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Consumer Reports, Inc.
Consumer Reports logo 2016.svg
Founded January 1936; 88 years ago (1936-01) (as Consumers Union)
  • Arthur Kallet
  • Colston Warne
Type Nonprofit organization
Key people
Marta Tellado (president)
$241.7 million (2017)
Employees (2019)

Consumer Reports (CR), formerly Consumers Union (CU), is an American nonprofit consumer organization dedicated to independent product testing, investigative journalism, consumer-oriented research, public education, and consumer advocacy.

Founded in 1936, CR was created to serve as a source of information that consumers could use to help assess the safety and performance of products. Since that time, CR has continued its testing and analysis of products and services, and attempted to advocate for the consumer in legislative and rule-making areas. Among the reforms in which CR played a role were the advent of seat belt laws, exposure of the dangers of cigarettes, and more recently, the enhancement of consumer finance protection and the increase of consumer access to quality health care. The organization has also expanded its reach to a suite of digital platforms. Consumer Reports Advocacy frequently supports environmental causes, including heightened regulations on auto manufacturers.

The organization's headquarters, including its 50 testing labs, are located in Yonkers, New York, while its automotive testing track is in East Haddam, Connecticut. CR is funded by subscriptions to its magazine and website, as well as through independent grants and donations. Marta L. Tellado is the current CEO of Consumer Reports. She joined the organization in 2014, following her work with the Ford Foundation, with the goal of expanding its engagement and advocacy efforts.

Consumer Reports' flagship website and magazine publishes reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its in-house testing laboratory and survey research center. CR 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.

Advocacy and campaigns

Consumer Reports has hundreds of thousands of online advocates who take action and write letters to policymakers about the issues its advocates take on. This group continues to grow as Consumer Reports expands its reach, with 6 million paid members who have access to online tools like a car recall tracker and personalized content. An additional base of online members join for free and received guidance on a range of products (i.e. gas grills, washing machines) at no charge. CR has also launched several advocacy websites, including, which helps consumers with telecommunications policy matters. In March 2005, CR campaign released "Drugs I Need", an animated short with a song from the Austin Lounge Lizards, that was featured by The New York Times, JibJab, BoingBoing, and hundreds of blogs. On Earth Day 2005, CR launched, a web-based initiative meant to "inform, engage, and empower consumers about environmentally friendly products and practices".

Consumer Reports was a sponsor of the Safe Patient Project, whose goal was to help consumers find the best quality of health care by promoting the public disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates and medical errors. The US Centers for Disease Control states that about 2 million patients annually (about 1 in 20) will acquire an infection while being treated in a hospital for an unrelated health care problem, resulting in 99,000 deaths and as much as $45 billion in excess hospital costs.

The campaign has worked in every state calling for legislation requiring hospitals to disclose infection rates to the public. The Safe Patient Project also works on medical devices, prescription drugs, and physician accountability. offers an "accessible, reliable, and practical source of information on buying 'greener' products that have minimal environmental impact and meet personal needs". The site contains many articles about different products, rating them on how "green" they are. It also focuses on electronics and appliance recycling and reuse, as well as conservation and global warming prevention.

Funding for Consumer Reports has recently been provided by USPIRG Education Fund, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network among other advocacy organizations.

In recent years, the organization has been vocal on key issues, including championing consumer choice and industry competition in the debate against the Sprint T-Mobile merger, advocating for consumer preference to leave net neutrality protections in place, exposing how data is used to engage in racial discrimination when determining consumer pricing offers, and advocating for stronger privacy laws in the wake of Cambridge Analytica.

Editorial independence

Consumer Reports is well known for its policies on editorial independence, which it says are to "maintain our independence and impartiality ... [so that] CR 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 impropriety". However, Consumer Reports in 2021 took a $375,000 grant from an environmental group, the Climate Imperative Foundation, to examine gas stoves and indoor air quality, which resulted in the publication of an article entitled "Is Your Gas Range a Health Risk?" published on Oct. 4, 2022, with a note indicating that the article was funded in part by a grant from the Climate Imperative Foundation. This article appeared prior to an Oct. 25 memo by Consumer Products Safety Commission Commissioner Richard L. Trumka entitled 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Ban Gas Stoves'.

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, Yahoo!, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BillShrink, and CR also accepts grants from other organizations.

Consumer Reports says its secret shoppers purchase all tested products at retail prices on behalf of the organization, that they do so anonymously, and that CR accepts no free samples in order to limit bias from bribery and to prevent being given better than average samples. Consumer Reports pays a rental fee to manufacturers when using these press samples and does not include the products in its 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 before publication. CR also accepts referral fees from websites such as Amazon for including "affiliate links" to websites where customers can purchase reviewed products.

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.


