Consumer Reports is an American magazine published since 1930 by
Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization dedicated to unbiased
product testing, consumer-oriented research, public education, and
Consumer Reports publishes reviews and comparisons of
consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its
in-house testing laboratory and survey research center. The magazine
accepts no advertising, pays for all the products it tests, and as a
nonprofit organization has no shareholders. It also publishes general
and targeted product/service buying guides. As of
April 2016[update] it had approximately 7 million subscribers
(3.8 million print and 3.2 million digital) and an annual testing
budget of approximately US$25 million.
1 Editorial independence
2 Ancillary publications
4 Product changes after
Consumer Reports tests
5 Lawsuits against Consumers Union
5.3 Rivera Isuzu
5.4 Sharper Image
6 Controversy over child safety seats
7 Other errors or issues
9 See also
11 External links
Consumer Reports is well known for its policies on editorial
independence, which it says are to "maintain our independence and
impartiality... [so that] CU has no agenda other than the interests of
consumers." CR has unusually strict requirements and sometimes
has taken extraordinary steps; for example it declined to renew a car
dealership's bulk subscription because of "the appearance of an
Consumer Reports does not allow outside advertising in the
magazine, but its website has retailers' advertisements.
Consumer Reports states that
PriceGrabber places the ads and pays a
percentage of referral fees to CR, who has no direct relationship
with the retailers.
Consumer Reports publishes reviews of its
business partner and recommends it in at least one case. CR had a
similar relationship with
BizRate at one time and has had
relationships with other companies including Amazon.com,
Yahoo!, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post,
BillShrink, and Decide.com. CR also accepts grants from other
organizations, and at least one high-ranking Consumer Reports
employee has gone on to work for a company he evaluated.
CR also forbids the use of its reviews for selling products; for
example, it will not allow a manufacturer to advertise a positive
review. CR has gone to court to enforce that rule.
Consumer Reports says its staff purchases all tested products at
retail prices, anonymously in "most cases", and that they accept no
free samples in order to prevent bias from bribery or from being given
better than average samples. However, in order to review some
products before they are publicly available CR does accept "press
samples" from manufacturers but says it pays for the samples and does
not include them in ratings. For most of CR's history, it minimized
contact with government and industry experts "to avoid compromising
the independence of its judgment." In 2007, in response to errors in
infant car seat testing, it began accepting advice from a wide range
of experts on designing tests, but not on final assessments. Also,
at times CR allows manufacturers to review and respond to criticism
Some objective and comparative tests published by
Consumer Reports are
carried out under the umbrella of the international consumer
organization International Consumer Research & Testing. Consumer
Reports also uses outside labs for testing, including for 11 percent
of tests in 2006.
Testing electric light longevity and brightness testing
Television testing laboratory
Product testing headphones in an anechoic chamber
ConsumerReports.org, the related website is largely available only to
paid subscribers. 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.
Consumers Union launched
Consumer Reports Television. By
March 2005 it was "hosted" by over 100 stations.
On August 1, 2006
Consumers Union launched ShopSmart, a magazine
aimed at young women.
Consumers Union acquired
The Consumerist blog from Gawker
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
Consumers Union launched the grant-funded project Consumer
Reports WebWatch, which aimed 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 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
W3C and the Internet Society. Its content is free. As of
July 31, 2009, WebWatch has been shut down, though the site is still
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
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."
Consumers Union published a kids' version of
Consumer Reports called
Penny Power, later changed to Zillions. This publication was
Consumer Reports but served a younger audience. At its
peak, the magazine covered close to 350,000 subscribers. 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. It also
taught kids about deceitful marketing practices practiced by
advertising agencies. The magazine folded in 2000.
See the history of Consumers Union.
Consumers Want to Know, a 1960 documentary on Consumer Reports
Product changes after
Consumer Reports tests
Consumer Reports auto test track in East Haddam, Connecticut.
In the July 1978 issue,
Consumer Reports rated the Dodge Omni/Plymouth
Horizon automobile "not acceptable", the first car it had judged such
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
Consumer Reports reported that the previous instability was no
In a 2003 issue of CR, the magazine tested the
Nissan Murano crossover
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.[citation
BMW changed the software for the stability control in its X5
replicating a potential rollover problem discovered during a Consumer
Chrysler also made changes to stability control software when Consumer
Reports testing with the 2011
Grand Cherokee exposed handling
Consumer Reports rated the 2010
Lexus GX 460
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
Consumer Reports found wildly inconsistent battery life in
its testing of Apple's 2016 MacBookPro. This led to the discovery of a
bug in the Safari web browser, which was promptly fixed by Apple, via
Lawsuits against Consumers Union
Consumers Union has been sued several times by companies unhappy with
reviews of their products in Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union has
fought these cases vigorously.[page needed] As of October
Consumers Union had been sued by 13 manufacturers and never lost
Bose Corporation sued
Consumer Reports (CR) magazine for
libel after CR reported in a review that the sound from the system it
reviewed "tended to wander about the room". The case eventually
United States Supreme Court, which affirmed in Bose Corp.
Consumers Union of United States, Inc. that CR's statement was made
without actual malice and therefore was not libelous.
Suzuki Samurai v Consumers Union
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 and no
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
In December 1997, the
Isuzu Trooper distributor in
Puerto Rico sued
CR, 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
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed
the favorable judgment.
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 CR $525,000 in legal fees and
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
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
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
Consumer Reports said six hybrid vehicles would probably not
save owners money. The magazine later discovered that it 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
In February 1998, the magazine tested pet food and claimed that Iams
dog food was nutritionally deficient. It later retracted the report
claiming that there had been "a systemic error in the measurements of
various minerals we tested – potassium, calcium and magnesium."
Harvey Balls - red black modification used by Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports graphs formerly used a modified form of Harvey Balls
for qualitative comparison. The round ideograms were arranged from
best to worst. On the left of the diagram, the red circle indicated
the highest rating, the half red and white circle was the second
highest rating, the white circle was neutral, the half black circle
was the second lowest rating, and the entirely black circle was the
lowest rating possible. 
As part of a wider rebranding of
Consumer Reports in September 2016,
the appearance of the magazine's rating system was significantly
Harvey Balls were replaced with new color-coded circles:
green, for Excellent; lime green, for Very Good; yellow, for Good;
orange, for Fair; and red, for Poor. It was stated that this new
system will help improve the clarity of ratings tables by using a
"universally understood" metaphor.
Good Housekeeping Institute
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