Concerns growing about consumer virus protection

Concerns growing about consumer virus protection

August 8, 2020 Off By administrator

Much more needs to be done to protect consumers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, a representative of a New York-based advocacy group said.

“People start to make tough decisions and that makes them more vulnerable to unfair practices and then encourages the worst kinds of predators to take advantage of them,” said Russ Haven, New York Public Interest Research Group general counsel.

In New York state, the Legislature should fundamentally change the power dynamic between consumers and big businesses, Haven said. If people sue their insurance company in New York, they need to pay for their attorneys even when they win, while some states allow consumers to get their attorney fees back. Haven said that doesn’t result in an increase in court cases because the insurance companies are more likely to settle consumers’ complaints fairly.

“It’s not enough for consumers just to try and learn what they need to do to fix their own situation or get the best outcome,” Haven said. “If consumers will engage in contacting their state legislators and their congressional representative, we can really change the laws to make it better for everyone going forward and to make the system fairer.”

The issue of consumer protections has come to the forefront these days.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Division of Consumer Protection said in an email that consumer complaint volumes from March 1 to July 31 increased by 298 percent, compared with the same time period in 2019.

Kirsten Keefe, a senior staff attorney working on policy issues regarding mortgage lending at Empire Justice Center’s Albany office, said more minority families report that they’re unable to make their mortgage payments compared to their white counterparts.

“In the consumer community, it’s expensive to be poor,” said Chuck Bell, a program director for the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “You get charged more for everything.”

Communities of color and non-English consumers are disproportionately targeted by fraudsters, Bell said. He said they have fewer resources to protect their rights when encountering scams because of the racial wealth gap. Another concern is that people might not get the right information from the sellers and servicers if their primary language is not English, Bell said.

Bell said New York has a strong Borrower Bill of Rights, “because our experience has been that if the states don’t act, consumers will be unprotected.”

On July 30, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took heavy criticism during a House Committee on Financial Services hearing in Washington D.C.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., accused the bureau of failing to protect consumers during the pandemic, and that the bureau director’s actions were “a betrayal of…

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