Consumer Protection

News Release | TexPIRG | Consumer Protection

TexPIRG: Consumers Do Well in Texas Legislature

The legislative session adjourned on Monday, with consumers and the public interest claiming some big victories including the end of surprise medical bills, said the consumer group TexPIRG on Tuesday.

Surprise medical bills will no longer affect consumers in Texas with a non-federal insurance plan after bipartisan work on Senator Hancock’s SB1264. The bill expands on a Texas Department of Insurance program that sends eligible surprise medical bills to an arbitration process between the insurance company and the healthcare provider. Before, consumers had to be aware of their eligibility and submit a request, but with the update, consumers will no longer even receive the surprise medical bill in the first place, significantly increasing utilization.    

The rest of the good news:

  • A bill by Representative Oliverson will prevent hidden fees at freestanding emergency rooms, ending a prominent consumer abuse.

  • Telemarketers won’t be able to “spoof” their calls anymore, thanks to Representative Leman’s HB1992. Spoofing is the practice where robocallers make their calls appear as if they originate from the same area code as the individual they are calling.

  • The Lower Colorado River Authority will be more transparent after TexPIRG and others called for changes as part of legislation to reauthorize the agency.

  • SB9, a bill that would reduce voter participation by making it harder to register and vote, was not passed. The bill was authored by Republic Senator Hughes.

  • HB3040, authored by Representative Hunter, will study how we select our judges, including whether or not elections or appointments will lead to more qualified, representative judicial nominees.

  • None of the many bills designed to block construction of a high-speed bullet train from Houston to Dallas passed, continuing the possibility of reduced congestion on I45 and lower transportation-related air emissions.

  • Bills to increase transparency in government spending, such as Representative Canales’ HB81, which requires disclosure of public spending on entertainment events, sometimes referred to as the Enrique Iglesias bill, after public spending on a concert by that artist received significant public criticism for the expenditure amount being hidden from the taxpayer.

“We were pleased with how the legislative session turned out, especially with the amount of transparency and healthcare-related bills that passed,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG’s Director. “Consumers benefit from more transparency, in government, businesses, and markets, and we saw a concerted effort to pursue that goal.”

“Ending surprise medical bills for a large portion of Texas consumers and enacting one of the strongest arbitration programs in the country will serve healthcare consumers well in the coming years,” continued Scoggin.

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

Fisher-Price recalls nearly 5 million potentially deadly Rock n’Play sleepers

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Tyson chicken strips recalled, may contain pieces of metal

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

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

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Questionable lending drives Texas to nation’s highest auto debt

The amount of money Texans owe on their cars is now at an all-time high  -- up 75 percent since the end of 2009 to $6500 per capita, the nation’s highest. Americans’ rising indebtedness for cars raises concerns about the financial future of millions of households as lenders extend credit to more and more Americans without the ability to repay, according to a new TexPIRG Education Fund report.

“Texans deserve both protection from predatory and unfair practices in auto lending, and a transportation system that provides more people the freedom to live without owning a car,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director. “Texans shouldn't have to fight their way through a thicket of tricks and traps at the auto dealer just to get the transportation they need to get to work or school."

Access to a car is all but required in much of America to unlock opportunities for work, education and play. But the financial cost to households is steep: Transportation is the second-leading expenditure for American households, behind only housing.  

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Driving Into Debt

In much of America, access to a car is all but required to hold a job or lead a full and vibrant life. Generations of car-centric transportation policies – including lavish spending on roads, sprawl-inducing land use policies, and meager support for other modes of transportation – have left millions of Americans fully dependent on cars for daily living.

Car ownership is costly, and often requires households to take on debt. In the wake of the Great Recession, Americans rapidly took on debt for car purchases. Since the end of 2009, the amount of money Americans owe on their cars has increased by 75 percent. A significant share of that debt has been incurred by borrowers with lower credit scores, who are particularly vulnerable to predatory loans with high interest rates and inflated costs.

Americans’ rising indebtedness for cars raises concerns for the financial future of millions of households. It also demonstrates the real costs and risks imposed by our car-dependent transportation system. Americans deserve protection from predatory loans and unfair practices in auto lending. Americans also deserve a transportation system that provides more people with the freedom to choose to live without owning a car.

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