- Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports cover dated November 2005
Editorial Director Kevin McKean Categories Consumer advocacy Frequency Monthly Circulation 7,300,000 / month Publisher Consumers Union First issue January 1936 Country United States Language English Website consumerreports.org ISSN 0010-7174
Consumer Reports is an American magazine published monthly by Consumers Union since 1936. It publishes reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its in-house testing laboratory. It also publishes cleaning and general buying guides. It has approximately 7.3 million subscribers and an annual testing budget of approximately US$21 million. The annual Consumer Reports new car issue, released every April, is typically the magazine's best-selling issue and is thought to influence millions of automobile purchases.
Consumer Reports does not print outside advertising, accept free product samples, or permit the commercial use of its reviews for selling products. Its publisher states that this policy allows the magazine to "maintain our independence and impartiality... [so that] CU has no agenda other than the interests of consumers."
Consumer Reports states that all tested products are purchased at retail prices by its staff, that no free samples are accepted from manufacturers, and that this avoids the possibility of bias from bribery or from being given "better than average" samples.
ConsumerReports.org provides updates on product availability, and adds new products to previously published test results. In addition, the online data includes coverage that is not published in the magazine; for example, vehicle reliability (frequency of repair) tables online extend over the full 10 model years reported in the Annual Questionnaires, whereas the magazine has only a six-year history of each model.
Magazine copies distributed in Canada include a small four-page supplement called "Canada Extra," explaining how the magazine's findings apply to that country and lists the examined items available there.
In 2002, Consumers Union launched the grant-funded project Consumer Reports WebWatch, which aims to improve the credibility of Web sites through investigative reporting, publicizing best-practices standards, and publishing a list of sites that comply with the standards. WebWatch has worked with the Stanford Web Credibility Project, Harvard University's Berkman Center, The Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, and others. WebWatch is a member of ICANN, the W3C and the Internet Society. Its content is free. As of July 31, 2009, WebWatch has been shut down, though the site is still available.
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs is available free on Consumer Reports Health.org. It compares prescription drugs in over 20 major categories, such as heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes, and gives comparative ratings of effectiveness and costs, in reports and tables, in web pages and PDF documents, in summary and detailed form.
Also in 2005 Consumers Union launched the service Greener Choices, which is meant to "inform, engage, and empower consumers about environmentally-friendly products and practices." It contains information about conservation, electronics recycling and conservation with the goal or providing an "accessible, reliable, and practical source of information on buying “greener” products that have minimal environmental impact and meet personal needs."
From 1980 up until sometime in the late 1990s, Consumers Union published a kids' version of Consumer Reports called Penny Power, later changed to Zillions. This publication was similar to Consumer Reports but served a younger audience. It gave children financial advice for budgeting their allowances and saving for a big purchase, reviewed kid-oriented consumer products (e.g., toys, clothes, electronics, food, videogames, etc.), and generally promoted smart consumerism in kids and teens; testing of products came from kids of the age range a product was targeted toward.
Product changes after Consumer Reports tests
In the July 1978 issue, Consumer Reports rated the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon automobile "not acceptable", the first car it had judged such since the AMC Ambassador in 1968. In its testing they found the possibility of these models developing an oscillatory yaw as a result of a sudden violent input to the steering; the manufacturer claimed that "Some do, some don't" show this behavior, but it has no "validity in the real world of driving". Nevertheless, the next year, these models included a lighter weight steering wheel rim and a steering damper; Consumer Reports reported that the previous instability was no longer present.
In a 2003 issue of CR, the magazine tested the Nissan Murano crossover utility vehicle. Consumer Reports did not recommend the vehicle because of a problem with its power steering, even though the vehicle had above-average reliability. The specific problem was that the steering would stiffen substantially on hard turning. Consumer Reports recommended the 2005 model, which addressed this problem.
In 2010, Consumer Reports rated the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV unsafe after the vehicle failed one of the magazine's emergency safety tests. Toyota temporarily suspended sales of the vehicle, and after conducting its own test acknowledged the problem. A recall for the vehicle was issued, and the vehicle passed a Consumer Reports re-test.
Lawsuits against Consumers Union
In 1981 Bose Corporation sued Consumer Reports (CR) magazine for libel after CR reported in a review that the sound from the system that they reviewed "tended to wander about the room". The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed in Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc. that CR's statement was made without actual malice and therefore was not libelous.
In 1988, Consumer Reports announced during a press conference that the Suzuki Samurai had demonstrated a tendency to roll and deemed it "not acceptable." Suzuki sued in 1996 after the Samurai was again mentioned in a CR anniversary issue. In July 2004, after eight years in court, the suit was settled and dismissed with no money changing hands nor a retraction issued, but Consumers Union did agree no longer to refer to the 16-year-old test results of the 1988 Samurai in its advertising or promotional materials.
