need to use cash to pay for their necessities. 

Stop the proposed first-class mail slowdown
Advocates urged the U.S. Postal Service to abandon its plan (effective Oct. 1) to slow down some first-class mail deliveries as part of effort to save money. Slowing down as much as 40% of first-class mail would not only leave the public’s needs and expectations unmet, it risks creating disparate impacts, hastening the public’s flight from the U.S. mail and further jeopardizing the Postal Service’s already fragile finances.

It’s time to dig deeper into sources of unfairness in auto insurance market
Consumer groups wrote to the Department of Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) asking that the FIO prioritize an immediate update of its auto insurance affordability study using improved methods and conduct additional research on uninsured drivers, socioeconomic factors in auto insurance pricing, and how these factors have a disparate impact on people of color. As many families rely on automobiles to take them to school and work, it’s particularly important that auto insurance is available, affordable and priced fairly in the marketplace.

Grant FHA-backed borrowers the full forbearance relief they are legally entitled to
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), coalition advocates urged HUD to give Federal Housing Administration-backed borrowers who start forbearance plans after July 1, 2021, access to a full 12 months of forbearance, in line with policies from the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In doing so, HUD would rightfully recognize the continued economic turmoil from the global pandemic. HUD’s current decision unnecessarily limits forbearance for borrowers accessing plans after June 30, 2021, to only six months of relief instead of the standard 12 months pursuant to the CARES Act.

It’s time for the Department of Education to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in higher education
Groups wrote a joint letter to the Department of Education (ED) sharing their priorities for its negotiated rulemaking process that aim to protect student loan borrowers and taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse. Advocates asked the ED to include substantial student and borrower representation among its negotiators, and to strengthen safeguards against predatory practices by for-profit institutions by reinstating strong borrower protection regulations, like the gainful employment and borrower defense rules.

Advocates join in support of legislation that targets predatory banking fees
Consumer advocates joined together in support of the Overdraft Protection Act of 2021. Banks earn billions every year from so-called overdraft protection programs—this legislation would set important limits on how often fees can be charged, improve transparency and disclosure of fees, and stop banks from automatically enrolling customers in the first place.

More can be done to protect consumers and patients during pharmaceutical mergers
The pharmaceutical industry has become increasingly concentrated in recent years, often resulting in higher prices and reduced choice for consumers. Increasing evidence shows that consumers are paying higher prices for prescription drugs and losing out on access and choice because of less innovation by drug companies. Advocates argue that the Federal Trade Commission’s current approach to monitoring pharmaceutical mergers, and its historically pro-merger policy, fails to fully protect American consumers and patients.

Groups contest major postage increase planned by USPS
In response to the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) proposed postage price increase, a coalition of trade associations and public and private companies joined Consumer Action in urging members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security to oppose the plan to hike USPS postage prices for most mail by 7%. The coalition also called on legislators to direct a new review of the postal rate-setting system before the increases take effect.

Protect retirement savers from risky private equity investments
Consumer Action joined allies in a letter to the Department of Labor asking the department to ensure that “defined contribution plan fiduciaries”—those responsible for ensuring that employer-based retirement plans feature safe and appropriate investments—undertake balanced consideration of the benefits and risks before they allow private equity funds to be offered to retirees.

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