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Consumer Confidential: GOP block, Amazon discount, credit card debt

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Here's your thick-as-a-brick Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--As expected, Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on whether to approve President Obama's pick to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. GOP lawmakers say they have nothing against former Ohio Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray. They just don't like the agency, which is intended to keep an eye on credit card issuers, mortgage lenders and others with a track record for -- how shall we put it? -- not always acting in consumers' best interest. Republicans want to water down the agency's leadership structure, and they say they won't approve anyone to run the show until they get what they want. I'll have more on this in my Friday column.

--Amazon is stepping up its game. The online retail heavyweight says it will give customers a 5% discount if they check out the price of something in a brick-and-mortar store and then buy it via the Net from Amazon. The trick is Amazon's Price Check app, which allows users to instantaneously check to see whether Amazon sells the same merchandise for a better price. This Saturday, app users will get that 5% discount below whatever the store's price may be. Amazon’s app is available for the iPhone and Android smartphones at no cost to the user. You can do a price check by scanning an item’s bar code or typing in a search query, or even by snapping a photo or saying the product name. Needless to say, real-world stores aren't happy about the promotion. (Time.com)

--But go a little easy on the spending. Consumers piled on $16.8 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter, up 154% from the same quarter last year, according to CardHub.com. The news comes on the heels of a report by First Data that credit card spending in the U.S. rose in the first three quarters of the year. The Great Recession may have promoted many consumers to put away their plastic for a while, but they are apparently spending again -- big time. Based on the results of its study, CardHub.com’s latest projection is that consumers will end 2011 with roughly $64 billion more in credit card debt than they began it with. Ouch. (ConsumerAffairs.com)

-- David Lazarus

Photo: President Obama wants Richard Cordray to run a new watchdog agency. Senate Republicans think otherwise. Credit: Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg

 

Ask Laz: Getting educated on student debt proposals [Video]

When you think about going to school and the big payoff, these days it's more about the massive amount of accumulated debt than about getting a job. 

How high is the cost of higher education?

This year, student debt is expected to top $1 trillion, beating out credit-card debt in America. 

KTLA viewer Chris is carrying about $100,000 in student loans herself. She asks Laz about what President Obama has been proposing to help ease the growing financial burden of higher education. He explains in the video below.

 

 

You can catch him on KTLA-TV Channel 5 weekday mornings and during the 1 p.m. newscast. 

If you have a question, write or send a video to asklaz@ktla.com. He just might answer your question on television.

RELATED: 

Young people think college is critical but too expensive

California leads nation in escalation of college costs

Average student-loan debt tops $25,000 for first time

 

-- Michelle Maltais

 

 

 

 

Average student-loan debt tops $25,000 for first time

College-2-Uof Chicago-credit2UofC

You don't have to be a math major to understand this statistic: The average student-loan debt of last year's college graduates tops $25,000 -- the first time it's ever exceeded that ignominious mark.

Seniors who graduated in 2010 had an average student-loan burden of $25,250, up 5.2% from the $24,000 owed by the class of 2009, according to a report by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success in Oakland.

Some experts had expected a bigger increase in debt given the gloomy economy, but increased financial aid at some schools partially offset the hit for low-income students and those at pricier colleges.

Still, the increased debt load is another negative for college graduates who already were facing a punishing job market. The unemployment rate for college graduates ages 20 to 24 rose to 9.1% last year, up from 8.7% in 2009 and the highest annual rate on record, according to the nonprofit research organization.

The report is based on data reported voluntarily by more than 1,000 public and private nonprofit four-year colleges. It did not include so-called for-profit colleges.

In California, the average debt load last year was $18,113, with 48% of graduating seniors owing money, according to the study.

Students and their families (who, after all, will be footing many of the college bills) can get data on average student-loan rates for many schools on the group's website in the link above.

RELATED:

California's 529 college-saving plan to gain options under TIAA-CREF

California's 529 college savings plan to be revamped

Contributions to college-savings 529 plans are rising sharply after falling during recession

-- Walter Hamilton

Photo credit: University of Chicago

 

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