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.
Strong student protections still critical in higher education industry
Consumer Action joined a coalition of advocates in urging the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Provisions (HELP) to ensure any changes made to the Higher Education Act prioritize students above all else. The letter comes in response to concerns that Congress is considering ways to reduce oversight of colleges by implementing recommendations about higher education de-regulation by a task force made up of only representatives of the higher education industry and not a single student, consumer advocate or non-industry representative. This comes at a time when, more than ever, higher education regulations and oversight need to be strengthened and improved to better protect students and taxpayers and to reduce unnecessary burdens on colleges that serve students well.
Demand real consumer protection from pyramid schemes
Consumer Action joined consumer advocates in urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 5230, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2016. The bill, which is currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, purports to strengthen consumer protections from fraudulent pyramid schemes. In reality, it would rob the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of its ability to protect Americans from all but the most egregious forms of pyramid schemes.
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.
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.
Improving language access for homeowners is overdue
Communication improvements are needed in the mortgage industry for people who are not fluent in English. Currently there is no comprehensive system for collecting or assessing the language needs of homebuyers or of homeowners. In a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, coalition partners recommend data collection improvements that would help the federal government address important issues that impact many households in today’s diverse marketplace.
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