Dear Consumer Reports: an Open Letter

I have trusted Consumer Reports since I was a child for product ratings. Your policy of no advertising and no commercial use has been admirable and useful, and I’ve always been happy to pay for the service.

Now your website has a shopping section. The explanatory paragraph says that it’s intended to provide a safe, unbiased environment for shopping, and that you’ve surveyed us customers and found just the right places to shop. It also says that it’s “powered by”

So this means that you’ve cut a deal with Pricegrabber to send your members to their service. Pricegrabber is not a charity and anyone in the business knows how these things work. You have taken your very valuable membership as a commodity and rented us to an outside commercial service.

Your noncommercial use policy says: ” We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®,®, and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants.”

What are the terms of your deal with Pricegrabber, exactly? What exactly are the criteria by which you or Pricegrabber choose vendors and products for the shopping site?

Consumer Reports is not Neither are you AAA, or any of the other “organizations” that sell your membership to affiliates.

How much money will it cost you to dump this shopping nonsense, and when will you do it?

There’s no way to maintain the fiction that you’re following a noncommercial use policy at the same time that you’re selling your customers to a generic Internet shopping portal.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Note: This was also sent via their website as a Letter to the Editor

5 thoughts on “Dear Consumer Reports: an Open Letter

  1. A response, of sorts, from CU:
    “We went through a lot of hand-wringing, but decided this helps us reach more consumers with a more complete experience without compromising our integrity,” said Lauren Hackett, a spokeswoman for the magazine and testing lab, which has refused to accept advertising or free samples for decades.
    The magazine gets a flat fee from each sale generated through partnerships for general merchandise with, vehicle sales through and now The sites are free to use and require no purchase, but typically get a flat-fee commission from retailers and service providers for each transaction they deliver.
    Consumers Union discloses the arrangement, but not the amount of the fees, all of which helps underwrite its publishing mission. It says it’s not endorsing the sites, just providing quick and easy links to them from main pages on its own site where shoppers begin searches for specific product information and recommendations.
    Consumers Union says the partnerships do not compromise its objectivity because it has no direct financial relationship with the actual service providers or retailers.


      1. Re: A response, of sorts, from CU:
        Yeah. That’s a pretty big fig leaf they’re putting on, but their credibility is shot now. You can’t do something like that without damaging your reputation permanently, even if they somehow manage a “chinese wall.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.