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.).