Protecting Public Assets

STOP BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS—Pennsylvania's roadways and other public infrastructure must be operated for the long-term public interest.

Making sure the public gets a fair deal on privatization proposals

Across Pennsylvania, cash-strapped governments are struggling to plug gaping holes in their budgets. At the same time, Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges remain congested and in desperate need of repair.

Enter global private infrastructure companies and their backers in the world of investment banking. Touting the benefits of public-private partnerships, these companies are seeking to build new private highways or offering up-front cash for existing roads… all in exchange for the right to charge and collect tolls on motorists for decades to come.

Road, parking, and other privatization proposals offer a hard-to-resist “quick fix” for state budget and transportation challenges. But poorly conceived privatization deals can have hidden costs and big potential downsides for the public.

PROTECTING THE PUBLIC FROM BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS

To protect the public interest, Pennsylvania and its local governments should avoid privatization of existing infrastructure and allow private deals of new construction only under the following conditions:

•The public should retain control over decisions about transportation planning and management.
• The public must receive full value so future toll revenues won’t be sold off at a discount.
• No deal should last longer than 30 years because of uncertainty over future conditions and because the risks of a bad deal grow exponentially over time.
• Contracts should require state-of-the-art maintenance and safety standards instead of statewide minimums.
• Complete transparency and public disclosure are needed to ensure proper public vetting of privatization proposals.
• There must be full accountability in which the legislature must approve the terms of a final deal, not just approve that a deal be negotiated.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FDA takes delayed action on toxic hand sanitizers | Henry Hintermeister

After 20 deaths and numerous cases of blindness and other injuries and illnesses last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in February for all alcohol-based hand sanitizers imported from Mexico.

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A week's worth of help and tips during Consumer Protection Week

Being a consumer is a tough job. Really tough. During National Consumer Protection Week, which runs through March 6, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff is offering a daily dose of tips and advice to help you navigate life’s biggest consumer challenges.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How Do Dating Apps Use My Data? A Video Explainer | R.J. Cross

If you've ever used a dating app, your data has likely been collected and shared across the Internet. How do dating - and other types of apps - use your data? Advocate R.J. Cross explains. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Critical Product Safety Legislation Introduced in House by Representative Rush

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush releases legislation to increase transparency around important product injury and death data. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Statement: States should adopt strict limits on pollution in Transportation and Climate Initiative

Twelve states plus Washington, D.C. released new details today about a program to reduce global warming emissions from transportation. The Transportation and Climate Initiative will create an enforceable and mandatory limit on transportation pollution, and will generate funding that could be invested in cleaner alternatives. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Deadly infant products sold after recalls at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that discount stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods sold 19 different recalled products to consumers between 2014 and 2019. In the case of five products, the stores’ parent company TJX initiated the recall. The products included the Rock ‘N Play and Kids II inclined infant sleepers, which are responsible for a number of fatalities, rattles that can break and pose a choking hazard, and electronics that overheat or explode. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Heartburn medication recalls continue due to carcinogen concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed today that the drug manufacturers Dr. Reddy’s and Perrigo have initiated a voluntary recall of all of their generic versions of Zantac (ranitidine) -- commonly used to treat heartburn -- due to carcinogen contamination.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

The time has come for America to hit the “reset” button on transportation policy—replacing the policy infrastructure of the Driving Boom years with a more efficient, flexible and nimble system that is better able to meet the transportation needs of the 21st century.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Transparency in City Spending

Following our earlier studies of government spending at the state level, this report evaluates the progress of America’s 30 largest cities toward “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of encompassing, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

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Report | PennPIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual Pensylvania Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, PennPIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. 

 

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Report | PennPIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states. This report addresses the following questions: How easy is it for consumers to shop around for financial services? Are banks complying with current fee disclosure requirements? Can consumers still find free or low-cost checking accounts, or has free checking ended?

 

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

1 Year After Equifax Data Breach, Here's Everything You Need To Know

One year after announcing the biggest data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t been held accountable or provided the information and tools consumers need to protect themselves. Since Equifax won’t help protect consumers, PennPIRG is stepping in.

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Blog Post | Transportation

The Trump Administration’s Flawed Reasons for Rolling Back Clean Car Standards | Matt Casale

The Trump administration is making some pretty outlandish claims to justify its roll back of the nation’s most effective program at fighting climate change. Asserting that stronger fuel economy standards make our roads less safe, the administration moved last week to weaken Obama-era clean car standards -- but their claims just aren’t true.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

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Blog Post | Transportation

To Build A 21st Century America, Start Here | Jeff Robinson

The stakes in the current infrastructure debate are high. But what matters most is not the size of any federal infrastructure package, nor how it is financed, nor even how many jobs it creates in the coming years. What matters most is building the infrastructure that will enable America to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips and FAQ about the Equifax Breach | Mike Litt

Hackers gained access to the personal data of over 145 million Americans in the Equifax breach. Here are some recommended actions consumers can take to protect themselves and answers to frequently asked questions.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has released research showing that the financial sector overrelies on overdraft fees and non-sufficient funds (NSF) revenue, which reached an estimated $15.47 billion in 2019. Ironically, one of America’s 15 largest banks, Capital One, announced earlier in December that it will eliminate all overdraft and NSF fees.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the House Committee on Financial Services on Monday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, including veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

Consumer Protection

Not First Class

Our report highlights how flier complaints have soared as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, and ruin plans. Find out which airlines have the most complaints and what you can do.

 

Transportation

Advocates call on Pittsburgh's Port Authority for stronger electric bus commitment

Pittsburgh is on the verge of leaving dirty diesel buses in the dust — as long as it sticks to its commitment. In response to the Port Authority leaving the door open for gas-powered vehicles, advocacy groups urged a stronger commitment to clean electric buses.

 

Consumer Protection

The FCC is starting to fight back against robocalls

Research found that, despite the FCC's recent action, phone companies aren't doing enough to block spoofed calls and scam calls, despite a new law.

 

Consumer Protection

PIRG's consumer watchdogs get to work in wake of T-Mobile data breach

Cell phone carrier T-Mobile has announced that nearly 55 million Americans were affected by a hack of its records, which in some cases compromised Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. In response, PIRG published a tip guide for how those affected can protect themselves against identity theft or "phishing" scams.

 
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