November 21 2010 by Ellen Roseman
The Consumers’ Association of Canada used to be a strong national voice. It’s now a shadow of its former self. The Consumers Council of Canada is desperately under-funded. Only in Quebec do consumer groups get support from the government for their activities.
In the United States, Consumers Union is still going strong after 75 years. Its magazine, Consumer Reports, somes out each month and even has a small Canada supplement. It recently acquired The Consumerist website, where shoppers fight back.
The U.S. has another well-respected group, The Consumer Federation of America, doing research, education and advocacy since 1968. I like its work on the need for a fiduciary standard for all financial advisers. (A fiduciary puts the client’s interests first.)
If you do a Google search for Canada’s consumer movement, you find my CBC commentary from last September, bemoaning the fact that organized lobby groups are so quiet. Thank goodness for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which does an impressive amount of research and representation of consumers at regulatory hearings.
I know that many Canadian consumers feel ignored and abused. They’re still waiting for rules to standardize mortgage penalties, fight spam and force companies to recall unsafe products. Without a strong lobby, the federal government can do nothing and get away with it.
What would it take to get Canadians to fight for the right to be treated fairly and respectfully? How can a nation of complacent consumers be turned into activists? Please let me know what you think.
Meanwhile, let me direct your attention to a blog called Fearless Revolution by a former U.S. advertising executive, Alex Bogusky, who wants to rewrite the famous consumer bill of rights drafted in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
It’s an ambitious project, but one that could reinvigorate the consumer movement.