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Consumer Reports:
The World's Most Useful Magazine

Consumer Reports is a monthly magazine published by American non-profit consumer advocates group, Consumers Union. Founded in 1936 by a team of experienced product testers and consumer advocates, the Consumers Union set out on a mission to provide expert, unbiased product reviews using scientific methods in environments appropriate for testing and research. Although their outfit was small, their objective was to act as a counterforce to the growing mass media advertising movement that began in the 1930s, which often included misleading product advertising to an unsuspecting and undereducated consumer market. Consumer Reports has since grown to one of the top ten largest magazine circulations in the United States and now has an annual testing budget of approximately $21 million. Much of the organization’s direction comes directly from American consumers themselves in the form of Consumer Reports’ Annual Ballot and Questionnaire, which is completed by more than 1 million readers nationwide, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive consumer studies in the world. Driven by a fierce commitment to truthful, unbiased product reviewing, Consumer Reports has been a friend to the American consumer and a watchdog for product manufacturers worldwide for almost a century.

In addition to the monthly print magazine, Consumer Reports, Consumers Union publishes ConsumerReports.org as well as Consumer Reports on Health and Consumer Reports Money Adviser, which have combined subscriptions of more than 8 million. ConsumerReports.org has more paid subscribers than any other publication-based website and most of the information is only available only to paid subscribers. The advantage of the website is the ability to compare past and present date in digital publishing. Therefore, ConsumerReports.org publishes updates on product availability, adds new products to previously published test results, and even provides additional data not published in the print magazine, such as vehicle reliability tables that extend over the full 10 model years reported in the Annual Questionnaires, as opposed to the six-year history published in Consumer Reports.

Throughout its history, Consumer Reports and the Consumer Union have endured significant criticism and attacks from commercial businesses and even government officials. However, consumer support strengthened and grew with the organization. Consumer Reports became such a powerful force that by the 1980s businesses which did not agree with the reviews of their products began taking legal action:

  • In 1981 Bose Corporation sued Consumers Union for libel because of a negative review. The U.S. Supreme Court deemed that the statement made within the Consumer Reports product review was made without malice and therefore was not libelous.

  • In 1996, after a “not acceptable” review of the Suzuki Samurai from 1988 was again mentioned in a Consumer Reports anniversary issue, Suzuki sued Consumers Union. The case was settled and dismissed in 2004 with Consumer Reports agreeing only to discontinue use of the Samurai’s review information in future publications.

  • In December 1997, Rivera Isuzu, a distributor of the Isuzu Trooper in Puerto Rico, sued Consumers Union claiming that their negative reviews of the Trooper caused them to lose sales. Both a trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals supported judgment in favor of Consumers Union.

  • In 2003, Sharper Image sued Consumer Reports in California over negative reviews of their Ionic Breeze Quadra air purifier. The case was dismissed in November 2004 and Consumers Union was also awarded $525,000 in legal fees and costs.

Consumers Union has fought every legal challenge and won, largely due to the completely unbiased nature of the reviews and the transparency of the organization, which are among the group’s founding principles.

Consumers Union is the largest and oldest consumer organization in the world, and has gained such renown through their commitment to expert, independent, not-for-profit testing and reporting. For this reason Consumer Reports does not accept outside advertising, product samples or any kind, or allow commercial use of its reviews. All products tested are purchased retail by Consumer Reports staff and no samples are accepted from manufacturers, eliminating the possibility or even the appearance of bias or bribery. Reaching beyond their operational integrity, Consumers Union has even expanded their influence to Capitol Hill, employing lobbyists, grassroots organizers, and outreach specialists to help promote consumer awareness and protection throughout American society.

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