Here’s my latest consumer news of the week, in case you missed it.
— After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, bi-partisan zombie-like effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist Kathleen Pender and the NY Times editorial board both rip the idea. Pender quotes Consumer Federation of America expert Barb Roper: “Supporters of crowd funding – Obama is a big one – “bring a religious fervor” to the concept, Roper says. “They don’t think about how a con artist can use that system and with the click of a mouse be out there to millions of people. With the old boiler room, you were limited by the how fast your high-pressure sales force can dial the phone.” Last week’s letter to the Senate from Americans for Financial Reform, CFA, U.S. PIRG and others opposing the bill is in my previous post: “Has Congress Forgotten Enron, Dutch Tulip Bubble Scandals?”
— Meanwhile, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG (WHO-TV Des Moines) marched against nuclear power this weekend. From WHO-TV: “An outrageous proposal deserves an outrageous response,” said Sonia Ashe, an advocate with the Iowa Public Interest Group. Ashe’s goal is to get lawmakers’ attention about the bill that could bring more nuclear energy to Iowa. “Right now we are concerned we don’t have any real answers with the safety risk and how do you deal with the radioactive waste for example,” said Ashe.” More on the hazards of nuclear power from Iowa PIRG’s website.
— Also last week, as the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it would take student loan complaints, Raju Chebium of Gannett/USA Today reported that “College would get costlier for millions of low- and middle-income student loan recipients starting next fall, unless Congress intervenes.” […] Advocates aren’t sure if there’s enough support in Congress to prevent the interest rate from doubling to 6.8%. If the rate does double, recipients would pay an extra $5,000 over 10 years if they borrow the maximum $23,000, said Rich Williams, a higher-education policy analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.” Take action with the Student PIRGs.
— Meanwhile, via CNBC, Reuters warns that credit card protections enacted in 2009 don’t apply to small businesses, only consumers. From the story, “The law is built on the assumption that people in business have a certain minimum sophistication and competence,” said Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel at the American Bankers Association, who added that extending the CARD Act to cover small businesses could further contract credit.” As for her first assertion, I agree with small business advocate Todd McCracken, quoted earlier: “Ridiculous.” As for her second claim, that’s nothing more than a standard soundbite without foundation that ABA lobbyists and flacks apparently are required to use in every interview. The reason we have had a contraction of credit is not due to regulation, it is due to lack of regulation (see 2008, Financial Collapse, Wall Street-induced.) Congress should extend consumer protections against fraud, identity theft and errors to small business credit and debit cards. Heck, even a few of the banks do some of this voluntarily.
— Finally, here’s a nice softball interview from AM New York. It’s with NYPIRG senior attorney Gene Russianoff, better-known as “that subway guy.” Gene heads the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, the group that fights to improve the subway experience and even made “shmutz” a scientific term.
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, PIRG
Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.