Consumer Group Takes Aim at Big Tech Payment Systems

U.S. PIRG Criticizes “Surveillance Model” of Fintech Finance

Andy Spears
2 min readJan 4, 2022


While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has opened an inquiry into so-called “Big Tech” payment systems, consumer groups are offering comments aimed at boosting consumer protections.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) summarized its concerns in a recent blog post.

As PIRG, in our joint comment with the Center for Digital Democracy, told the CFPB, “the Big Tech firms have a corporate surveillance business model that has widely different goals than those of publicly chartered and regulated financial institutions; their model is antithetical to fair consumer treatment generally, but which is especially true when financial matters are at stake.”

PIRG notes that Big Tech uses:

a much more sophisticated system — based on cross-device tracking, machine learning, artificial intelligence and more — that’s designed to move you instantly through a turbocharged path-to-purchasing “funnel.” In real time, they know where you go, who you communicate with, how you earn your money and how you spend it. They know how to influence you to behave in a certain way, including methods to “reward” or “nudge” you into buying more stuff. You won’t even know it.

The CFPB inquiry comes as Big Tech operators (Apple, Google, PayPal, and others) are moving into the payments space:

“Big Tech companies are eagerly expanding their empires to gain greater control and insight into our spending habits,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We have ordered them to produce information about their business plans and practices.”

Finally, PIRG notes that state attorneys general are reporting a significant increase in complaints related to these payment systems:

A comment from a bi-partisan coalition of 33 state attorneys general explains:

“Many of our states have seen a notable rise in the number of consumer complaints related to real-time payment platforms, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic. The complaints we have received raise three common issues: 1) difficulties accessing a customer service representative; 2) inability to access and retrieve funds; and 3) fraudulent money transfers often caused by 3rd party scams.”

Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash



Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .