Make VW Pay

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Volkswagen designed some 567,000 "clean" diesel cars to violate the law. They built elaborate software, called a "defeat device," to turn on emissions controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving. By cheating the law, VW ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles. They put our health at risk, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming pollutants.

Yet, their deceit and the subsequent settlement now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce the harmful pollution that makes us sick and accelerates climate change by providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system. 

According to the terms of the VW settlement, agreed to by VW and the Department of Justice, VW will pay a total of $14.7 billion in damages for their role in violating federal clean air laws.

Out of the total settlement, $2.7 billion will be distributed to states specifically to reduce NOx pollution, a major component of diesel exhaust. Each state will be required to ask for the funds and to develop a plan for how the money will be used to reduce NOx emissions. 
 
NOx poses a serious threat to human health and has been shown to aggravate and even contribute to the development of respiratory illnesses. NOx is also a key component of smog, which has similar respiratory and health impacts and contributes to acid rain. In addition, diesel exhaust, which contains NOx, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter, and other pollutants, was classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2012.
 
Given the unique challenges and opportunities in each state, the settlement leaves a good amount of flexibility in how the money may be used. However, that flexibility presents its own challenges, opening up the possibility of squandering the money on older, dirtier technologies like diesel and natural gas, while forgoing clean, electric alternatives. Such a move would represent a massive missed opportunity to transition to a cleaner, healthier and modern all-electric system, while only realizing marginal pollution reduction benefits. 
 
Transitioning to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century. Therefore, it is essential that these funds be invested wisely.
 
Ensuring that the funds are used wisely will result in several distinct benefits including, but not limited to:
  • Drastically reducing NOx, ground-level ozone (smog), and particulate matter;
  • Significantly reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Reducing long-term fuel consumption, maintenance, and operation costs of public fleet vehicles;
  • Adding needed stability to the price of energy inputs for vehicles;
  • Increasing public awareness and adoption of electric vehicles as cleaner alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles. 
To ensure this opportunity is not lost, we're educating the state agencies entrusted with these funds and urging them to spend the maximum allowable amount (15 percent) on electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the state’s highways, while investing the remaining funds on replacing outdated, dirty transit buses. We believe that this is the best possible use of the funds to reduce harmful pollution, lower costs and accelerate a market transformation to an all-electric, 21st century transportation system. 
 
Simultaneously, we are acting to educate and mobilize the public on this opportunity, and bring together likeminded advocates from across the political spectrum to do the same. As leaders in the movement to hold VW accountable, and because of our previous work to ensure a fair and beneficial settlement to VW consumers and the general public, we are uniquely positioned to continue leading this fight. However, if we do not act now, this opportunity will pass and state decision makers may use these funds in counterproductive ways, missing the opportunity to make a substantial down payment on a cleaner, healthier transportation system.
 

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Resources I used to prepare my advance directive | Mike Litt

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

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Fixing our stuff and fixing our planet | Rishi Shah

International Repair Day reminds us why repair is essential for the environment 

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What I decided to do after shopping for long-term care insurance | Mike Litt

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I’m supercharging my savings with socially responsible investing (SRI) | Mike Litt

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: A true consumer’s champ clears hurdle to serve as CFPB director

Rohit Chopra will be the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). By a vote of 50-48 on Thursday, the Senate confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner will take on the top position at the CFPB. 

Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG’s consumer campaign director, issued the following statement.

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: A true consumer’s champ clears hurdle to serve as CFPB director

Rohit Chopra will be the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). By a vote of 50-48 on Thursday, the Senate confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner will take on the top position at the CFPB. 

Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG’s consumer campaign director, issued the following statement.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG | Transportation

Advocates disappointed by Board of Public Works vote to advance highway expansion

 The Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) voted (2-1) on Wednesday to move forward Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed I-270 and I-495 toll lane widening project.

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News Release | US PIRG | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Back to school: financial literacy tips for college students, teens

During this time of year, families are thinking about the children going back to school, and for parents who are sending their kids to college, it can be a bit overwhelming. A key to addressing those concerns is making sure their teens are prepared for “adulting” -- in other words, taking care of their own lives.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: U.S. PIRG applauds Senate introduction of the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, especially veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Statement: Infrastructure must be a good deal for our health

A bipartisan group of senators met Tuesday afternoon to prepare for a vote planned Wednesday on a $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that aims to boost federal investment in U.S. infrastructure, including billions for roads, clean water and power infrastructure, according to media reports. 

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Pages

Convincing retailers to remove toxic chemicals from products

Maryland PIRG joined groups across the country to call on major retailers to address toxic chemicals in their supply chain. Thanks to our work, both Macy’s and Ashley Furniture announced they would stop using toxic flame retardants in their furniture. We also convinced Lowe’s and Home Depot to phase out phthalates from their flooring. 

