This monthly letter to subscribers from Consumers Union President Jim Guest highlights the critical consumer issues behind our current reports. See archived letters.
You trust us because we're open in what we do and why and how we do it. So I'd like to explain two additional ways we'll be carrying out our work.
Since the early years of Consumers Union, we've always bought the products we rate, in most cases anonymously at retail. It's one way we stay free of commercial influence and conflicts of interest. (In our earliest days, a lack of funds meant we had to borrow cars from friends to test.)
We'll continue buying products we test. On occasion, we'll also use press samples—pre-retail products that companies let publications use so that their writers can evaluate a new model before it's on shelves.
The media usually get press samples or so-called loaners free of charge. We're different; we'll insist on paying to use them. And we won't include them in our Ratings. We'll use them only to give you our early take on products that we know many readers are keenly interested in.
Shoppers on our Web site, ConsumerReports.org, can already go from our product reviews to a site listing retailers that sell a model you may want. You can see their prices, click through to a retailer, and buy an item if you choose.
The site, designed uniquely for Consumer Reports, is built and run by PriceGrabber.com. Like other Web sites, PriceGrabber collects referral fees from retailers when someone clicks to them. Consumer Reports will be accepting from PriceGrabber a percentage of fees that it collects, subject to strict guidelines:
Merchants are listed in order of price (other sites accept payment for higher placement). Fees are the same whether you buy a product or not. We'll randomly check sellers and consider your feedback to decide whether a merchant should be listed. Money from the fees will go toward our testing and Internet publishing so we can, as always, help you find and buy the best products in the marketplace.