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Summer 2018 News Briefs

Last updated: 6/13/2018

 

Consumer Protection

Defending The Protections Americans Rely On

OSPIRG's Ed Mierzwinski speaks to the need for stronger consumer protections after the Equifax data breach and congressional attacks on the Consumer Bureau. Photo: C-SPAN

After the 2008 economic crisis, millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their retirement savings and more. That’s why our national network played a lead role in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and helped put in place rules of the road to keep Wall Street in check.

But now, in the name of regulatory reform, Wall Street, big banks and their allies in Congress are working to strip away these rules and dismantle the Consumer Bureau. With the support of our members, OSPIRG is on the ground in Salem and Washington, D.C., keeping an eye on threats to commonsense consumer protections.

Opposing Anti-Consumer Attacks In Washington

We’ve been successful in stopping legislation that would change the funding and leadership structure of the Consumer Bureau, both of which are key to the agency’s past success and continued independence. And we’ve been hard at work opposing the anti-consumer moves of Mick Mulvaney, who has been limiting the Consumer Bureau’s capabilities since the president put him in charge of the agency last November.

Another major threat to consumers is S.2155, a bank deregulation bill that will likely increase mortgage fraud, racial discrimination and risky banking practices; replace stronger state laws against identity theft; and more.

With your support, our advocates fiercely opposed this legislation to let Equifax and big banks off the hook, and are calling on decision-makers at the state and national levels to instead enact reforms to give consumers more control over our financial lives.

Solutions To Problems We All Face

Whether it’s defending the original mission of the Consumer Bureau or opposing bills that ignore the painful lessons of the 2008 financial crisis, OSPIRG works to unite people from across the political spectrum around commonsense solutions to problems we all face.

But we couldn’t do any of this without the support of our members. With you by our side, we’ll continue defending consumers and working toward a safer, healthier, more secure future.

 

21st Century Transportation

Paving The Way For Electric Transportation

The number of electric vehicles on America’s streets is at an all-time high, but are our cities ready to accommodate this rise in clean cars? Photo: Matej Kastelic via Shutterstock

Sales of electric vehicles nationwide increased 38 percent in 2016, and another 32 percent in 2017, according to a February report from OSPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group. Oregon can accelerate this progress, and also transition to electric school and transit buses, by taking advantage of our portion of the $2.9 billion settlement of Volkswagen’s massive emissions scandal intended for environmental mitigation actions.

Another report released in May by OSPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group shows the majority of America’s buses remain dirty—but clean, all-electric buses are available, and they’re cheaper for school districts and transit agencies to run in the long term.

An all-electric transportation future offers many benefits, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. With your support, we can leave federal inaction in the slow lane and put our communities on a fast track to a cleaner, healthier future.

Check out OSPIRG Foundation's latest reports here.

 

Democracy

OSPIRG Stands Up For The Public In Salem

OSPIRG State Director Charlie Fisher testified in Salem in support of eliminating credit freeze fees after the massive data breach at credit bureau Equifax. The bill passed with bipartisan support. Photo: Oregon State Legislature

In February, our staff were in Salem advocating on behalf of the public for increased transparency in the pricing practices of pharmaceutical companies, free credit freezes, and net neutrality.

Prescription Drug Price Transparency (HB 4005)

Rising prescription drug costs are a burden on all Oregonians—not just the patients who depend on expensive drugs. Skyrocketing drug prices exacerbate rising health insurance premiums, increase costs for Oregon businesses, and further strain state and federal budgets.

Price transparency is the first step in addressing high prescription drug costs. Pharmaceutical corporations should be required to explain the reasoning behind big price hikes publicly, which is why we worked hard to pass HB 4005. Despite well-funded opposition from pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities.

Free Credit Freezes (SB 1551)

Last year’s massive data breach at credit bureau Equifax affected an estimated 1.7 million Oregonians, and more than 147 million Americans nationwide.

That’s why OSPIRG helped pass SB 1551, which ensures all Oregonians have access to free credit freezes and thaws—one of the only ways to prevent new account identity theft after financial data is stolen. Importantly, this bill also requires companies that experience a data breach to notify consumers in a timely manner. The bill passed with broad bipartisan majorities, signaling that consumers across the political spectrum support stronger consumer protections.

Net Neutrality (HB 4155) 

In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its repeal of net neutrality—a collection of vital protections that have allowed the internet to remain free and open to all users.

Without these protections, internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T could block or slow down lawful content or create internet “fast lanes” that would favor certain sites and content over others.
 
OSPIRG believes the internet is a public resource, so we worked to pass a bipartisan bill prohibiting state and local governments from contracting with ISPs that don’t abide by net neutrality principles.
 
Small Donor Elections
 
Large donors outspent small donors 14 to 1 in Oregon’s 2016 political campaigns, undercutting the power everyday people have to influence our elected leaders.
 
A bill introduced in the Legislature would have helped level the playing field and increase voter participation by matching small contributions when candidates agree to forgo large donor funding.
 
While the bill had broad support from the public and from organizations representing Oregonians around the state, it was never brought up for a vote. We’ll be working to advance similar legislation in 2019, because elections should be determined by voters—not big money.
 

Product Safety

CarMax Selling Vehicles With Dangerous Defects

Photo: Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

When we drive to work or take our children to school, we shouldn’t have to worry if we’re driving an unsafe car. Yet a survey of nearly 1,700 vehicles for sale at eight CarMax locations found that more than 1 in 4 vehicles had unrepaired safety recalls.

The report, released by MASSPIRG Education Fund, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, and the Center for Auto Safety, found that on average, the percentage of vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls CarMax offered for sale has more than doubled, jumping from 12 percent to 27 percent, compared to survey results from 2015.

To protect consumers from dangerous cars like these, U.S. PIRG is suing the Federal Trade Commission to overturn consent orders that allow used car dealers to advertise unsafe vehicles.

Read the full MASSPIRG Education Fund report here. 

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