NCL to Congress: Strengthen fraud protections for users of P2P payment apps

August 3, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—With fraud linked to the COVID-19 pandemic at record levels, the National Consumers League (NCL) today cited the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps by scammers as a significant contributor to the problem. In testimony before the Senate’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, NCL Vice President John Breyault urged Congress to extend key consumer fraud protections to cover victims of scams who are tricked into sending money via P2P apps.

According to a 2020 Nerdwallet survey, roughly 4 in 5 Americans (79 percent) have used mobile payment apps. The explosive growth of P2P apps has accelerated significantly during the pandemic. Research firm Insider Intelligence estimated that the transaction volume for P2P payments will increase by roughly 37% in 2021, with total annual transaction volume over P2P apps expected to surpass $1 trillion by 2023.

“The same factors that are fueling the rapid growth of P2P payment platforms during the pandemic – low-cost, nearly instantaneous payments made via a mobile app – have made P2P a payment method of choice for scammers,” said Breyault. “If these platforms are making the decision to skew their services towards speed and convenience at the expense of safety and protection, then they must take responsibility for those choices.”

In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received nearly 62,000 complaints from consumers who sent money to fraudsters via payment apps or similar services. Agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and organizations like the Better Business Bureau have seen similar complaint spikes. Data from security firms Sift and Chargeback suggest that fraud rates on P2P apps may be three to four times higher than on credit or debit cards.

To address this fraud, NCL called on Congress to enact legislation that extends the fraud protections debit and credit card users rely on to users of P2P payment apps. In addition, NCL urged Congress to pass new laws to strengthen consumer protections, including requiring P2P platforms to display information about scams targeting P2P apps and maintain toll-free customer support lines.

“The lack of consumer protections for users of P2P payment platforms must not be ignored,” said Breyault. “It is clear that absent regulatory incentives, effective self-regulation by the P2P services will be stymied in the name of protecting transaction volume growth. Congress must act.”

To read NCL’s testimony , click here.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League applauds House repeal of national banking regulator’s Predatory Lending Rule; Urging Congress to act soon on interest rate cap

June 29, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the House for voting for the Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule, which allowed predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. In a 218-208 bipartisan vote, The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve SJ Res 15, a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). A companion resolution was introduced by Rep. “Chuy” García (D-IL). Now that both chambers of Congress have approved this resolution, we look forward to President Biden signing the bill into law.

“We applaud the House’s bipartisan vote to repeal this harmful rule which facilitates rent-a-bank schemes,” said NCL’s Public Policy Manager Sarah Robinson. “This is an important step in preventing predatory lenders from targeting vulnerable communities. We urge President Biden to quickly sign this bill into law to protect consumers.”

NCL was part of a broad coalition of more than 400 organizations representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia calling on Congress to overturn the “fake lender” rule, which threatens to “unleash predatory lending in all fifty states.”

The rushed “fake lender” rule took effect in December and was issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The rule protected “rent-a-bank” schemes whereby predatory lenders (the true lender) launder their loans through a few rogue banks (the fake lender), which are exempt from state interest rate caps. The rule had overridden 200 years’ worth of case law allowing courts to see through usury law evasions to the truth, and replaced it with a pro-evasion rule that looked only at the fine print on the loan agreement.

broad, bipartisan cross-section of experts and officials have called on Congress to repeal the fake lender rule. They include a bipartisan group of 25 state attorneys general, concerned the rule would effectively gut their state usury laws. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors, National Association of Consumer Credit Administrators, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, Credit Union National Association, Military Officers Association of America, Faith for Just Lending, and many other groups also support Congress overturning the rule.

According to national polling, two-thirds of voters (66%) are concerned about the ability of high-cost lenders to arrange loans through banks at rates higher than the state laws allow.

This victory will stop predatory lenders from charging 100% to 200% APR and make all lenders adhere to state laws.

NCL now urges the Congress to take up the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Actand cap interest rates nationally on all consumer loans, including payday and car title loans. It is crucial that the Congress take up this bill that was introduced by Rep. Garcíaand Rep. Glenn Grothman in the last Congress. This is a critical piece of legislation that will protect all consumers from predatory lending. We look forward to working with Congress and our state delegation to pass this important piece of legislation.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

The boom in e-commerce has been a boon for fraudsters

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the growth of e-commerce…

NCL joins advocates in applauding Senate for repealing the national banking regulator’s predatory lending rule, urging the House to act soon

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the Senate for voting to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule, which allows predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. In a 52 – 47 bipartisan vote this week, the U.S. Senate voted to approve S.J. Res. 15, a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. “Chuy” García introduced a parallel resolution, H.J. Res. 35, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that the Senate has approved the resolution, the House needs to take swift action to stop the ongoing harm.

