5 things that have changed for consumers since Trump became presidentMay 15, 2019
Every president brings change. Laws change. Regulations change. The direction of the country changes.
That’s what happens.
But drop your political lens for a moment.
Think consumer protection. What happens if you’ve been wronged by a business? What if laws and regulations don’t protect you and your wallet?
That’s what consumer advocates say is happening under the Trump administration. They’re alarmed by a cavalcade of changes they say leave the little guy behind while Wall Street and big corporations gain advantage.
“It’s a disastrous administration for consumer protection,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the nonprofit National Consumers League. “It’s completely blind to the need for strong rules and strong consumer protections.”
Here are five changes consumer advocates say are vital for consumers to know.
1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Let’s start with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. It’s mission was to protect consumers against deceptive, abusive and unfair practices by financial companies.
“In its first several years, it did a great job of focusing on problem mortgages, payday lenders and fine print clauses,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).
She said we’ve had an “about face” since the president’s nominees have taken over.
“CFPB enforcement activity is down 80 percent from its peak, and even when it brings enforcement cases, consumers get little or no relief from the scams they’ve been subject to,” Saunders said.
Ed Mierzwinski of the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group said under Trump’s acting director Mick Mulvaney, and today under new director Kathy Kraninger, the CFPB has “signaled to business that breaking the law will result in small parking tickets, not punishment.”
Further, he said, Kraninger has signaled that consumer education – not enforcement – will be the primary CFPB activity going forward.
“This is a climate where companies will push more unfair and deceptive practices with little downside risk,” Mierzwinski said.
Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said consumers in our state may benefit from consumer protections beyond federal laws and regulations.
“We have a progressive governor who is attempting to mitigate as many of the anti-consumer protection policies that have taken place in this administration as possible,” Salowe-Kaye said. “[Gov. Murphy] has appointed a director of Consumer Affairs who actually cares about consumers and he has also made a commitment to establish a state CFPB.”
2. Product safety
There has been a general trend toward deregulation and lifting rules on industry, said Greenberg of the National Consumers League.
She said there’s a mistaken notion that rules and regulations hinder industry, and she argues that consumer protections…