Consumer organization

Last updated

Consumer organizations are advocacy groups that seek to protect people from corporate abuse like unsafe products, predatory lending, false advertising, astroturfing and pollution.


Consumer Organizations may operate via protests, litigation, campaigning, or lobbying. They may engage in single-issue advocacy (e.g., the British Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which campaigned against keg beer and for cask ale) [1] or they may set themselves up as more general consumer watchdogs, such as the Consumers' Association in the UK.

One common means of providing consumers useful information is the independent comparative survey or test of products or services, involving different manufacturers or companies (e.g., Which? , Consumer Reports , etcetera).

Another arena where consumer organizations have operated is food safety. The needs for campaigning in this area are less easy to reconcile with their traditional methods, since the scientific, dietary or medical evidence is normally more complex than in other arenas, such as the electric safety of white goods. The current standards on mandatory labelling, in developed countries, have in part been shaped by past lobbying by consumer groups.

The aim of consumer organizations may be to establish and to attempt to enforce consumer rights. Effective work has also been done, however, simply by using the threat of bad publicity to keep companies' focus on the consumers' point of view. [2]

Consumer organizations may attempt to serve consumer interests by relatively direct actions such as creating and/or disseminating market information, and prohibiting specific acts or practices, or by promoting competitive forces in the markets which directly or indirectly affect consumers (such as transport, electricity, communications, etc.). [2]


Two precursor organizations to the modern consumer organization are standards organizations and consumers leagues. [3] Both of these appeared in the United States around 1900. [3]

Trade associations and professional societies began to establish standards organizations to reduce industry waste and increase productivity. [3] Consumer leagues modeled themselves after trade unions in their attempts to improve the market with boycotts in the same way that trade unions sought to improve working conditions with strike action. [3]

Consumer organizations by country

International consumer organizations

Consumers International. CI Full Name Logo Strapline RBG.jpg
Consumers International.

National organizations






Logo of UFC Que Choisir. Logo UFC Que Choisir.jpg
Logo of UFC Que Choisir.


Hong Kong




The Netherlands

Logo of the Consumentenbond. Consumentenbond.Logo.png
Logo of the Consumentenbond.

Aside from this general consumer organisation, the Netherlands is home to many categorical consumer organisations whose working terrain is limited to a certain part of the markets. Examples of categorical organisations include:

  • The Vereniging Eigen Huis ("Own House Association", for house owners; over 650,000 members)
  • The Vereniging Consument & Geldzaken ("Consumer & Monetary Affairs Association", for financial consumers, of banking and insurance products; 32,000 members)
  • The Woonbond ("League for Living", for renters)

Finally, there is a business regulation agency, charged with competition oversight, sector-specific regulation of several sectors, and enforcement of consumer protection laws:

Republic of Ireland


The Swiss Alliance of Consumer Organisations. Logo Allianz der Konsumentenschutz-Organisationen.jpg
The Swiss Alliance of Consumer Organisations.

The Swiss Alliance of Consumer Organisations is the umbrella organisation of the three Swiss consumer organisations (the Stiftung für Konsumentenschutz (SKS) of German-speaking Switzerland, the Fédération romande des consommateurs (FRC) of French-speaking Switzerland and the Associazione consumatrici e consumatori della Svizzera italiana (ACSI) of Italian-speaking Switzerland). [4]

United Kingdom

Which? is the most influential UK consumers association. Which.Logo.png
Which? is the most influential UK consumers association.

In the United Kingdom, the Enterprise Act 2002 allows consumer bodies that have been approved by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to be designated as "super-complainants" to the Competition and Markets Authority. These super-complainants are intended to, "strengthen the voice of consumers," who are "unlikely to have access individually to the kind of information necessary to judge whether markets are failing for them." Eight have been designated as of 2007: [5]

United States

The Consumers Union was founded in 1936. Consumers Union wordmark.svg
The Consumers Union was founded in 1936.

