New state laws protect consumers in the marketplace

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An increasingly online and global marketplace has expanded consumer options. But predatory practices and hidden dangers continue to threaten our safety and financial security. State legislators are taking action to stand up for consumers. 

CALPIRG and CoPIRG came together to highlight recent actions taken in California and Colorado to rein in junk fees, protect consumer data and privacy, stop online lenders from skirting state interest rate laws and tackle predatory towing. 

State Actions to Protect Consumers in the Marketplace

Watch our webinar from October 31st on recent state wins for consumers.

No more “junk fees”

Consumers deserve to know what they are paying for, and how much, up front. It is that simple. 

But whether we’re buying a ticket to a football game or a room at a hotel, too many companies are blindsiding us with hidden fees –  touting one price on a home page and then tacking on multiple fees at the final payment screen.  According to a 2019 survey by Consumer Reports, at least 85 percent of Americans reported having encountered a hidden fee in the previous two years.

Hidden fees make it hard for consumers to comparison shop and make informed purchasing decisions, resulting in many spending more than they would have if they had all the pricing information available. By one estimate, Americans pay a total of $28 billion in junk fees per year. 

That’s why CALPIRG supported Senate Bill 478, authored by Senators Bill Dodd and Nancy Skinner and sponsored by California Attorney General Rob Bonta. SB 478, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, requires transparency of all mandatory charges other than taxes or fees imposed by the government.  This new law will give California consumers the true price transparency and therefore competition needed for a fair marketplace. 

Consumer control over personal information 

Companies collect huge amounts of data about us, often without us knowing.  While sometimes that data is important information for the company to provide their service (Venmo needs your bank account number and Uber needs your location), often our data is used in ways that have nothing to do with delivering the service we’re expecting to get. This violates our data privacy, and can make consumers more vulnerable to a breach or a hack.

Some states have started to take action and give consumers more control over their data. In 2018, California passed the  California Consumer Privacy Act , which gave Californians the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared, the right to delete personal information collected from them, and the right to opt-out of the sale or sharing of their personal information.

This year, the California Delete Act took protections one step further. While consumers in the state have had the right to get their information deleted, this involves visiting hundreds of websites to make individual requests of the more than 500 data brokers in the state. Senate Bill 362 by Senator Josh Becker directs the California Privacy Protection Agency to develop a one stop shop where Californians will be able to hit one button to get their information deleted from all data brokers in the state. Soon it will be much easier for Californians to protect their personal information. 

Stopping online lenders from evading state consumer protections

Many states have passed policies that limit interest rates that lenders can charge consumers. But a federal law passed in the 80’s allows lenders to avoid state limits by partnering with a bank in a different state and using that state’s rates instead. This is called a rent-a-bank scheme.

That same federal law allows states to stop this kind of evasion by simply opting out. Iowa and Puerto Rico both have taken this action. In 2023, Colorado passed a law to become the next state to stand up for their consumers and their consumer protection laws by opting-out via HB23-1229. You can find more information here.  

Tackling predatory towing

In our 2021 report, Getting Off the Hook of Predatory Towing, we found dozens of states lacked basic consumer protections when a car was towed nonconsensually. From unlimited fees and a lack of transparency around the circumstances of the tow to damaged vehicles and no access to your personal belongings stuck in a towed vehicle, the impact of an illegal tow can be compounded. 

In 2022, Colorado passed HB22-1314, which increased consumer protections when it comes to towing. The bill capped fees, required photo proof of the vehicle infraction, and ensured consumers could get itemized fees and access to their belongings. 

The bill also enhanced the authority of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to punish towing companies that repeatedly violate the law. 

The law is bringing increased attention to predatory towing practices and companies and sponsors like Representative Naquetta Ricks are considering additional legislation to fill in any gaps. 


Jenn Engstrom

State Director, CALPIRG

Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.

Danny Katz

Executive Director, CoPIRG Foundation

Danny has been the director of CoPIRG for over a decade. Danny co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs and is a co-author of the annual “State of Recycling” report. He also helped write a 2016 Denver initiative to create a public matching campaign finance program and led the early effort to eliminate predatory payday loans in Colorado. Danny serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Efficiency and Accountability Committee, CDOT's Transit and Rail Advisory Committee, RTD's Reimagine Advisory Committee, the Denver Moves Everyone Think Tank, and the I-70 Collaborative Effort. Danny lobbies federal, state and local elected officials on transportation electrification, multimodal transportation, zero waste, consumer protection and public health issues. He appears frequently in local media outlets and is active in a number of coalitions. He resides in Denver with his family, where he enjoys biking and skiing, the neighborhood food scene and raising chickens.

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