Advertisement for the first issue of Consumer Reports from the Communist Party's arts and contemporary politics magazine, The New Masses

Founding and early years

In 1927, F.J. Schlink and Stuart Chase published their best selling novel, Your Money's Worth, which saw massive readership due to the consumer movement. The demand for brand research led to Schlink to found the company Consumers' Research in 1927. The company was responsible for publishing Consumers’ Research Bulletin (previously named Consumer Club Commodity List). The subscriber count in 1933 was reported to be over 42,000. It was in this year, that Consumer Research moved its operations to New York City. Following this move, employees began to unionize, citing unfair pay. Schlink proceeded to fire the strikers. The former Consumers' Research employees, teamed up with "journalists, engineers, academics, and scientists" to found the company Consumers Union-- presently known as Consumer Reports—in February 1936. Consumers Union differentiated themselves from Consumers' Research by establishing a community amongst readers. Within the overall mission of creating more informed consumers, Consumers Union united with women's clubs and citizen groups, creating a progressive message. Consumers Union would surpass Schlink's Consumers' Research in subscribers by 1940, accumulating a readership of 71,000.


Numerous business and corporations set out to suppress the actions of Consumers Union. In an effort to suppress the critiques of Consumers' Union, The New York Herald Tribune established an institute with the goal of demonstrating that the efforts of consumers groups were futile, in that businesses already conducted extensive product-testing. The Crowell Institute on Consumer Relations founded in 1937, sprouted from the forum Woman's Home Companion, which had a readership of 2 million. The institute suppressed the efforts of consumer groups by giving business and advertisers the platform to putdown the consumers' pursuit of "lower distribution costs, grade labeling, and regulation," asserting that these businesses were already taking these factors into account. The New York Times proved to be an obstacle for Consumers Union, refusing CU's requests to advertise. Other major publications would follow suit.

In the year 1938, CU would find itself at the center of The Dies Committee's investigation into "unpatriotic propaganda". The committee brought on former member of Consumers' Research' board, J.B. Matthews as its research director. In Matthews' official report, he accused CU and its CEO Arthur Kallet of holding Communist ideals, and going as far as to label CU as "Communist front". The smear campaign was criticized by Consumers Union for its lack of legitimacy. The allegations proved fruitless, and rather served to delegitimize CR and Congressman Dies. In part due to actions of Consumers' Research, the House Un-American Activities Committee placed Consumers Union on a list of subversive organizations, only to remove it in 1954.

Role in consumer movement

Consumers Union established themselves as an advocate for consumer rights during the interwar years. The rise of Consumers Union happened simultaneously with women's groups interest in consumption. Despite the mobilization of citizens interested in consumption, the pursuit of consumer rights were not validated until the New Deal. The programs represented an acknowledgment of the consumer movement, by actively working to improve consumer purchaser power.

In World War II, Consumer Union took a stance in support of the war effort. The urged their supporters to put aside their personal interest by consuming less, and following the government ordered policies of consumption. They were also critical of businesses who saw the war period as an opportunity to advertise their products and as a result were wasting paper. The government's vested interest in the politics of consumption would escalate in the postwar period. Government would encourage to consume both through propaganda as well as the protections instituted to promote individual consumption.

Consumer Reports has helped start several consumer groups and publications, in 1960 helping create global consumer group Consumers International and in 1974 providing financial assistance to Consumers' Checkbook which is considered akin to Consumer Reports for local services in the seven metropolitan areas they serve.

Other organizational maneuvers

Prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader was on the board of directors, but left in 1975 due to a "division of philosophy" with new Executive Director Rhoda Karpatkin. Nader wanted Consumer Reports to focus on policy and product advocacy, while Karpatkin focused on product testing. Karpatkin was appointed executive director in 1974 and retired as president in the early 2000s.

At the start of 2009, Consumer Reports acquired The Consumerist blog from Gawker Media for approximately $600,000.

Prior to 2012, the organization did business as Consumers Union. The reason for the name change was that the name of "Consumer Reports" was more familiar to the public than the name of "Consumers Union".

Consumer Reports spent $200,000 on lobbying in 2015.

The Consumerist was subsequently closed in December 2017, when its content was folded into the Consumer Reports website.

Product changes after Consumer Reports tests

Consumer Reports - product testing - auto test track in East Haddam, Connecticut
The 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 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: "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, and 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 and 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. CR recommended the 2005 model, which had addressed this problem.

BMW changed the software for the stability control in its X5 SUV after replicating a potential rollover problem discovered during a CR test.

In 2010, CR 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 and issued a recall for the vehicle, which later passed a CR re-test.

In 2016, CR found wildly inconsistent battery life in its testing of Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro. This led to the discovery of a bug in the Safari web browser, which Apple promptly fixed via a software update.

In May 2018, CR said it could not recommend the Tesla Model 3 due to concerns about the car's long stopping distance. Within days, Tesla issued a remote software update. CR retested the car's brakes, then gave the Model 3 a "recommended" rating.

Other errors or issues

In February 1998, the organization 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".

In 2006, Consumer Reports said six hybrid vehicles would probably not save owners money. The organization later discovered that it had miscalculated depreciation and released an update stating that four of the seven vehicles would save the buyers money if the vehicles were kept for five years (and received the federal tax credit for hybrid vehicles, which expired after each manufacturer sold 60,000 hybrid vehicles).


Harveyballs red black modification
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 revamped. The 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.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Consumer Reports para niños

  • Euroconsumers and ICRT International Consumer Research and Testing
  • Good Housekeeping Institute
  • Stiftung Warentest
  • Underwriters Laboratories
  • Which?
  • Consumer protection
  • Consumer education
  • Consumers International
  • Australian Consumers' Association
  • Consumers' Institute of New Zealand
  • UFC Que Choisir, France's most important consumers' group.
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