Consumer magazines

By 1969 most capitalist countries with developed marketplaces hosted consumer organizations that published consumer magazines which reported the results of product testing. [6] Internationally, the idea of consumer organizations spread from Consumers Union in the United States starting in 1956. [6] The growth of interest in product testing journalism might be explained by increased consumption of mass-marketed products in and before that period. [6] That increased international consumption itself was an effect of the aftermath of World War II. [6]

Consumer magazine circulation [7] [8]
Year magazine startedMagazineCountryPublisherYear publisher founded1969 sales1975 sales
1936 Consumer Reports USA Consumers Union 19361,800,0002,300,000
1953 Consumentengids Netherlands Consumentenbond 1953256,000470,000
1953 Forbruker Rapporten Norway Forbrukerradet (Consumers Council)1953169,000235,000
1957 Which? UK Consumers Association 1956600,000700,000
1957 Rad och Ron Sweden Statens Institut for Konsumenfragor (Institute for Consumer Information)1957104,718n.a.
1959 Test-Achats Belgium Association des Consommateurs / Verbruikersunie (AC/V)1957102,235240,000
1959 Choice Australia Australian Consumers' Association 195967,204120,000
1961 Rad og Resultater Denmark Statens Husholdningsrad (Home Economics Council)193528,100n.a.
1961 Que Choisir France Union Federale des Consommateurs (UFC)195115,00030,000
1961 Konsument Austria Verein fur Konsumenteninformation (VKI)196025,000n.a.
1963 Canadian Consumer Canada Consumers' Association of Canada 194743,000n.a.
1964 Taenk Denmark Danske Husmodres Forbrugerrad (Danish Housewives Council)194748,000n.a.
1965 Il Consumatore Italy Unione Nazionale Consumatori 1965100,000n.a.
1966 Test Germany Stiftung Warentest 196468,000250,000
1970 50 Millions de Consummateurs France Institut National de la Consommation 19670300,000
2012 Consumer Voice Pakistan Consumer Voice Pakistan 20120n.a

In the 25 years after World War II, there was a correlation between the number of people in a country who were purchasing cars and the popularity of consumer magazines. [9] In some cases, an increase in other consumer purchases seemed to drive popularity of consumer magazines, but the correlation was closest for populations who made decisions about buying cars. [9] The availability of consumer magazines comforted consumers when individuals in society suddenly became overwhelmed with marketplace decisions, and the popularity of magazines seemed to grow as more marketplace decisions became available. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Which?</i> Brand name of Consumers Association, a UK organisation promoting informed consumer choice

Which? is a United Kingdom brand name that promotes informed consumer choice in the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services, raising awareness of consumer rights and offering independent advice. The brand name is used by the Consumers' Association, a registered charity and company limited by guarantee that owns several businesses, including Which? Financial Services Limited, Which? Legal Limited and Which? Limited, which publishes the Which? Papers.

National Consumers League Non-profit advocacy organization in the USA

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is an American consumer organization. The National Consumers League is a private, nonprofit advocacy group representing consumers on marketplace and workplace issues. The NCL provides government, businesses, and other organizations with the consumer's perspective on concerns including child labor, privacy, food safety, and medication information.

Cruelty Free International is an animal protection and advocacy group that campaigns for the abolition of all animal experiments. They organise certification of cruelty-free products which are marked with the symbol of a leaping bunny.

European Committee for Standardization

The European Committee for Standardization is a public standards organization whose mission is to foster the economy of the European Single Market and the wider European continent in global trading, the welfare of European citizens and the environment by providing an efficient infrastructure to interested parties for the development, maintenance and distribution of coherent sets of standards and specifications.

An extended warranty, sometimes called a service agreement, a service contract, or a maintenance agreement, is a prolonged warranty offered to consumers in addition to the standard warranty on new items. The extended warranty may be offered by the warranty administrator, the retailer or the manufacturer. Extended warranties cost extra and for a percentage of the item's retail price. Occasionally, some extended warranties that are purchased for multiple years state in writing that during the first year, the consumer must still deal with the manufacturer in the occurrence of malfunction. Thus, what is often promoted as a five-year extended guarantee, for example, is actually only a four-year guarantee.

International Consumer Research & Testing (ICRT) is a global consortium of more than 40 consumer organisations dedicated to carrying out joint research and testing in the consumer interest.

