A consumer organisation/association is a membership-based non-governmental non-profit body created to promote the interests of consumers of goods and services, by disseminating information and lobbying for laws to protect consumers against producers or sellers, who may usually be better organised or have more resources.
Citizens often gather together to form consumer organisations/ associations on the basis of their recognition that:
- There is a need for an independent party which is non-political and non-commercial to voice the issues that impact consumers in a market economy;
- There is a need for the views of the under-represented, i.e. the inarticulate and disadvantaged to be heard in order to address the disparity in bargaining power, knowledge and resources between consumers and business; and
- Consumer organisations/associations would be an effective avenue to collectively exercise the civil rights of disadvantaged/vulnerable communities/groups or those with disabilities to be represented and heard before decisions affecting them are taken.
Consumer organisations at national and local levels have undertaken a wide range of actions that draw on their well-honed skills in independent research, advocacy, testing and publishing. A majority of these actions involve inter alia:
- educating consumers with a view to changing their attitudes and behaviour;
- providing consumers with timely information about popular products and services;
- monitoring and exposing misleading "claims" by product manufacturers and advertisers, and helping governments draw up codes of practice, laws and regulations that outlaw them;
- researching "labelling" schemes to help consumers identify ethical and "green" products;
- conducting campaigns in response to specific consumer-related problems;
- advocating for the interests of consumers at relevant national, regional and international fora; and
- networking and cooperating with other NGOs on consumer issues of shared concern and interest.
For a list of consumer associations in each AMS, please refer to the country page.