Consumer Protection Updates

News Release | TexPIRG | Health Care

TexPIRG expresses frustration with doctors’ lawsuit that could delay implementation of surprise billing protections

Today the Texas Medical Association filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to put a stop to newly proposed rules regarding implementation of the No Surprises Act. The No Surprises Act will go into effect January 1, 2022, and is lauded as a landmark consumer law to protect millions of Americans from most unfair surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers. These surprise bills come from balance billing -- when out-of-network medical professionals charge patients the difference between their fees and the maximum amount allowed by their insurance company. Studies show one in five patients are hit with a surprise medical bill after receiving care in a hospital or emergency room.

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Make the ringing stop: the FCC is finally fighting back against robocalls

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide -- and a more disappointing percentage of smaller telecommunications companies -- have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though most of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28, when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the FCC.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Only one-third of largest phone companies have completely adopted anti-robocall technology

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide -- and a more disappointing percentage of smaller telecommunications companies -- have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though most of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28, when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the FCC.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 10

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns 10 years old, a new report from TexPIRG Ed Fund recaps how the agency has helped consumers over the past decade and the steps under way to refocus the CFPB on its mission after three years of retrograde decisions under the Trump Administration. The report also provides recommendations for CFPB action moving forward, especially on credit reporting.

The CFPB opened its doors on July 21, 2011, one year after President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Typically referred to as “Dodd-Frank” or “Wall Street Reform,” this law created the CFPB in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash caused, in large part, by the financial industry’s malfeasance. The CFPB became the United States’ first federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers from financial shenanigans.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Getting off the hook of a predatory tow in Texas

 

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed without their consent from a private property or public street. While getting towed is a justified consequence of parking in the wrong place or for too long, most states don’t offer drivers the decency of basic consumer protections such as access to their wallets or medicine, or maximum rates for towing and storage. And that doesn’t even take into consideration those times when drivers believe they’re towed improperly.

News Release | TexPIRG | Consumer Protection

Safe streets coalition slams HB19 for making roads more dangerous

A bill that the state House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee debated about Tuesday could put millions of Texans at risk on the road. House Bill 19, introduced by Rep. Jeff Leach, would alter state laws concerning citizens’ rights following a crash with a commercial vehicle. The bill would essentially shield careless corporations from the consequences of their actions when they put fleets of commercial vehicles on the roads.

News Release | TexPIRG | COVID-19

Statement: Governor Abbott lifting restrictions risks lives

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he plans to lift Texas’s statewide mask mandate and other precautions designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) The governor’s statements came just days after the number of U.S. deaths attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed half a million people, including more than 44,000 Texans

According to a Bloomberg tracker, only 5.4 percent of Texas’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 11.6 percent having received one of the two recommended doses. That’s far short of the 75-85 percent of the population health experts say need to be vaccinated to activate herd immunity and effectively neutralize the virus. 

In response Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG director, released the following statement:

“COVID-19 is now responsible for killing more than one out of every 700 Texans. While it’s good news that cases and hospitalizations have declined in recent weeks, and vaccinations are on the rise, we might see a case surge soon caused by circumstances beyond our control --. crowds of Texans had to gather at warming stations after losing power during the recent deep freeze. 

News Release | TexPIRG | COVID-19

TexPIRG Statement on Corporate Liability Shield

During Monday’s State of the State Address, Gov. Abbott announced a policy he called, “civil liability protections“, which would exempt corporations from any liability and give consumers no recourse against bad acting companies that refuse to comply with basic public health orders. 

TexPIRG Director Bay Scoggin released the following statement in response:

“Governor Abbott’s desired legislation would reward companies that cut corners at the expense of companies that protect their workers and customers,” said Scoggin. “When nobody is accountable, nobody is safe.”

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

A year later on Amazon: Comparing pre-pandemic prices to today's for 750 products

At the start of 2020, toilet paper stockpiling and a run on hand sanitizer would have never crossed our minds. Unfortunately, we’ve lived in a different reality since then. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have witnessed shortages of -- and price gouging on -- a range of household and medical products from disinfectant wipes to face masks. And as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths regularly near or exceed record numbers across the United States, even though most products are back in stock, we’re still seeing price hikes on essentials.

“With more than 10,000 Americans dying from the coronavirus each week, it’s unconscionable that anyone would try to make excess profits while so many are suffering,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. “Now is the time to do everything we can to keep each other safe. There is no place for price gouging in a pandemic or any other state or national emergency” 

News Release | TexPIRG | COVID-19

Texas Department of Insurance’s Misinformation and Inaction Stall Efforts to Ensure Proper COVID Auto Insurance Refunds for Texans

 

In another setback to ensuring that Texans get appropriate auto insurance refunds due to fewer claims and less driving, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) released misleading information to public officials. The information asserts an unsupported claim that drivers have seen $1.4 billion in insurance overcharges returned back into their wallets, one that is contradicted by market data.
Texas Appleseed, the Center for Economic Justice, Texas Watch, the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), and the Consumer Federation of America sent a letter to TDI and Texas legislators highlighting erroneous and misleading information that TDI has used to justify their failure to provide premium relief to consumers.

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