ⓘ Consumers International


ⓘ Consumers International

Consumers International is the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world. Founded on 1 April 1960, it has over 250 member organisations in 120 countries. Its head office is based in London, England, with regional offices in Latin America, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Consumers International is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, company number 04337865 and registered charity number 1122155.


1. History

The organisation was first established in 1960 as the International Organisation of Consumers Unions IOCU by national consumer organisations who wanted to create cross-border campaigns and share knowledge.

IOCU was founded by Elizabeth Schadee, who would later chair the board of the Netherlands Consumentenbond, and Caspar Brook, who was the first director of the United Kingdoms Consumers Association. The two proposed an international conference to plan for consumer product testing organisations worldwide to work more closely together. The United States organization Consumers Union provided US$10.000 at the request of Colston Warne to help fund the event.

In January 1960, these three organisations sponsored the First International Conference on Consumer Testing in The Hague. Thirty-four people representing seventeen consumer organisations in fourteen countries attended to discuss product testing and founding the International Organisation of Consumers Unions as an international organisation. Belgiums Association des Consommateurs and the Australian Consumers Association joined the three conference sponsors as the five founding organisations who became the international organisations initial council.


2. Membership

Consumers International has over 250 member organisations in 120 countries. These members are independent consumer organisations.

About two-thirds of member organisations are in economically developing countries, the other third in industrialised countries.

Consumers International also works with and hosts the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue TACD a forum of US and EU consumer organisations that develops and agrees on consumer policy recommendations to the US government and European Union to promote the consumer interest in EU and US policy making – at its office in London.


3. World Consumer Rights Day

On 15 March 1962 former US President John F. Kennedy said:

Consumers by definition include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.

Consumer rights activist Anwar Fazal working for Consumers International at the time, later proposed the observance of a World Consumer Rights Day marking that date, and on 15 March 1983 consumer organisations started observing that date as an occasion to promote basic rights of consumers.

World Consumer Rights Day is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement. Participants observe the day by promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and protesting about the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.

World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated on 15 March every year. The theme for 2018 was Fairer Digital Marketplaces. Consumers International is calling for: 1. Access to fair and secure internet as half of the world is still offline. 2. Action against scams and fraud. 3. Better general consumer protection online.

The Theme for 2019 was "Trusted Smart Products" which highlighted what the consumers needed from IoT products like smartphones and wearables.

The theme for 2020 will be "The Sustainable Consumer" to spread awareness about environmental breakdown and global climate changes.


4. World Consumer Rights Day Theme

2013: Consumer Justice Now

2014: Fix Our Phone Rights! Theme: Consumer Justice Now!

2015: Helping consumers choose healthy diets

2016: antibiotics off the menu

2017: Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust

2018: Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer

2019:Trusted smart products

2020: The Sustainable Consumer


5. Campaigns, projects and key issues

Consumers International seek to achieve changes in government policy and corporate behaviour, whilst raising awareness of consumer rights and responsibilities. Its campaigns often fall under the themes of consumer justice and protection, food policy, digital consumer rights and sustainability. Consumers International has campaigned on issues like junk food marketing and unethical drug promotion, corporate social responsibility and unethical or unsustainable behaviour by corporations and governments.

In 1979, IOCU which then became Consumers International and other citizens’ groups formed the International Baby Food Action Network IBFAN to eradicate the death and disease affecting millions of babies in economically developing countries as a result of consuming bottle-fed formula milk. After intense campaigning by IBFAN, including organising consumer boycotts against the likes of Nestle, whose subtle yet effective campaigns were undermining breast feeding, the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization, adopted the International Code of Marketing on Breast Milk Substitutes the first such code designed to control widespread marketing abuses by baby food companies.

In 1981, Consumers International co-founded the Health Action International HAI, an informal network of some 120 consumer and public interest groups, HAI engaged in worldwide campaigns for the safe, rational and economic use of pharmaceuticals. At the 41st World Health Assembly in 1987, HAI organised a large lobby of delegates to urge stronger controls on advertising by the drugs industry.


6. Partners

Consumers International works closely with the International Organisation for Standardization to create Standards that provide solutions to global challenges.

It holds General Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. This is the highest status granted by the United Nations to non-governmental organizations, allowing them to participate in the work of the United Nations.


7. Offices

Consumers International has staff working in six areas of the world:

  • Chile, Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Oman, Middle East
  • Malaysia, Asia Pacific
  • South Africa, Africa
  • India, South East
  • London, CI Global Office