In December 1997, the Isuzu Trooper distributor in Puerto Rico sued CU, alleging that it had lost sales as a result of CU's disparagement of the Trooper. A trial court granted CU's motion for summary judgment, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the favorable judgment.
In 2003, Sharper Image sued CR in California for product disparagement, over negative reviews of its Ionic Breeze Quadra air purifier. CR moved for dismissal on October 31, 2003, and the case was dismissed in November 2004. The decision also awarded CU $525,000 in legal fees and costs.
Controversy over child safety seats
The February 2007 issue of Consumer Reports stated that only two of the child safety seats it tested for that issue passed the magazine's side impact tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which subsequently retested the seats, found that all those seats passed the corresponding NHTSA tests at the speeds described in the magazine report. The CR article reported that the tests simulated the effects of collisions at 38.5 mph. However, the tests that were completed in fact simulated collisions at 70 mph. CR stated in a letter from its president Jim Guest to its subscribers that it would retest the seats. The article was removed from the CR website, and on January 18, 2007 the organization posted a note on its home page about the misleading tests. Subscribers were also sent a postcard apologizing for the error.
On January 28, 2007, the New York Times published an op-ed from Joan Claybrook, who served on the board of CU from 1982 to 2006 (and was the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977 to 1981), where she discussed the sequence of events leading to the publishing of the erroneous information.
Other errors or issues
In 2006, Consumer Reports said six hybrid vehicles would probably not save owners money. The magazine later discovered that they had miscalculated depreciation, and released an update stating that four of the seven vehicles would save the buyer money if the vehicles were kept for five years (including the federal tax credit for hybrid vehicles, which expires after each manufacturer sells 60,000 hybrid vehicles). 
In February 1998, the magazine tested pet food and claimed that Iams dog food was nutritionally deficient. They later retracted the report claiming that there had been "a systemic error in the measurements of various minerals we tested – potassium, calcium and magnesium." 
- ^ Bounds, Gwendolyn (May 5, 2010). "Meet the Sticklers". The Wall Street Journal: p. D1. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703866704575224093017379202.html#mod=todays_us_personal_journal. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- ^ "Consumers Union shopping and testing". Consumer Reports. Archived from the original on 2006-06-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20060616222830/http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cu-press-room/pressroom/shoppingtesting/index.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-20.
- ^ ConsumerReports.org - Our mission
- ^ "Consumer Reports: Foods can contain surprising, even alarming, ingredients". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 2011-09-12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/consumer-reports-foods-can-contain-surprising-even-alarming-ingredients/2011/07/15/gIQAO8oaNK_story.html. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
- ^ Geron, Tomio (2011-04-26). "Consumer Reports Partners with BillShrink to Help Consumers Find the Best Deals On Wireless Plans, Credit Cards and TV and Cable Packages". Forbes (Forbes). http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2011/04/26/consumer-reports-adds-billshrinks-recommendations/. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- ^ Drug Reports
- ^ Ibiblio.org
- ^ "Storm over the Omni Horizon", Time, 26 June 1978.
- ^ "No Test Dummies" Fortune, 11 June 2007
- ^ http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2011/02/2011-jeep-grand-cherokee-handling-concerns-resolved.html
- ^ "Consumer Reports retains old-school values", Bloomberg Businessweek
- ^ http://www.cfah.org/activities/Getting_Tools_Used/CFAH_Getting_Tools_Used_Report.pdf
- ^ Commentary on libel cases in general giving a specific example of Bose Corp. v. Consumer's Union of United States.
- ^ Opinion of the United States Supreme Court
- ^ NY Times editorial on the Supreme Court's ruling
- ^ Hakim, Danny. "Suzuki Resolves a Dispute With a Consumer Magazine", The New York Times, 9 July 2004.
- ^ Legal Watch Defamation Claim Arising from Consumer Report Dismissed
- ^ Quackwatch article
- ^ InfomercialWatch article
- ^ Detroit News
- ^ "Crash Test Dummies". The New York Times. 2007-01-28. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/opinion/28claybrook.html?_r=1&n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fContributors&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2007-01-29. "How the testing mistake was made is instructive not only for Consumer Reports but for everyone who cares about public safety."
- ^ "Update: This is a revised report on "The dollars and sense of hybrids"". Consumers Union. September 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-11-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20061130114523/http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/new-cars/high-cost-of-hybrid-vehicles-406/a-note-about-this-report/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
- ^ "Consumer Reports' good reputation takes hit from flawed car seats report". San Diego Union Tribune. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20070120-1028-infantseats.html. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
- ^ http://supportanalytics.com/blog/2007/12/qualitative-comparison/
- "Our Mission". Retrieved September 25, 2011.
- "Consumers Union Shopping and Testing". Retrieved July 9, 2005.
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