First-ever consumer agenda fights assault on protections, pocketbooks

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We support reforms to the financial marketplace that protect consumers from unscrupulous banks and lenders.

By Consumers Union on Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Consumer Federation of America—Consumers Union—
National Association of Consumer Advocates—National Consumer Law Center—Public Citizen—U.S. Public Interest Research Group

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004

First-Ever Consumer Agenda Seeks to Close Growing Gaps
in Marketplace Protections

Six national groups join together to reverse slide on pocketbook issues

(Washington, D.C.) – With consumer protections under unprecedented assault, six of the country’s leading public-interest groups have joined for the first time to develop an agenda of the top six issues consumers should question policymakers about right now.

Leaders of the six groups, which include Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, Public Citizen, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, decided to unite behind this agenda in response to increasing risks to consumer rights and protections.

Some recent attacks on consumer protections include: a ban on the federal government negotiating lower prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients; the inability of consumers to prevent the sharing of their personal financial information with potentially thousands of companies; the failure of the government to adequately test for Mad Cow disease or require mandatory recall of tainted meat; the loss of patients’ rights to sue their HMOs; and a slew of federal legislative actions that undercut stronger state laws.

As a result of these anti-consumer policies, the coalition has developed a six-point agenda to highlight some of the most critical issues facing the American public today.

“With so many conflicting voices dominating the public policy debate, we wanted to elevate the consumer voice and educate Americans about what’s really at stake in the marketplace when it comes to their health, their privacy, their pocketbooks, and their safety. We see our agenda as a key starting point for consumers and journalists, who should be asking their policymakers right now about how they intend to protect the public interest,” said the leaders of the six organizations, who hope to reach as many as 50 million consumers with the new agenda.

“By helping consumers make more informed decisions, we believe we can build an influential consumer movement that will be a powerful force for change,” they added.

The six-point agenda includes:
1. Prohibit Oil and Gasoline Price Gouging and Increase Automobile Fuel Economy: Stop industry mergers that increase oil and gas prices by diminishing competition, and further save consumers money and reduce pollution by raising fuel economy standards on cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and other light trucks.

2. Preserve Consumers’ Legal Remedies: Oppose efforts undermining consumers’ access to justice. Remove limits on HMO accountability to patients and do not impose restrictions on victims of medical malpractice. Ban the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts and oppose limits on consumers’ ability to bring class action lawsuits.

3. Protect Consumers from Abusive and Predatory Lending: Limit unfair mortgage, credit card and personal loan practices that put vulnerable consumers at risk of default and bankruptcy.

4. Make Healthcare More Affordable: Immediately expand health coverage to all children and lower-income adults. Fix the new Medicare law to allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices, and the private sector to import lower-cost drugs from abroad.

5. Protect the Privacy of Sensitive Personal Information: Require both financial companies and Internet sites to protect our confidential information, while preserving the right of states to enact stronger laws.

6. Ensure Our Food is Safe to Eat: Require USDA to set and enforce limits on food-borne pathogens. Give USDA authority to mandate recall of tainted meat. Assure controls to protect both human and animal health from “Mad Cow” disease.

Click here to read the full agenda with more details on each issue, as well as a downloadable one-page guide.

This agenda of essential consumer reforms is intended as a guide for federal policymakers and others concerned about consumer issues. The leaders of six leading national consumer organizations produced the platform to underscore its importance. Because the organizations involved and the issues addressed are both quite diverse, not every organization addresses or works on each item listed, and these groups can, and sometimes do, differ in some details in our approaches on particular issues. They are unanimous in their support for pro-consumer action on these issues.

Consumer Federation of America, www.consumerfed.org
Contact: Jack Gillis (202) 737 0766 (jgillis@consumerfed.org)

Consumers Union, www.consumersunion.org
Contact: Susan Herold (202) 462-6262 (sherold@consumer.org)

National Association of Consumer Advocates, www.naca.net
Contact: Ira Rheingold (202) 452-1989 (info@naca.net)

National Consumer Law Center, www.consumerlaw.org
Contact: Margot Saunders (202) 452-6252 (msaunders@nclc.org)

Public Citizen, www.citizen.org
Contact: Booth Gunter (202) 588-7703 (bgunter@citizen.org)

U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) www.uspirg.org
Contact: Liz Hitchcock (202) 546-9707 (news@pirg.org)

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