Consumer Protection and Civil Justice
The civil justice system, like all areas of law, can seem complicated and intimidating - but it doesn't have to. For more on how our civil justice system works, and how it protects you, check out our brief explanation, How Our Civil Justice System Protects Consumers.
For more on specific topics like medical malpractice, asbestos, or arbitration, use the links on the right. And if you have any concerns or tips about industry trying to take away your legal rights, feel free to drop us a note.
Back to Basics Health Care Reform
A report issued by Public Citizen proposes 10 cost-cutting, patient-safety measures that would save an estimated 85,000 lives and $35 billion a year. Most of the reforms in Public Citizen’s report involve simple fundamentals. Read our letter to the Senate Finance Committee, LEARN MORE, and TAKE ACTION.
Home Court Advantage: Using Forced Arbitration to Evade Accountability
Millions of new home purchasers each year are forced into binding mandatory arbitration by deceptive “warranties,” and those warranties may violate the law in as many as 17 states, Public Citizen has found. These warranties are particularly insidious because consumers often do not learn of their details until after moving into their new houses. The process is inherently secretive, and arbitration firms routinely flout the few laws that require them to disclose basic information about their cases. LEARN MORE at fairarbitrationnow.org.
Consumer Safety Under Attack
Industry groups are attempting to repeal some of the safety standards we strengthened with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. These protections must be implemented - not rolled back! Learn the facts and take action on www.ToyingWithSafety.org.
Calling for More Accountability to Consumers
For far too long there has been too little oversight of financial products like credit cards, mortgages and car loans. Public Citizen supports legislation to establish a Financial Product Safety Commission that would protect and educate consumers, as well as improve the value of financial products. Learn more about the bill and our work for more accountability.
State Secrets Protection Act Is Crucial for Open Government, Public Citizen Tells House Committee
Over the past seven years, the Bush administration has abused the state secrets privilege by going to extremes to keep the administration's work in the shadows. Lawmakers must protect Americans' right to an open and accountable government and curb government corruption by supporting the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008. Read the press release and our letter of support for the the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008.
Arbitration Harms Consumers, Studies Prove
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has painted a grossly inaccurate picture of the empirical evidence on binding mandatory arbitration, a comprehensive study issued today by Public Citizen reveals. In this type of arbitration, consumers lose their right to settle disputes in court and instead are routed to a private, secretive system that favors the company. Learn more here.
Ending Court Secrecy
Court cases can reveal dangerous activities and deadly products that corporations otherwise try to keep secret, but sometimes the public never learns these facts. Sen. Herb Kohl's (D-Wisc.) Sunshine in Litigation Act will help ensure that judges consider the public's health and safety when deciding whether to keep court procedings secret. Tell your senators to support the public's right to know.
Defective and dangerous products – from lead-painted toys to vacuum cleaners that catch fire – are being allowed onto store shelves and into our homes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) does not have the power to get vital safety information to the public quickly. What's more, this federal agency can't fine companies enough to ensure they will comply with the law. The CPSC should protect American consumers, not manufacturers! The Senate passed legislation that gives agency some much-needed muscle, and now we need to make sure that the bill that comes out of conference is equally strong!
Designated Seating Position
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) granted Public Citizen’s petition for reconsideration on its final rule regarding designated seating position in a notice published on Dec. 23, 2009. NHTSA’s rule sought to clarify the definition of a designated seating position and to encourage manufacturers to design seats to clearly designate places where occupants should sit from places where occupants should not sit. The agency embedded some language that would restrict consumers’ access to the court in the final rule based on the idea that to avoid lawsuits some manufacturers might choose to install an excessive number of seat belts. Public Citizen stated in its petition for reconsideration that we found the argument that automakers would install too many seat belts unconvincing.
In NHTSA’s response to Public Citizen’s petition, the agency agreed that “Even if there were State tort law decisions requiring more [designated seating positions] than the number contemplated by our definition, we believe that the manufacturers would likely respond in the same way that they will respond to the changes mandated by our October 2008 final rule….[W]e believe that it is unlikely that a manufacturer will increase the number of [designated seating positions] in a vehicle and install an excessive number of seat belts.” The agency ultimately concluded that it had no reason to expect that State tort law would conflict with the regulation, and therefore it removed the language restricting access to the court.
In 2001, Bush signed Executive Order 13233 which allows presidents to withhold documents and records without explanation INDEFINITELY. What’s more, the order extends the authority to control the records to presidential family members and vice presidents. Public Citizen took it to court and won a partial victory. Now Congress must pass the Presidential Records Act Amendments to fully nullify the Bush Order and return the presidential records to the people. Get the latest updates on our Watchdog Blog. Take action!
A Self-Inflicted "Crisis"
Shortsighted policy decisions by New York’s government in the 1990s are responsible for the purported medical malpractice “crisis” in the state, according to a report released by Public Citizen, New York Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Medical Consumers. Gov. Eliot Spitzer and a task force studying malpractice are urged to focus on ways to improve patient safety and to resist pleas from the insurance industry and the state’s doctors to pare back patients’ legal rights. Learn more.
The Arbitration Trap: How Credit Cards Companies Ensnare Consumers
This report details how arbitration firms and credit card companies enjoy a cozy, mutually beneficial relationship at the expense of consumers they force into binding mandatory arbitration. With only data from California available, the findings provide a glimpse of how arbitration traps consumers throughout the country in unfair, secret proceedings where for-profit arbitrators make the rules. Public Citizen's research uncovered consumers who spent years fending off collection agencies, cleaning up identity theft messes and struggling to bounce back from credit rating hits.
Read the report [pdf]
Read the press release
Take action now
Learn ways to protect yourself
Read our coalition statement on the Arbitration Fairness Act.
Read the blog
NAF California data Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2007 [Excel file]
Activist in the Spotlight
Learn how a Lisa Lipin became a consumer advocate after almost losing her son to a dangerous toy. This Chicago mother has successfully lobbied Illinois lawmakers to ban the toy and continues to battle the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do the same. Read her story.
Public Citizen Joins Americans for Fairness in Lending
Public Citizen and Americans for Fairness in Lending have joined forces! AFFIL is a national collaboration of 25 leading consumer advocacy and civil rights groups. AFFIL unites the efforts of the nation’s leading consumer advocates, providing people with a one-stop resource to take action to better build and protect their assets. We are excited to work with AFFIL to protect consumers from unfair lending practices. Read more about the partnership here. Check out our collaborative's consumer-focused Web site: www.affil.org.
If you think that our government can’t pick someone up off the street, lock them up, and then throw away the key, you are wrong. We must restore the right to habeas corpus, stripped in a law passed last year. Help us send a clear message to Congress by signing our petition.