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

Our Day in Court

Our Day in Court

On Wednesday January 7th the Federal District Court in Burlington will be hearing the first oral arguments on Vermont’s landmark GMO labeling law. The arguments will center on the State’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit, and the Plaintiffs’ request to stop implementation of the law. This is a major step in deciding if Vermonters have the right ...

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Vermont Right to Know Goes to Washington

Vermont Right to Know Goes to Washington

On Wednesday December 10th approximately 700 protesters from 22 states descended on Washington D.C. to protest a hearing on HR.4432 otherwise known as the DARK Act (Denying American’s Right to Know Act). The Act aims to preempt and overturn Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law without creating a national mandatory labeling standard. On ...

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Help Stop the DARK Act!

Help Stop the DARK Act!

Our elected officials in Washington are all strong supporters of a consumer’s right to know what is in their food. We need them to help us defeat HR.4432, otherwise known as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. The Act would wipe out Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law, and prohibit ...

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GMO Labeling Headed for a Recount in Oregon

GMO Labeling Headed for a Recount in Oregon

Final tallies for Oregon’s Measure 92 to label genetically engineered foods have “Yes on 92” behind by a mere 809 votes, triggering an automatic recount. Many news sources declared measure 92 dead earlier this month, but the hard work and dedication of activists and organizers across the state to ensure that thousands of ballots are properly ...

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GMO Legal Battle Heats up

GMO Legal Battle Heats up

Last Week the Attorney General’s office and three outside groups, including VPIRG, filed briefs in federal court asking the judge to throw out a food industry lawsuit that aims to stop the implementation of Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law. These filings were made in response to a request for a preliminary injunction ...

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Legal Documents from VPIRG/CFS Motion to Intervene

VPIRG is defending your right to know. Read our press statement on VPIRG and Center for Food Safety’s motion to intervene by clicking here. If you’re ready to really nerd out on the legal documents, here’s the full list of documents we filed with our motion to intervene. Motion to Intervene: Click here to download. Memorandum of Law in ...

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VPIRG and Center for Food Safety Move to Defend Vermont GE Labeling Law

VPIRG and Center for Food Safety Move to Defend Vermont GE Labeling Law

Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) formally moved to defend Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) food labeling law, Act 120. The groups filed legal papers to intervene on behalf of the State of Vermont in order to assist in defending Act 120 from a legal challenge brought by the Grocery ...

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