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) 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.
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.).
Two precursor organizations to the modern consumer organization are standards organizations and consumers leagues. Both of these appeared in the United States around 1900.
Trade associations and professional societies began to establish standards organizations to reduce industry waste and increase productivity. 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.
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:
Finally, there is a business regulation agency, charged with competition oversight, sector-specific regulation of several sectors, and enforcement of consumer protection laws:
Main article: 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).
Main article: Consumer protection in the United Kingdom
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[update]:
By 1969 most capitalist countries with developed marketplaces hosted consumer organizations that published consumer magazines which reported the results of product testing. Internationally, the idea of consumer organizations spread from Consumers Union in the United States starting in 1956. The growth of interest in product testing journalism might be explained by increased consumption of mass-marketed products in and before that period. That increased international consumption itself was an effect of the aftermath of World War II.
|Year magazine started||Magazine||Country||Publisher||Year publisher founded||1969 sales||1975 sales|
|1936||Consumer Reports||USA||Consumers Union||1936||1,800,000||2,300,000|
|1953||Forbruker Rapporten||Norway||Forbrukerradet (Consumers Council)||1953||169,000||235,000|
|1957||Rad och Ron||Sweden||Statens Institut for Konsumenfragor (Institute for Consumer Information)||1957||104,718||n.a.|
|1959||Test-Achats||Belgium||Association des Consommateurs / Verbruikersunie (AC/V)||1957||102,235||240,000|
|1959||Choice||Australia||Australian Consumers' Association||1959||67,204||120,000|
|1961||Rad og Resultater||Denmark||Statens Husholdningsrad (Home Economics Council)||1935||28,100||n.a.|
|1961||Que Choisir||France||Union Federale des Consommateurs (UFC)||1951||15,000||30,000|
|1961||Konsument||Austria||Verein fur Konsumenteninformation (VKI)||1960||25,000||n.a.|
|1963||Canadian Consumer||Canada||Consumers' Association of Canada||1947||43,000||n.a.|
|1964||Taenk||Denmark||Danske Husmodres Forbrugerrad (Danish Housewives Council)||1947||48,000||n.a.|
|1965||Il Consumatore||Italy||Unione Nazionale Consumatori||1965||100,000||n.a.|
|1970||50 Millions de Consummateurs||France||Institut National de la Consommation||1967||0||300,000|
|2012||Consumer Voice||Pakistan||Consumer Voice Pakistan||2012||0||n.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. 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. 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.