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

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.

FinTech users deserve strong data use protections
Groups sent a joint letter to the Consumer Financial Protection asking the agency for strong rules to ensure that consumers are protected when their account data is shared with, accessed by or used by third parties, such as financial technology (FinTech) mobile apps and account aggregation services.

Congress asked to restore FTC’s monetary relief powers
Groups ask Congress to expand the FTC’s powers to protect consumers, which have been jeopardized by a recent Supreme Court decision calling into question the FTC’s authority to demand monetary relief in its enforcement actions.

Choice of retirement plan disclosure notice still important for workers and retirees
Consumer Action joined coalition members in urging the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Department of Labor to address the severe shortcomings in the Department’s recently adopted “Notice-and-Access” rule. Until the changes last May, the default had been to deliver retirement plan disclosures on paper, sent through the mail. Under the new rule, the retirement plan merely sends an email or text message to a consumer letting them know that a disclosure is available on a website. The new rule’s default makes no provision for the sizeable proportion of individuals who still don’t have access to computers or internet service and makes it much harder for ordinary Americans to access the documents they need to plan for retirement.

The FTC and CFPB must do more to prevent mass homelessness during the pandemic
Over 11 million families are at risk of losing housing. Protection from evictions and foreclosures is greatly needed due to the ongoing economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, including the loss of household income in the near and long term. Consumer Action joined advocates in urging the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to work together to prohibit unfair debt collections and ensure financial and regulatory agencies confirm industry standards regarding forbearance availability for homeowners. Without these additional protections, many will lose their homes and be forced to move at a time when COVID-19 levels are still extremely high and vaccination access for many is still months away. As a result, the financial impact of COVID would result in substantially greater risk of spreading illness.

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