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

It’s time to regulate airline distribution and display practices
On the three-year anniversary of the suspension of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) request for information (RFI) on "Exploring Industry Practices on Distribution and Display of Airline Fare, Schedule and Availability Information," coalition advocate groups sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao calling for the RFI's reinstatement. Advocates are concerned that the extended pause is harming consumers by limiting their ability to see all airline, flight, fare and fee options and shop in a transparent, convenient and efficient way. It’s time for the DOT to release a final regulation of the matter and ensure consumers are treated fairly in the air-travel marketplace.

Affordability should be paramount when the COVID-19 vaccine is released to the public
Consumer Action joined nearly 70 organizations in writing to President Trump, asking him to ensure that vaccines or treatments for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), developed and purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars, are reasonably priced and available to everyone. Americans will not accept President Trump allowing Big Pharma corporations to profit off a pandemic that continues to claim thousands of lives.

Advocates call for automatic discharge of student loan debt for disabled borrowers
A coalition of more than 30 advocate groups asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to automatically erase the federal student loan debt of roughly 350,000 student borrowers with disabilities nationwide. Currently, the Department’s application process is so burdensome that most disabled borrowers never get the help they're entitled to under law, while many more are not even aware that they qualify for a loan discharge. In fact, over 60% of eligible borrowers identified have not applied for the relief. In the worst cases, the Department has gone as far as seizing disability benefits that many borrowers with disabilities depend on to survive, as a means to collect on defaulted federal student loans. These borrowers are due critical relief now.

Congress: Pass a clean budget for FY2021
Advocates called on Congress to pass an upcoming federal budget that funds the things that Americans care about, not undo essential consumer and environmental safeguards through policy riders. Policy riders are attached to legislation and rarely have anything to do with the bill. In fact, most riders are handouts to big corporations and special favors for interest groups that could not become law on their own merits. As Congress prepares the federal budget for fiscal year 2021, no appropriations titles, package of bills, or continuing resolutions should pass if they contain poison pill policy riders that go against the public interest, including policies that ensure safe and healthy food, restrain Wall Street abuses, provide access to justice and fair housing, and guarantee access to safe healthcare.

Federal deregulation attempts increase barriers to affordable housing
All over the country, housing unaffordability has become a crisis. The number of households spending more than half of their income on housing payments has skyrocketed in the past decade. Almost 50% of renters are struggling with unaffordable rents, and the homeless population is rapidly growing in high cost areas. In response to this national crisis, the Department of Housing and Urban Development published a request for information to examine how regulations could be creating barriers to affordable housing. In response, advocates point out that it's not regulatory efforts, but moves to deregulate the housing and financial markets that are eroding and withdrawing crucial commonsense oversights, thereby increasing barriers to affordable housing.

The FCC prepares to regulate providers’ efforts to curb annoying robocalls
The Federal Trade Commission received 3.78 million consumer complaints about robocalls in 2019, compared with 3.79 million in 2018. Congress passed the TRACED Act late last year, which aims to crack down on robocalls by requiring voice service providers to implement caller ID authentication technology, and directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the providers’ efforts. In preparation for its upcoming report on robocalls, advocates call on the FCC to take further action to hold voice service providers accountable in their efforts to stop annoying scam calls.

Backlash grows over use of facial recognition
In a letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency in the executive branch, consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups urged President Trump and his administration to prohibit the federal government from using facial surveillance on the American public. Advocates are ringing the alarm after a recent federal study by The National Institute of Standards and Technology found pervasive racial bias in facial surveillance technology, and a New York Times investigation found a startup, Clearview AI, was stockpiling more than 3 billion photos from online sites and offering them up to help law enforcement match photos of suspects to pictures online. Considering the startup’s obvious violations of existing privacy laws, and the prevalent bias and discrimination in the facial recognition systems that are currently in use, advocates recommend a blanket moratorium on the technology.

OCC proposal could greenlight predatory lending schemes
Consumer Action joined a coalition of more than 100 organizations in opposing a proposed rule from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that would facilitate predatory loans. Specifically, the proposed rule would make it easier for payday and other high-cost lenders to use banks as a fig leaf to offer predatory loans at interest rates of 100 percent APR or higher that are prohibited under state rate cap laws. This scheme is known as “rent-a-bank” or “rent-a-charter.”

New credit report portal would make resolving errors easier for consumers
Advocates wrote to Congress in support of the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2019 (H.R. 5332). The bipartisan bill directs the three credit reporting bureaus to work together to create one online portal to provide free and unlimited access to credit reports and scores, the ability to more easily initiate and resolve disputes with a credit bureau and to provide access to see who the bureaus have sold consumer data to in the prior two years. One of the biggest issues facing low-income communities is access to credit. In many cases, inaccurate credit information limits low-income individuals from accessing affordable loan products. This can lead to borrowing from high-cost pay-day lenders, or using high-rate credit facilities. This bill places the burden of resolving inaccurate credit information on the bureaus, instead of on the consumer.

Advocates urge CFPB to create strong protections for PACE borrowers
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs offer loans for energy efficient home improvements, such as solar panels, HVAC systems, and energy efficient windows, along with more questionable items such as “cool coat paint.” PACE loans, offered through home improvement contractors, often in door-to-door sales, and secured by a property tax lien, are collected through a property tax assessment that takes priority over any existing mortgage. PACE programs must be authorized by state and local governments, but are privately run with little or no government oversight. Advocates encouraged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to use its authority to issue a rule that applies all of the Truth in Lending Act to the industry and to continue to research the PACE market in order to develop strong protections that curb widespread program abuse.

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