Protecting Students From Questionable Financial Services

“My husband and I have been paying off our two daughters’ college education since 1999. Due to illness, we had to take forbearances, which wiped out the progress made on paying down the loans. We took out a second mortgage on our house and borrowed against our life insurance policies to pay down our debt, but we still ended up owing more than we borrowed. Who is going to help us?”

—Susan from Bradford, Pa., who is one of thousands of people who wrote to us about their problem with student debt. We are working with people like Susan to reform the student loan system.

Families across the country are struggling with paying for college, and they need to be able to rely on financial products and services that help, not hurt them.

Families across the country are struggling with paying for college, and they need to be able to rely on financial products and services that help them, not hurt them. That is why we are pressing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action on student loan service practices and prevent unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices. In addition, we’ve been working to address some of the most problematic features of school-bank partnerships with the Department of Education.

Consumers saw a breakthrough this year when the Department of Education proposed new rules, which should crack down on aggressive marketing practices and high fees associated with campus banking. Accounts are often aggressively pushed onto students as the “preferred” option for receiving financial aid and managing money. The rules, which we helped negotiate, will help ensure that students can freely choose how they access their federal student aid funds and prohibit harmful fees on those accounts, like point-of-sale and overdraft charges.

We support the Department of Education’s proposed new rules, which will help prevent the unfair nickel-and-diming currently linked to campus banking. Many colleges push campus-sponsored bank cards as a way to manage money and receive financial aid, but many of those accounts have high and unusual fees that you don’t typically see on retail bank accounts.

$28,400

Average student debt when leaving college with a bachelor’s degree.

What’s next?

We’re watchdogging the new rules for campus banking and have provided feedback on the government’s proposal. We want to ensure better transparency around those card agreements, which will promote healthy competition and encourage contract terms that give students a better deal.

$28,400

Average student debt when leaving college with a bachelor’s degree.

Fighting Back Against Unfair Insurance Pricing

“There is a complete lack of transparency.”

—Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice in Texas. He was discussing how, over the past 15 years, insurers have made auto insurance pricing considerably more complicated and confusing. With allies like Birny, we are trying to pull back the curtain and fight for a fairer system, where consumers can easily understand how their rates are being determined.

Good driving doesn’t equal good insurance rates.

Good driving doesn’t always equal good insurance rates. Here’s why: The car insurance industry uses “secret sauce” algorithms to come up with rates in most states that are based heavily on factors that have nothing to do with driving records, which is unfair to consumers. There’s little transparency, which makes it difficult for drivers to tell a good deal from a bad one. Consumer Reports believes that knowledge about the going rate for any product or service is a fundamental consumer right and that auto insurance premiums should be based mostly on a consumer’s driving record. That’s why we embarked on a comprehensive project spanning two years, 2 billion insurance price quotes, 700 insurance companies, and 33,419 ZIP codes.

Our car insurance investigation details the industry’s practices and how drivers can be penalized with higher rates because of nondriving factors such as credit history. The inequities we uncovered led us to launch a broader effort to prompt insurance regulators and state lawmakers to protect consumers from the unfair pricing practices. CR’s online tool gives a state-by-state look at how credit scores affect insurance premiums. And we’re engaging our wide network of consumer champions and partnering with the Consumer Federation of America to target states with our campaign. Our work includes an online petition to state insurance regulators with a call to price consumers based primarily on how they drive.

Map

Our in-depth analysis found that insurance companies penalize drivers with a poor credit score more than a person with excellent credit and a DWI conviction. In addition, our interactive tool provides state-by-state guidance on the best insurance companies for excellent, good, and poor credit scores.

33,419

We collected price quotes for drivers for all 33,419 general ZIP codes in the U.S.

What’s next?

Consumer Reports is mobilizing its activists and allies around reversing the trend of state laws, which permit nondriving factors such as credit scoring to be used in setting auto insurance rates. We’re pressing the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to act on this issue immediately (#fixcarinsurance).

33,419

We collected price quotes for drivers for all 33,419 general ZIP codes in the U.S.