Consumers Union of United States (CU) inspires both trust and
fear. Best known for publishing Consumer Reports magazine, the
independent not-for-profit organization also serves as a consumer
watchdog through other print publications and the Web
(ConsumerReports.org). Its subscription site rates products ranging
from candy bars to cars. CU tests and rates thousands of products
annually through its National Testing and Research Center. CU
accepts no advertising and derives income from the sale of Consumer
Reports and other services, and from non-commercial contributions,
grants, and fees. CU traces its roots to 1926, when engineer
Frederick Schlink organized a "consumer club" to rate products.
CU's magazines, websites, and newsletters have a combined
subscription base of more than 8 million.
At its headquarters in Yonkers, New York, CU houses the
Testing and Research Center, which consists of 50 labs and
offices. The organization also has an Auto Test Center in
Connecticut; and three advocacy offices, in Washington, DC; Austin,
Texas; and San Francisco, California.
CU testifies before legislative and regulatory entities and
files lawsuits on behalf of consumers. The organization is governed
by an 18-member board. Board members are elected by CU members and
meet three times a year.
Sales and Marketing
The company's major industry markets include energy, health
care, media, and safety.
CU reported revenue of $253.19 million in fiscal 2012, which was
a slight increase compared to the previous year due to increased
subscription, newsstand, and other products sales.
To preserve its independence, CU does not permit its ratings or
comments to be used commercially.
In addition to its Consumer Reports publication,
CU publishes ShopSmart, a magazine aimed at women who
want a quick read on consumer items such as food, beauty products,
and home and yard products. CU also covers health information
through its ConsumerReportsHealth.org website and the Consumer
Reports Health Ratings Center. It has a presence in the blogging
world with Consumerist.com, which provides snarky coverage of
retail markups and shopper complaints. Rounding out its
portfolio of offerings, the organization delivers ratings of
product categories to smart phones via its Consumer
Reports Mobile service.
CU implemented cost-cutting measures in 2012 in order to reduce
operating losses and position the organization for a return to