The First Amendment as Corporate Cudgel: Designing Consumer Protection Policy to Survive the Courts
Recent federal caselaw has expanded First Amendment protections for commercial speech, with significant implications for consumer protection policies. Data privacy laws, restrictions on advertising, warning labels and a potentially wide range of other types of required disclosures may now face constitutional challenges from regulated business. How should consumer advocates respond to this new legal landscape? How can consumer protection policies avoid First Amendment conflict? A panel of experts will discuss.
The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in 2023: A Fireside Chat with Sam Levine and Ira Rheingold
Join the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Sam Levine and longtime consumer advocate and expert Ira Rheingold as they discuss the FTC’s recent expanded focus on consumer protection initiatives within the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ira and Sam will discuss how the FTC has approached rulemaking, data privacy, dark patterns and more.
Climate Risk and the Growing Insurance Gap – Insurance Reforms for a More Resilient Future
As climate change increases the risk of catastrophic property loss, consumers face escalating insurance premiums and even a withdrawal by insurers from some communities. A growing insurance gap is leaving many low-income communities and communities of color without the resilience to bounce back after disaster strikes. While some insurance companies and regulators are starting to integrate climate risk into their management and oversight decisions, most insurance companies continue to underwrite, invest in, and profit from fossil fuel and other climate harming ventures. Meanwhile, the unregulated, private reinsurance markets are tightening up due to climate risk, making it harder for insurers to offload as much of the catastrophic risk as they want. This panel will discuss the burdens facing consumers due to climate risk, the way insurance industry decisions impact climate risk, and the policy and advocacy strategies to address these challenges.
The CFPB’s Integral Work
Established through the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to promote financial stability, transparency, and competition, and is the only federal financial regulator tasked with making consumer financial markets work for consumers. Over its nearly 13 years in existence, the CFPB has recouped more than $14 billion for more than 192 million consumers, enforced consumer protection laws against nearly 300 companies, ordered more than $1.8 billion in civil money penalties as a result of enforcement actions, and processed more than 3 million consumer complaints against financial companies. In 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the CFPB’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional. This decision has serious ramifications for not only the CFPB’s ability to protect consumers, but also for other federal agencies that are similarly funded outside of the congressional appropriations process. This panel will explore the unique and critically important role the CFPB plays in protecting consumers of color, low-income consumers, workers, rural consumers, servicemembers and veterans. We will also delve into the CFPB as a constantly adaptive agency, working to deal with new and growing risks to consumers, like those posed by data collection, anti-competitive practices, and technology.
Standards of Conduct for Investment Professionals – Where Are We?
In the wake of the DOL fiduciary rule for retirement investment advice being struck down in 2018 by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, different regulatory bodies have updated the standards that apply when different financial professionals provide investment advice and recommendations about different investment accounts and products. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission promulgated Regulation Best Interest for broker-dealers in 2019 and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners updated its suitability rule for the sale of annuities to consumers in 2020. In addition, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards updated its Code of Ethics and Standard of Conduct requiring CFP Professionals to comply with a fiduciary duty at all times when providing financial advice to clients. This panel will explore whether these new standards have provided investors with the protections that ensure advice is truly in investors’ best interests and that sales-driven conflicts of interest don’t taint the quality of recommendations. To the extent stronger protections are needed, this panel will consider how we ensure that investors receive such protections.
Process that Matters: Ensuring that the Regulatory System Works for the Public Interest
How agencies promulgate rules to ensure that our marketplace is fair, air and water are clean, and cars, products, and food are safe is an essential aspect of a democratic government. As public interest organizations, how do we make the process more transparent and participatory? What are the biggest challenges impacting rules and the rulemaking process in Congress and in the courts? How can this Administration make a lasting impact on the regulatory process? We will discuss these questions with our expert panel.
The Continuing Epidemic of Medical Debt
In 2022, the CFPB estimated that consumers had $88 billion in medical debts on credit reports. Kaiser Health Network estimates that more than 100 million consumers– or 41% of adults– are saddled with health care debt. However, a disproportionate portion of Black, Hispanic, and low-income consumers struggle with medical debt. In addition, medical debt is more common in the Southeast and Southwest because those regions did not expand Medicaid coverage. Last year, the three biggest credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, announced changes to how they report medical debt which will amount to removing nearly 70% of medical debt. President Biden subsequently announced government-wide actions to lessen the burden of medical debt on American families. Although these were positive steps forward for America’s consumers, medical debt still remains a significant problem for consumers, especially Black and Hispanic and under and uninsured consumers, and can have a serious impact on a consumer’s ability to secure housing, loans, insurance, or even jobs. This panel will delve into the growing issue of medical debt, the systemic failures that have caused this epidemic, and how recent reforms are both promising and still fall short in sufficiently addressing the issue.
A Good Clean Flight: Airline Consumer Protections in 2023
The year 2022 was a stressful year for air travel consumers. As the pandemic restrictions eased, consumers returned to flying, but critics argue that the air travel industry fell short of meeting many consumer expectations and increased demand. Legislators and regulators have offered different opinions about the causes, effects, and potential solutions, and this panel will identify some of the most salient issues facing air travel consumers today. The panel will bring the perspectives of consumer advocates, passengers with disabilities, and travel agencies to talk about what issues should be considered as the air travel industry faces widespread calls for change.
View Last Year’s Consumer Assembly Here
Questions? Please contact Anna Marie Lowery, Director of Meetings and Events.
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