Most commonly known as CHOICE, the Australian Consumers' Association is an Australian not for profit consumer advocacy organisation. It is an independent membership based organisation founded in 1959 that researches and campaigns on behalf of Australian consumers. It is similar to the Consumers Union in the United States and Which? in the United Kingdom, who are considered sister organisations. It is the largest consumer organisation in Australia.

Consumer Federation of America Consumer group

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 to advance consumer interests through research, education and advocacy.

Consumers International A United Nations body for consumer protection

Consumers International is the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world. Founded on 1 April 1960, it has over 250 member organisations in 120 countries. Its head office is based in London, England, with regional offices in Latin America, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Consumer protection is the practice of safeguarding buyers of goods and services, and the public, against unfair practices in the marketplace. Consumer protection measures are often established by law. Such laws are intended to prevent businesses from engaging in fraud or specified unfair practices in order to gain an advantage over competitors or to mislead consumers. They may also provide additional protection for the general public which may be impacted by a product even when they are not the direct purchaser or consumer of that product. For example, government regulations may require businesses to disclose detailed information about their products—particularly in areas where public health or safety is an issue, such as with food or automobiles.

The New National Consumer Council, operating as Consumer Futures, was a non-departmental public body and statutory consumer organisation in England, Wales, Scotland, and, for postal services, Northern Ireland. It was established by the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007, and began operations in 2008 by the merging of Postwatch, Energywatch and the Welsh, Scottish and National Consumer Councils under the Consumer Focus brand.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is a statutory consumer agency that promotes and lobbies for consumer rights and interests in the Fiji Islands.

Advocacy groups, also known as special interest groups, use various forms of advocacy in order to influence public opinion and ultimately policy. They play an important role in the development of political and social systems.

Consumer protection in the United Kingdom is effected through a multiplicity of Acts of Parliament, statutory instruments, government agencies and departments and citizens' lobby groups and aims to ensure the market economy produces fairness and quality in goods and services people buy. The main areas of regulating consumer affairs include,

The Fiji Consumers Association (FCA) is a non-profit, voluntary civil society group in the Fiji Islands. The association is registered under Fiji's Charitable Trust Act and is principally based in Suva, Fiji's capital city. The FCA is the only non-government and voluntary consumer organisation in Fiji, and actively participates in activities of the consumer movement in Fiji under the leadership of the statutory consumer agency - Consumer Council of Fiji.

The European Consumer Organisation

The European Consumer Organisation is an umbrella consumers' group, founded in 1962. Based in Brussels, Belgium, it brings together 45 European consumer organisations from 32 countries.

The consumer movement is an effort to promote consumer protection through an organized social movement, which is in many places led by consumer organizations. It advocates for the rights of consumers, especially when those rights are actively breached by the actions of corporations, governments, and other organizations which provide products and services to consumers. Consumer movements also commonly advocate for increased health and safety standards, honest information about products in advertising, and consumer representation in political bodies.

Swiss Alliance of Consumer Organisations

The Swiss Alliance of Consumer Organisations, founded in 2010, is the umbrella organisation of the three Swiss consumer organisations:


  1. "Cromarty, CAMRA and crazy cask cancellation".
  2. 1 2 "Consumer Protection | Laws | fraud | government regulation | consumer rights". Archived from the original on 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Rao, Hayagreeva (1998). "Caveat emptor: The construction of nonprofit consumer watchdog organizations" (PDF). The American Journal of Sociology. 103 (4): 912–961. doi:10.1086/231293 . Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  4. "Alliance of Consumer Organisations: United Together for the Consumers" Archived 2016-11-14 at the Wayback Machine , Federal Office of Public Health (page visited on 13 November 2016).
  5. Super-Complaints - BERR Archived 2007-02-05 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 3 4 Hilton 2009, p. 25.
  7. Hilton 2009, p. 26.
  8. Thorelli, Hans B.; Thorelli, Sarah V. (1977). Consumer information systems and consumer policy. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Pub. Co. pp.  327–60. ISBN   978-0884102717.
  9. 1 2 Hilton 2009, p. 28.
  10. Hilton 2009, p. 29.