Putting people ahead of profits and standing up to powerful special interests on behalf of all Vermonters.
From fighting against misleading food labeling to ending exploitive credit card fees to reining-in the rent-to-own industry, VPIRG is dedicated to pushing for laws and regulations that better protect consumers and ensure that Vermont is a desirable, safe, and economically vibrant place to live, work, and raise a family.
Since 2017, the VPIRG Consumer Protection Program has placed a specific emphasis on working for policies that protect consumers in the digital space. This decision was borne from the recognition that consumers are increasingly conducting more and more actions online; while the largest threats to consumer safety and well-being come from the increasingly powerful, monopolistic and largely unregulated technology and telecommunications industries.
To that end, in recent years, VPIRG has prioritized educating consumers and mobilizing them in support of policies that promote an internet that is accessible, fair and secure for all Vermonters.
Broadly this means:
- Accessibility: Every Vermonter should have access to an affordable, quality, broadband internet connection. Fast, reliable internet is no longer a luxury—in the 21st century economy, it’s an absolute necessity. It’s how we conduct job searches, make important health decisions, maintain connections with friends and families, and become active participants in our democracy. To that end, VPIRG fights to ensure that all Vermonters have access to reliable internet service, regardless of income level, geography, race, gender, etc.
- Fairness: Vermonters deserve a fair and equitable internet experience. Broadly speaking, this means Vermonters (and everyone for that matter) deserve net neutrality. Internet service providers should not be able to slow down or block legal content—not for business purposes, not for political purposes, not for any purposes.
- Security: Vermonters should be able to use the internet privately and securely, with the understanding that their information and data will not be sold by internet service providers without their knowledge and distributed for nefarious purposes. VPIRG advocates for policies that provide Vermonters a reasonable level of privacy over their internet activity, allow them to clearly understand who has access to their information and how it’s being used, and do what we can to prevent the abuse of that information.
In the past 5 years, VPIRG has successfully advocated for a number of enacted policies in these areas – including some legislation that can be described as nation-leading. These victories include but are not limited to:
- Net neutrality: VPIRG successfully advocated for S.289 (Act 169) which ensures that the state of Vermont will only contract with net neutral internet service providers. Following the Trump FCC’s rollback of Net Neutrality in 2018, many states moved forward to preserve those critical protections for consumers within their borders. Several governors issued executive orders with language similar to Act 169, but Vermont was the first state to enact a law requiring internet providers with state contracts to certify as net neutral. This law ultimately earned the state a lawsuit from the telecom industry, the outcome of which remains unresolved. However, Vermont’s law has helped contribute to a patchwork of protections and regulations which have prevented the telecom industry from moving forward with the worst possible net neutrality abuses and have provided a window for federal action to renew nationwide net neutrality protections.
- Data Broker Regulation: VPIRG was instrumental in enacting a law (Act 171) that requires data brokers – third party companies that buy and sell individuals’ personal information – to register with the state and report their opt-out practices. It also requires these companies to maintain a minimum data security standard and makes it a crime to obtain an individual’s information for malicious purposes. Vermont was the first state to past such a law. Since it’s enactment the Data Broker law has helped unearth a New Jersey company that sold the personal information of millions of minors; despite claiming to have no data on underaged individuals and allowed Vermont to bring enforcement against the controversial facial recognition software company Clearview AI.
- A Model for Community Broadband in a Rural State: Contrary to many other states that have, at the behest of the telecom giants, banned municipal and community-owned broadband solutions; Vermont has enacted several VPIRG-championed laws in recent years that prioritize community broadband solutions as the state works to bridge our digital divide. This includes the creation of state government positions to explicitly assist community broadband development, the creation of a state revolving loan program to provide initial capital to these entities, and, most recently, directing significant federal broadband funding directly to these community providers to accelerate broadband development in the state. VPIRG has worked for policies that prioritize community broadband solutions because we believe these entities, free from the profit motives of the legacy telecoms, are best positioned to deliver affordable, universal internet access in the state. Community-owned networks are much more consumer-friendly than the giant telecoms. On average, they’re more-affordable and provide better speeds than large telecoms while prioritizing bedrock consumer protection principles like net neutrality and user privacy.
Recent Consumer Protection News
On July 1st Vermont will become the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically engineered foods! This victory will be the culmination of years of hard work by advocates, legislators and citizens across the state. Thanks to Vermont’s labeling law, national food manufacturers General Mills, Kellogg, Con Agra, Campbell’s and Mars have announced ...Read More
On Thursday, two US Senators – Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) – announced that they had reached a deal on a national GMO labeling bill that would preempt Vermont’s law set to go into effect on July 1st. This bill would delay labeling for up to two years, while the Secretary of the Department ...Read More
We’ve been successfully beating back challenge after challenge to our GMO labeling law since its inception- and now another has popped up. Lobbyists for big food companies are trying to sneak changes to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law into the must-pass budget bill, trying to secure last-second exemptions. As you know, corporate food giants are suing Vermont ...Read More
Over the past week, four of the nation’s largest food manufacturers have announced that they will join Campbell’s in labeling genetically engineered foods sold in the United States to comply with Vermont’s upcoming GMO labeling law. Food giants General Mills, Kellogg, Con Agra, and Mars made their announcements after a bill to eliminate Vermont’s GMO labeling ...Read More
In a win for consumers across the country today, the U.S. Senate voted 48-49 against advancing a bill, known as the new Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which would preempt Vermont’s GMO labeling law. In a press conference among representatives from VPIRG and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition as well ...Read More
Since the passage of Vermont’s GMO Labeling law in 2014, we’ve been working to defend it in the courts and in Congress. But now we’re at a tipping point: Senator Roberts’ version of the DARK Act is going to the full Senate for a vote TOMORROW MORNING at 11am. If passed, Roberts’ bill would not only seek ...Read More
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture voted in favor of the new “DARK Act” yesterday, sending the bill to the Senate floor. The bill, introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts, is designed to stop the movement for GMO labeling in its tracks- undermining the public’s right to know and states’ rights to inform their citizens about the ...Read More
Sign the letter: Tell the Seante to Reject the Dark Act – click here! The DARK (“Deny Americans Right to Know”) Act is back, and Vermont’s GMO labeling law is being attacked again. Thanks to persistent citizen action across the country we succeeded in stopping the DARK Act this winter, but with four months to go before ...Read More