“We applaud this bipartisan rejection of rent-a-bank schemes,” said Sarah Robinson, NCL’s Public Policy Manager. “As consumers and small businesses look to rebuild from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, they must be protected from predatory lending. We now urge the House to move with urgency to prevent this rule from continuing to do harm.”

NCL was part of a broad coalition of more than 375 organizations representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia calling on Congress to overturn the “fake lender” rule, which threatens to harm consumers nationwide.

The rushed “fake lender” rule took effect in December and was issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The rule protects “rent-a-bank” schemes whereby predatory lenders (the true lender) launder their loans through a few rogue banks (the fake lender), which are exempt from state interest rate caps. The rule overrides 200 years’ worth of case law allowing courts to see through usury law evasions to the truth and replaces it with a pro-evasion rule that looks only at the fine print on the loan agreement. Predatory lenders charging 100 percent to 200 percent APR are already starting to push high-cost installment loans across the country that exceed the rates permitted under states’ laws.

A broad, bipartisan cross-section of experts and officials have called on Congress to repeal the fake lender rule. They include a bipartisan group of 25 state attorneys general, concerned the rule would effectively gut their state usury laws. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors, National Association of Consumer Credit Administrators, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, and many other groups also support Congress overturning the rule.

According to national polling, two-thirds of voters (66 percent) are concerned about the ability of high-cost lenders to arrange loans through banks at rates higher than the state laws allowed.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Antimicrobial Resistance is a major looming threat to global health systems

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that threats to our health care system can change lives, both in our communities and around the world. We have learned the value of preparedness and that the ability to respond to massive, impactful events is not easy or without compromise. Thankfully, as summer nears, we see that gradually, countries around the world are in a much better place, thanks to access to vaccines and greater knowledge of how to diagnose and care for patients.

Certainly, we can hope that lessons learned from our recent experience with the COVID-19 pandemic will put us in a better position to identify and address a health issue before it develops to pandemic proportions. But I would urge us to remain vigilant. There are other threats to our health care system that exist and deserve attention…now. One major threat to world health delivery systems is about to have its moment: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

Antimicrobials, which include antibiotics, are critical to maintaining our health. Chances are, in the course of the year, someone in your family will take an antibiotic for an ear infection, an abscessed tooth, a hip replacement, organ transplant, or cancer treatment. In recent years, we have learned that taking too many antibiotics can lead to resistance and therefore a loss of effectiveness. This is true, but it’s important to note that the antimicrobials used to treat resistant infections are much more intense and used in more extreme circumstances than the antibiotics most of us are familiar with.

Antimicrobials fight bacteria and other causes of serious infection and are often the last line of defense against fatal infection. Antimicrobial resistance needs to be taken seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately three million Americans suffer from AMR infections each year with close to 50,000 deaths annually. Other estimates have placed annual deaths from AMR at 162,000, which makes AMR the third leading cause of death in the U.S. today. Surprised?

Here’s what surprised me: there has only been one new class of antibiotics approved in OVER 30 YEARS. Think about that. We have seen game-changing progress in medicine and treatments for countless diseases and conditions, but not AMR. And then think about how many causes of infection have become resistant to the tools we have to fight them.

AMR is a complex problem that’s not going to be easily solved. It takes years and years and billions of dollars to develop a molecule to fight AMR. Today we are faced with a slim menu of therapeutic options now and we find ourselves years away from expanding those options. I fear that AMR may be our next worldwide health emergency and I am not alone: The World Health Organization (WHO) lists AMR as one of the top ten health threats today. Sadly, it’s not a matter of “if”…but rather “when”.

Medicines don’t work forever. With the limited number of effective antimicrobials, we are looking straight down the barrel of the next health emergency. It’s difficult to even contemplate pivoting from all that we have been through with COVID to a new focus on something else equally frightening, but history tells us that being unprepared comes at a heavy cost. And being prepared is exactly what we need to do.

Consumers face an unfair disadvantage at the pharmacy counter

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Everywhere we turn these days, we find ourselves wondering if we are getting a fair deal. Americans continue to suffer the economic consequences of a year-long global health pandemic, and many of us are trying to stick to the essentials and stretch our dollars where we can. As COVID-19 has reminded us, there aren’t many issues families face that are more significant than access to health care.

Families can’t go without essential prescriptions and often wonder why the price seems to go up each time they go for a refill. In fact, we are likely paying more than necessary at the pharmacy counter, but we don’t often know — or even think to ask — why.

A variety of factors drive drug costs, some of which are obvious: the cost of research and development, distributing the product, the pharmacies’ profits – but there is one far less known cause of price increases: PBMs, short for pharmacy benefit managers.

