I come from the middle class and work for the middle class. That is why I am a leader in protecting consumers from big business and special interests over the course of my career in Congress. I have led the charge against predatory lending, passing into law the “Schumer Box” for greater disclosure on credit card statements, and continue to fight unfair mortgage practices with the Borrowers Protection Act and credit card lending practices with the Credit Card Bill of Rights. I have fought against ATM fees imposed by banks, and helped curtail abusive practices by retailers that offer gift cards. I have also been a leader in protecting families from unsafe consumer products, pushing for the passage of a law to transform the federal agency responsible for consumer protection and place more stringent rules on harmful toxins in toys. Currently, I am fighting for the passage of legislation to ban the use of harmful chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in children’s products, protect consumers from shady debt settlement providers, and prohibit car rental companies from renting cars subject to safety recalls.
Protecting Consumers – What I’m Working On
Ensuring Rental Companies Do Not Rent Recalled Cars:
I have called on the Federal Trade Commission
to investigate allegations that rental car companies are renting vehicles that have been recalled for repair of safety defects without having fixed those safety defects. By law, new car dealers are not permitted to sell recalled vehicles without first fixing the safety defects. I [will introduce/has introduced] legislation to hold rental car companies to the same standard.
Reducing Our Exposure to Harmful Chemicals:
I continue to champion legislation that would ban the manufacture and sale of children’s food and beverage containers made of the harmful chemical bisphenal-A (BPA). While legislation has yet to pass, my efforts have led to companies voluntarily discontinuing the production of products composed of BPA and to retailers removing BPA products from their shelves. BPA is a chemical commonly used in making plastic food and beverage containers. More than 200 studies have shown links between exposure to BPA and adverse health effects. Detectable levels of BPA, a synthetic estrogen, have been found in over 90 percent of the U.S. population. Infants, young children, and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of BPA and even low-level exposure to BPA may impact neural development and behavior, and lead to early puberty in girls. In addition to working to ban children’s food and beverage containers made of BPA, I have sponsored legislation to ban use of toxic heavy metals, like cadmium, in children’s jewelry, and overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act
to require EPA to evaluate the safety of all chemicals.
Fighting to Stop the Marketing and Sale of Dangerous Alcoholic Drinks to Underage Drinkers:
With the increasing popularity of caffeinated alcoholic beverages among teenagers, Senator Schumer called on the Food and Drug Administration
and the Federal Trade Commission to take action to stop the marketing, distribution and sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. I also called on the New York State Liquor Authority
to ban the distribution and sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in New York State. In November 2010, all three agencies did just that, effectively banning the future marketing, distribution and sale of these drinks. Recent studies show dramatic increases in youth exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing, particularly through new social media. I continue to work with federal officials to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising, pursue investigations and prosecution of manufacturers targeting underage drinkers, and address the dangers of alcoholic beverages containing three to five times the amount of alcohol as a bottle of beer or a glass of wine.
Fighting to Protect Consumers From Deceptive, Abusive and Financially Injurious Practices Rampant in the Debt Settlement Industry:
There has been an exponential growth in the number of debt settlement companies offering “quick and easy” solutions to consumer credit problems. Many consumers facing challenges in meeting their financial obligations have increasingly turned to these companies for debt settlement assistance – with disastrous results. On radio and television, consumers have been bombarded with an onslaught of advertisements with false and deceptive claims about debt settlement companies’ ability to negotiate deals with creditors to reduce or cancel consumer debts. In reality, these for-profit companies take consumers’ money and leave them even deeper in debt. Consumers’ credit scores also take a big hit. I continue to champion legislation that would provide strong protections for consumers from financially fraudulent and abusive practices by debt settlement companies, including capping fees that debt settlement companies can charge.
Protecting Consumers From Costly, Annoying and Deceptive Automated Telemarketing Calls:
With intrusive and unsolicited robocalls clogging New Yorkers’ cell phones and land lines – pitching everything from bogus car warranties to deceptive credit card and mortgage rate reductions – I have called on the Federal Trade Commission to shut down the scam artists. The calls were a nuisance, as well as a violation of the federal Do-Not-Call law
. Companies also were ripping off consumers by charging large up-front fees for phony services or rate reductions consumers could obtain on their own for free. The FTC continues to file cases in federal court against these types of scam artists, winning restraining orders requiring the companies to stop the calls and freezing companies’ assets. At my request, the FTC also updated its website to include a “button” to allow consumers to easily file complaints about intrusive telemarketing calls.
Protecting Taxpayers From Hidden Costs of Refund Anticipation Loans:
I have been a lead sponsor of legislation to require the licensing and regulation of tax return preparers, to ensure that New Yorkers were not being taken advantage of by unscrupulous preparers with no background in tax law. I have also been a leading advocate in requiring greater disclosures of the hidden costs of Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs)
, which many large return preparers offer as a way to allegedly speed up one’s tax refund, and have pushed for the termination of the Treasury Department’s Debt Indicator Program, which facilitated RALs in the first place. Due to the efforts of myself and others, (1) the IRS is now requiring that all tax return preparers pass a competency exam; (2) the Treasury Department ended the DI program; and (3) at least one large tax return preparer has ceased offering RALs. I continue to push for tax return preparers to be licensed and regulated, and I am still working to ensure that consumers are aware of the risks of RALs and that greater disclosure be provided.