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30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Reining in Wall Street

On July 15, the U.S. Senate passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by a count of 60 to 39.

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BPA Ban

In 2010, Maryland became the 4th state in the nation to phase out the toxic chemcial CPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.

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Ending Credit card abuses

Many abusive credit card practices, such as repeated over-the-limit fees and universal default are outlawed thanks to a 2010 federal law backed by Maryland PIRG.

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Pages

Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

GETTING OFF THE HOOK OF A PREDATORY TOW

U.S. PIRG Education Fund identified 14 common-sense towing protections that should be available to consumers in every state, and researched which states offer those safeguards. These protections range from who is responsible for damages caused by careless towing to whether you are guaranteed the option to pay by credit card. 

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Deere in the Headlights

Modern farm equipment runs on software. But when manufacturers restrict access to the software tools needed to repair broken tractors, farmers are left out in the cold. They are forced to rely on dealerships to fix their equipment, which can lead to lengthy delays and inflated repair bills. With fields to be plowed, planted and harvested, farmers don’t have the time to wait for a dealer. They need to be able to fix their own stuff.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation and U.S. PIRG Education Fund | COVID-19, Consumer Protection, Solid Waste

HOSPITAL REPAIR RESTRICTIONS

COVID-19 is putting incredible stress on the U.S. medical system, including the work of hospital biomedical repair technicians, known as biomeds or BMETs. These technicians are essential; hospitals need working equipment to diagnose and treat patients. But in some cases, manufacturers restrict access to what biomeds need.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Consumers for Auto Reliability And Safety (CARS) Foundation | Consumer Protection

Unsafe used cars for sale

AutoNation, which bills itself as “America’s Largest Auto Retailer,” is selling recalled used vehicles that contain dangerous safety defects. In a survey of over 2,400 used vehicles for sale at 28 AutoNation locations, 1 in 9 were found to have unrepaired safety recalls.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Transportation

HIGHWAY BOONDOGGLES 5

America’s aging roads and bridges need fixing. Our car-dependent transportation system is dangerous, harms our communities, and is the nation’s leading source of global warming pollution. And more than ever before, it is clear that America needs to invest in giving people healthier, more sustainable transportation options.

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Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Resources I used to prepare my advance directive | Mike Litt

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fixing our stuff and fixing our planet | Rishi Shah

International Repair Day reminds us why repair is essential for the environment 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

What I decided to do after shopping for long-term care insurance | Mike Litt

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I’m supercharging my savings with socially responsible investing (SRI) | Mike Litt

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

In the wake of the Capital One data breach, Ed Mierzwinski and Adam Garber explain how to protect your credit

Were you affected by the Capital One breach, one of the largest thefts of data from any bank to date?

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Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State PIRGs go to Washington for Consumer Lobby Day

Members of Congress hear repeatedly from lobbyists for corporate special interests in their offices and at fundraisers. How can consumer advocates balance the scales?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Congressional testimony underscores how predatory auto loans are driving Americans into debt

In most of the country, owning a car is all but required. And we're paying for it—to the tune of $1.2 trillion. This is putting the financial well-being of millions of Americans at risk, and Maryland PIRG and our national network are calling for change.

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Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

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Pages

Blog Post

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

Blog Post

International Repair Day reminds us why repair is essential for the environment 

Blog Post

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

Blog Post

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Rohit Chopra will be the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). By a vote of 50-48 on Thursday, the Senate confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner will take on the top position at the CFPB. 

Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG’s consumer campaign director, issued the following statement.

Transportation

Wasteful I-270 and I-495 expansion project moves forward

Maryland is moving forward with a proposed highway expansion project after a disappointing vote from the Board of Public Works, a project that Maryland PIRG has advocated against. Expanding the highway, which research shows will likely exacerbate traffic congestion rather than alleviate it, will harm the environment and public health.

 

Transportation

Maryland PIRG to state leaders: Don't cut crucial transit funding

Maryland PIRG and Environment Maryland have sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and other state leaders in opposition to proposed cuts to transit funding. Thirty-six percent of those who are continuing to ride public transit during the pandemic are classified as essential workers — and long-term trends show demand for accessible transit steadily increasing.

 

Consumer Protection

Auto Loan Complaints Rise

A review of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Complaint Database reveals a sharp spike in consumer complaints about auto purchasing, leasing and finance since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

Consumer Protection

As the pandemic goes on, consumer complaints continue at a record pace

A U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis has found that since March 2020, public consumer complaints at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have skyrocketed, setting a new monthly record each month. During this period, one in five complaints concerning mortgages, student loans or vehicle financing has mentioned the coronavirus crisis.

 
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