CFA News

CFAnews Update – October 28, 2022

Overview: CFA’s 45th National Food Policy Conference

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) held its 45th National Food Policy Conference on October 12, exploring timely issues impacting consumers, the food industry, and government.

For 45 years, the National Food Policy Conference has been a key national gathering for those interested in food, agriculture, and nutrition policy. After back-to-back virtual conferences during the pandemic, this year’s conference followed a hybrid model, with 115 in-person attendees and 88 virtual attendees.

The conference had notable keynote addresses from Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, FDA Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Dr. Susan Mayne, National Food Museum Founder Michael Jacobson, and the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sara Bleich, PhD.

“Many of the policymakers who spoke at this year’s event, or at our Conference in recent years, were instrumental in organizing a historic White House conference on hunger and nutrition, which took place just a few weeks before the CFA event,” said Thomas Gremillion, CFA’s Director of Food Policy. “There was an almost celebratory mood among the attendees at this year’s National Food Policy Conference, because we are just not used to food policy getting so much attention.”

This year’s agenda offered a variety of facilitated discussions about issues impacting the food industry, from the question of regionalizing the food system to fighting for racial justice in the consumption and production of food.

“Attendees were anxious to discuss the challenges facing the food system, from farm to fork, and to engage in vigorous debate on the strategies put forward to address those challenges,” said Gremillion. “The event marked the beginning of many important conversations, which we look forward to taking back up at the 46th Annual Food Policy Conference.”

Watch our full conference here.

What Could the Fifth Circuit Decision Mean for the Future of the CFPB?

By: Rachel Gittleman, Financial Services Outreach Manager

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was born out of a lesson learned the hard way.  A lack of regulatory safeguards led to the 2008 financial crisis, which left 21 million Americans without work and more than nine million families without homes due to foreclosure or short sales. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Congress passed the critical Dodd-Frank law which created the CFPB and charged it with enforcing federal consumer financial law. The CFPB was tasked with promoting financial stability, improving accountability and transparency in the financial marketplace, and protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive and abusive financial practices and from unlawful discrimination.

Since its inception, the CFPB has protected consumers from predatory actors across marketplaces and served as the only financial agency specifically focused on consumers. The CFPB has returned $13.5 billion to the pockets of 175 million consumers who have been harmed by unlawful business practices and ordered corporate wrongdoers to pay $1.8 billion in civil penalties. It has issued rules and guidance to make the credit reporting, debt collection, mortgage servicing, credit card, and banking industries more transparent, equitable, and accountable to the public.

It has fought discrimination in the banking, credit, and housing marketplaces, protecting consumers from being denied services or charged higher rates because of their race, sexuality, gender identity, or national origin. The CFPB has educated consumers about how to apply for financial products, spot risky practices, and exercise their rights in the financial marketplace. It has provided critical research about how payday loans create a cycle of debt, overdraft practices disproportionately harm low-income consumers, students are targeted by unsafe and deceptive products, and service members and their families face unique harms in the financial marketplace. This is just a sampling of the critically important work the CFPB has accomplished over the last decade to make the financial marketplace more competitive, equitable, fair, and safe.

The CFPB is critically important to American consumers and to the economy as a whole. Yet last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the CFPB’s independent funding structures are unconstitutional. The CFPB’s funding is not novel—the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Housing Finance Agency, National Credit Union Administration, and Medicare and Social Security are all funded outside of Congressional appropriations. Independent funding protects these critical agencies and programs from falling prey to political influence and partisan gamesmanship that so often plagues the appropriations

This ruling calls into question the CFPB’s ability to ensure that debt collectors, payday lenders, mortgage and student loan servicers, credit and tenant reporting agencies, and big banks follow the law. It creates momentous uncertainty for existing regulations, supervision, and enforcement, as well as for other agencies and programs that are independently funded and vital to the American economy and consumers. Not only does this decision have widespread consequences for consumers, but it creates unprecedented uncertainty for regulated entities in the financial marketplace.

This decision threatens consumers and our economy at a time when all consumers are dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, record inflation and soaring prices, and housing shortages. This is not the time for federal financial regulators like the CFPB to be undermined or attacked.

We will not stop until this ruling is overturned. We will continue to support the CFPB’s fight for a financial marketplace that is equitable, fair, transparent, and competitive for all American consumers. We will continue to advocate for a CFPB that has the independence and resources needed to do its job.

US Consumer Insights Report Reveals Overwhelming Support for Appliance Efficiency

On October 25, CFA and CLASP released a new issue brief finding that 76% of Americans support federal energy efficiency standards for appliances.

This nationally representative survey of 4,000 Americans revealed that a majority of the country, regardless of race, gender, or income, is in favor of standards and supports payback periods—the time it takes for utility bill savings to pay for the incremental cost increase in the appliance purchase price associated with the technology utilized to meet the higher energy efficiency standard—ranging between three, five, and ten years.

The survey also found that two-thirds of U.S. households have had to replace major appliances – like refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, and space heating equipment – within the last five years, largely due to product failures. This finding supports the need for further research so that energy efficiency programs can determine if there are effective methods to ‘disincentivize’ the resale of the most inefficient major appliances nationally. Existing examples include utility ‘Cash for Appliances’ recycling programs and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program for air conditioners, dehumidifiers, refrigerators, and standalone freezers.

“With rising energy prices and widespread inflation, now more than ever, consumers can use the additional pocketbook savings that updated efficiency standards will provide in hundreds of dollars annually thanks to the increased energy efficiency of their household appliances,” said Richard Eckman, CFA’s Communications Manager and Energy Advocate. “Our data show that consumers across all demographics support efficiency standards and are willing to make an investment in energy efficiency that pays for itself over a short period of time through energy bill savings.”

Existing efficiency standards save the average American household over $300 per year on its energy bills. To ensure that all Americans receive additional economic benefits from more efficient technologies, authors of the brief recommend that the U.S. Department of Energy should:

  • Meet legally binding deadlines provided under the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987
  • Expand appliance efficiency outreach efforts and incentivize efficient appliance purchases, especially among low-income households and households of color
  • Conduct additional research on the used appliance market in the United States

Overview: CFA’s 2022 Consumer Advocacy Week

CFA’s 2022 Consumer Advocacy Week was held from September 15 – 28 and resulted in more than 160 virtual meetings between advocates and their members of Congress from throughout the country.

This national event, organized by CFA in partnership with Americans for Financial Reform, Consumer Action, Consumer Reports, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, National Consumers League, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG, facilitates meetings between advocates from across the country to speak with Congressional offices about issues directly impacting consumers today.

With over 260 constituents registered from 39 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, participants discussed their support for:

  • Protecting consumers from payment fraud and theft: ensuring consumers are protected from fraud, theft, and errors in older payment forms, like wire transfers and EBT cards, as well as newer, faster payment forms, like person-to-person (p2p) payment apps.
  • Curbing overdraft and nonsufficient fund fees: instituting common-sense limits on overdraft and nonsufficient fund (NSF) fees.
  • Restoring the FTC’s Authority: restoring the authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to fight scams, return funds to victims, and deter wrongdoers.

“Consumer Advocacy Week brings together a diverse group of advocates from throughout the country who fight for consumer protections across every marketplace, and together, we call attention to some of the most pressing issues facing consumers today,” said Rachel Gittleman, CFA’s Financial Services Outreach Manager. “This collective advocacy effort would not be possible without our national partners and each and every advocate who participated.”