Most people have never heard of PBMs, and PBMs like it that way. They are billion-dollar companies that control more than 80 percent of the prescription drug formularies, (formularies are the lists of drugs that a health plan allows its members to access) — in the United States.

Because of their outsized role, too often PBMs determine how much consumers, businesses, government agencies, and others pay for medicines. As originally conceived, PBMs were meant to help ensure that patients get a fair deal by:

  • working with manufacturers to ensure rebates (or savings) for medications
  • working with insurance companies to determine which medications are covered
  • working with pharmacies to set the price points and help reimburse pharmacies for dispensing prescriptions.

In theory, PBMs should be lowering costs for everyone. However, as they have evolved and grown, they’ve become greedy and self-serving entities, scooping up discounts for themselves and throwing consumers under the bus. All the while, their profits continue to soar as they are all among the top Fortune 500 companies.

Sadly, PBMs have also found ways to manipulate the system and put their own profits first.

Insulin is a prime example. Diabetes patients who need their medication to survive are increasingly left with fewer options for treatment. When PBMs get involved, consumer costs increase.

One recent analysis found that the total value of rebates and discounts for insulin on an annual basis amounts to more than $5,000 per patient. Another report explained that the net price on one insulin product — what the company earns as revenue — declined by 53 percent since 2012, while the list price increased 141 percent. As the WSJ story explains, this is in part due to PBM middlemen meddling. In order to ensure formulary positions (which PBMs control), companies are paying more and more each year.

Consumers don’t know where high drug prices come from and they shouldn’t have to — the system needs to deliver affordable, accessible, safe and effective medications without any entities taking an unfair or hidden profit. The stakes are too high as we look ahead to the health challenges that millions face with the Covid pandemic.

NCL joins with many other groups, including America’s Agenda, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, HMC Healthworks, Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, Diabetes Leadership Council, and Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition in helping to expose hidden, and frankly, indefensible profits being directed to the coffers of PBMs — money that should be redirected to bring drug prices down for patients and consumers.

Let’s all ask hard questions about PBMs’ role in our healthcare system and whether we can’t be using the profits they are taking to lower drug costs. Share this story with others. Talk with your friends and family. Ask your local pharmacist questions.

Consumers – not PBMs — should come first at the pharmacy counter. Stay tuned for more from us on this, and let’s continue the conversation.

Days before crucial deadline, NCL joins 300+ groups call for Congress to rescind ‘Fake Lender’ rule that facilitates predatory loan schemes

Only a majority vote in Congress would be needed to overturn rule that helps triple-digit interest rate loans evade state and voter-approved interest rate caps and spread across the country

March 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—With just a few days left before a crucial deadline, the National Consumers League (NCL) joined a broad coalition of 324 organizations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia calling for Congress to eliminate a Trump-era regulation that took effect in December and could “unleash predatory lending in all 50 states.” The rushed “fake lender” rule, which was issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), would facilitate “rent-a-bank” schemes whereby predatory lenders launder their loans through a few rogue banks, which are exempt from state interest rate caps, through a superficial partnership meant to evade critical predatory lending rules. Linked here and included at bottom is the coalition’s letter to Congress.

“States across the country have passed laws to protect their citizens from predatory lending. This harmful rule undoes that progress,” said Sarah Robinson, Public Policy Manager at the National Consumers League.  “We call on Congress to protect consumers from these types of predatory loans that target vulnerable communities and seek to trap borrowers in a cycle of debt.”

As was done more than a dozen times under President Trump, this Congress could use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rescind recently finalized regulations, including the OCC’s “fake lender” rule, with just a majority vote in both chambers, limited debate, no filibuster, and the president’s signature. However, to be considered, there is a strict deadline for CRA resolutions to be introduced, estimated to be April 4. With spring recess coming up, the practical deadline is likely the end of this week. A CRA of the OCC “fake lender” rule has not yet been introduced. These resolutions also must be voted upon by a certain date, currently estimated for sometime between May 10 and May 21.

The coalition of signatories to the letter consists of 325 groups, including civil rights, community, consumer, faith, housing, labor, legal services, senior rights, small business, student lending, and veterans organizations representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter states that “[t]he rule replaces the longstanding ‘true lender’ anti-evasion doctrine with a ‘fake lender’ rule that allows lenders charging rates of 179 percent or higher to evade state and voter-approved interest rate caps merely by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork – just as payday lenders were doing in the early 2000s.”

The groups warn, “These lenders charge triple-digit interest rates, target the financially vulnerable and communities of color, and trap consumers in devastating cycles of debt…. Currently, there are only a few of these rogue, predatory lenders, but they will spread to all 50 states if the OCC rule is not overturned.”

