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Consumer Groups

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Ralph Nader is alive and kicking in Ann Arbor, or at least his followers are, with a local group of PIRGIM (Public Interest Research Group in Michigan). Funded through a voluntary $1.00 fee from U-M students, the group modeled after Nader's Raiders has taken on every industry from fast-foods to nuclear power. A report last year on transporting nuclear wastes through highly populated areas received nationwide attention.

PIRGIM has chapters at several state universities, and is headquartered in Lansing. A minimal staff receives pay, but most of the work must be done by volunteers. The Ann Arbor group, which has an office on campus, holds weekly meetings during the school year, and welcomes everyone interested in consumer protection (especially people who like researching corporate dirty deeds!)

Consumer protection is also available through the county's Consumer Protection division, which can handle complaints and prosecute companies accused of consumer fraud. For example, did you know that if an item in a store has two prices posted on it, the store must sell it to the consumer for the lower of the two. Or, if a store has run out of an advertised special, it must give you a "rain check."

The state has both a Consumer Council (MCC) and the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Attorney General's office. Both handle consumer complaints, and do investigating of problems. For example, the Attorney General's office did a report on fraud in the car repair business, which has led to several bills in the legislature to require licensing of mechanics.

The state published several good consumer guides. From the Michigan Consumer's Council "How to Sue Someone in Small Claims Court," "Guide for Installment Buying," and a report on the new door-to-door sales act. From the Attorney General's office, "The Michigan Consumer Survival Manual" is also available-all these for absolutely free.