A 2-pager explanation of the “fake lender” rule is here.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
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National Consumers League applauds House passage of American Rescue Plan

March 10, 2021
Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the House of Representatives’ action to approve President Joe Biden’s relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan.

“The American Rescue Plan is a monumental relief package and critical antipoverty measure that will give desperately needed support to average Americans who have been devastated by COVID-19, including sending out $1,400 checks and funding states’ efforts to streamline and speed up vaccine distribution. This is a much-needed measure, and we are grateful to the Administration and Congress for their round-the-clock work in getting this essential support into the pockets of hard working Americans,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

With the 220-211 House vote, the bill will go to the President’s desk for signature. NCL applauded specific measures included in the legislation:

  • $300 federal boost to weekly jobless payments and extension of two key pandemic unemployment benefits programs through September 6.
  • Expansion of the child tax credit to up to $3,600 per child and $3,000 for each child under age 18 . Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
  • The first $10,200 worth of benefits payments are tax-free for households with annual incomes less than $150,000.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to freelancers, gig workers, and independent contractors.
  • The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which increases the duration of payments for those in the traditional state unemployment system.
  • $350 billion in relief to states, local governments, territories. and tribes.
  • $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.
  • 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits through September (it was previously set to expire at the end of June).
  • $880 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, to help increase participation and temporarily improve benefits, among other measures.
  • $30 billion to help renters and landlords weather economic losses.

“It’s a great relief that passage of the bill comes ahead of a Sunday deadline, when a federal boost to unemployment benefits was set to expire,” said Greenberg.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
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NCL encourages HHS nominee Becerra to continue efforts to help lower consumer out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter

March 1, 2021
Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League is encouraging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Xavier Becerra to continue critical efforts to help drive down consumer out-of-pocket costs of medicines at the pharmacy counter.

Last week, Becerra testified before the Senate HELP Committee as his confirmation hearings were underway. If confirmed, Becerra would play a critical role in helping consumers pay no more than necessary for the medications they need by addressing the role pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) play in determining what consumers pay and why.

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg weighed in with the following statement:

“PBMs have repeatedly promised to lower costs for patients, but unfortunately we’ve not seen this in action. When it comes to prescription drug access and affordability, we should all be on the side of consumers, rather than middlemen corporations. The challenges posed by COVID-19 serve as a daily reminder of the importance of standing up for individuals and families that don’t have the knowledge or patience to understand why they’re subjected to PBM schemes. If confirmed, Attorney General Becerra will have the opportunity to continue working on this issue and helping to ensure PBMs uphold their promise to consumers. Everyone in the health care system needs to work to reduce costs for consumers, who are burdened by high costs across the board. We look forward to joining with him to get to the heart of why out-of-pocket costs are rising and, most importantly, what can be done about it.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
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Jeanette Contreras portrait

Vaccine recommendations for those who recovered from COVID-19

By NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras

As the United States prepares for the release of a third COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meets to discuss further implementation considerations that will inform guidance for the vaccine rollout. At its March 1 meeting, ACIP dedicated a portion of the discussion to whether those who’ve recovered from the virus should still be vaccinated.

To date, there are more than 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and experts estimate that the true number of individuals infected, yet not clinically confirmed, to be triple that amount, pushing the total prevalence to approximately 100 million. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that those who’ve recovered will have a certain amount of natural immunity to the virus for up to eight months after infection, which is in line with the findings of a major British study published in early February, in which 88 percent of participants who previously tested positive for COVID-19 still had antibodies after six months.

Considering that the demand is greater than the supply, it is a difficult task to make recommendations for the equitable distribution of vaccines. For example, Spain issued recommendations that patients wait six months after diagnosis to get vaccinated if an individual is under age 55 with no major health complications. People over 55, or those with health risks that make them vulnerable to reinfection, are exempt from this delay and encouraged to be vaccinated.

Additionally, early studies are showing that immunity in individuals who had recovered and received one shot may be equal to or even exceed those not infected who had received two doses. According to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a single dose of the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines would elicit an immune system response sufficient to provide comparable immunity to two doses in a non-infected person. On February 12, France became the first country to issue guidance recommending that people who have already recovered from COVID-19 only need to receive one dose of a vaccine, between 3 and 6 months after their infection.

Early research like this is informing public health policies in other countries. But the United States is known all over the world for its scientific rigor and reliance on randomized clinical trial data as a gold standard. In a recent blog, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins reassures us that, should other studies support these early results, the experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC will certainly consider whether one dose is enough.

The implementation of a one-dose vaccine would help to increase supply, however, the emergence of COVID-19 variants presents new challenges for curbing this pandemic. Current CDC guidance states that even if you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you should get vaccinated. Arming yourself with a vaccine will keep you and your family safe, and ultimately help to stave off new COVID-19 variants.