Consumer Reports Annual Report 2021
IMPACT REPORT

Together, We Are CR

This year, Consumer Reports is celebrating 85 years of working alongside people like you, dedicated to building a better marketplace that’s fair, just, and safe for all.

 

CR’s annual report is an opportunity to thank you for your critical support and dedication in helping us carry out the mission that’s guided us since we started in 1936: serving people across the country with trusted information about today’s products and services, and raising the voices of consumers in the halls of business and government.

 

It’s also a moment to reflect on the challenges that consumers face as the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, while highlighting many of the hard-fought victories that you have helped us win, and looking toward new solutions to ensure a fair and just marketplace for all.

 

CR hosted an online, interactive Annual Meeting with our members and employees on October 22, 2021. If you were not able to join us, we hope you will watch the meeting, including great conversations with our team of committed and science-driven testers, advocates, researchers, and journalists.

 

 

 

CONSUMER REPORTS
BY THE NUMBERS

6+

million members

CR is proud to have a membership over 6 million, which includes members who receive our magazine, access ratings and reviews on our website, and engage in our campaigns for marketplace change.

2,000+

products tested

In fiscal year 2021, CR tested more than 2,000 products in 100+ categories.

RAISING CONSUMER VOICES

1.6

million

The number of signatures and emails that CR members and activists sent to policymakers and company CEOs to advocate for reforms, including digital rights, financial fairness, safety, and sustainability.

178,069

signatures

Stop abusive debt collection

125,745

signatures and emails

Limit PFAS chemicals and arsenic in our water

66,081

signatures

Digital privacy: Protect your DNA

RAISING THE BAR FOR SAFETY

$125

million

That’s the annual sales of infant sleep products that will finally be subject to a mandatory safety rule, following years of work by CR, pediatricians, and other safety advocates. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that these products are sold to at least one-third of U.S. households with newborns. More than 100 infant deaths are associated with inclined sleepers, and at least 23 deaths are linked to unregulated flat sleep products, including in-bed sleepers, according to a CR analysis and data from the CPSC.

This historic new rule will ensure that all products marketed for infant sleep must comply with strong minimum safety standards for the very first time. CR members advocated for reforms alongside families of child victims and policymakers to advance this rule, which the CPSC will put into effect next year. CR’s multiyear investigation of dangerous baby products led to the recall of 5.6 million inclined sleepers, and we reached out to retailers such as Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, eBay, and Walmart, which agreed to halt sales of all inclined sleep products.

STOPPING SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

$108,951.31

A surprise medical bill of $108,951.31 was received by one Texas man after an emergency room visit, as reported by Kaiser Health News. Huge, unexpected charges can have a devastating impact on patients and their families when they’re most vulnerable. For decades, CR and other organizations have pushed to stop surprise medical bills, like when a person goes to a hospital that’s in-network but is seen by an ER doctor who’s out of network, and then gets hit with an enormous bill. The personal stories of CR members and activists were essential in shining a light on the problem and advocating for change. In December 2020, Congress passed and the President signed the No Surprises Act, a landmark law that will prohibit many of the worst billing practices. The CR-endorsed law goes into effect at the start of 2022, and we advise patients on how to fight surprise charges between now and then.

TESTING OUR WATER FOR SAFETY

97.5%

of tap water samples with measurable
levels of PFAS

About 97.5% of the tap water samples provided by volunteers and tested by CR had measurable levels of PFAS, a group of compounds known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down. PFAS are linked to learning delays in children, cancer, and other health problems.

These findings are part of a year-long examination of the nation’s water that we conducted with Guardian US. We selected 120 people around the nation, out of a pool of more than 6,000 volunteers, to test their tap water for PFAS, arsenic, lead, and other contaminants. Their samples came from water systems that together serve more than 19 million people. CR is now working with members of Congress to pass the bipartisan PFAS Action Act, which would help minimize harmful exposure to these dangerous chemicals by requiring strong standards to keep PFAS out of our air and water, and it would facilitate the cleanup of contaminated sites that pollute communities and endanger our health.

REMOVING UNSAFE PRODUCTS FROM THE MARKET

125k

Peloton Tread+
treadmills recalled


The Tread+ was linked to dozens of injuries to children, including one death, yet Peloton initially refused to recall it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission had to take the rare step of issuing a warning to people with small children or pets at home to immediately stop using the Tread+.

CR urged Peloton to step up and put safety first, and we removed the treadmill from our ratings. After weeks of refusals, the company reversed its policy, announcing a recall and full refunds. CR said that it should not have taken this much time and effort to get it recalled, and we’re citing this incident as we urge Congress to overhaul our outdated safety laws so that the CPSC can take quicker, more forceful action when a product puts people at risk.

WORKING FOR SAFER PRODUCTS—BEFORE THEY COME TO MARKET

90%

of the market share
of automakers in U.S.

90% of the market share of automakers in the U.S. is engaging in meaningful information exchanges with CR through our new CR Data Intelligence (CRDI) program. CRDI delivers consumer-driven data insights from our rigorous and trusted research, testing, and surveys to industry experts, including manufacturers, government regulators, and researchers. The goal is to inform the design and development of products, standards, and policies in order to better prioritize consumer safety, security, performance, and quality. By doing this, we can help improve products and services before they reach consumers.

Making the green choice

473

new and used
vehicles


CR now identifies 473 new and used vehicles as Green Choice. This new rating helps shoppers find the cars, SUVs, and minivans with the cleanest emissions. When people go to our vehicle ratings, the Green Choice leaf icon tells them which models have the lowest greenhouse gas and smog-forming emissions.

The Green Choice rating encourages automakers to make cleaner cars, just as CR’s auto reliability and owner satisfaction information helps move the industry toward producing safer, higher-quality vehicles. CR recently expanded our Green Choice rating to washing machines to help people identify the most environmentally friendly choices. CR is also advocating for stronger standards at the state and national level to promote cleaner cars with better fuel economy that can save consumers money on fuel and maintenance, while reducing climate pollution.

CREATING A NEW CONSUMER WATCHDOG

$1.7 trillon

in student loan debt

For too many families, paying for college means going into debt that haunts them for years before it’s paid off. Borrowers face a complex, confusing loan repayment system plagued by a lack of consumer protections and shoddy treatment that can add time and money to their loans. Student loan debt in the U.S. totals $1.73 trillion and grows six times faster than the nation’s economy.

CR helped pass two major initiatives in the state of California to address the student debt crisis and other financial challenges, which provide powerful models for other states and the nation. First, the state created a new consumer watchdog called the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI). CR helped design and launch this agency with a mission to stop financial scams and abuses, and provide relief for impacted consumers. One of DFPI’s aims is to help protect the 3.7 million borrowers in California who owe almost $125 billion in student loan debt. CR also co-sponsored the state’s new Student Borrower Bill of Rights, which provides the nation’s strongest consumer protections for people with student loans. The law aims to stop loan servicing abuses that can make debts grow more costly and trigger defaults.

FIXING OUR BROKEN CREdiT REPORT SYSTEm

$1,200

owed


A Virginia woman’s credit report said she owed $1,200 on a PayPal credit card, despite the fact she had already paid the balance in full. She told CR that her TransUnion credit report said she still owed the debt, while two other credit bureaus, Equifax and Experian, showed it was paid. The error hurt her credit score, and she failed to qualify for a low-interest loan rate. She filed multiple disputes, to no avail. It was only after CR reached out to TransUnion that the error was corrected, and she was able to get an affordable loan.

6,000

volunteers


Nearly 6,000 consumers volunteered to get their credit reports and check for errors, and more than a third found at least one. With these stories in hand, CR testified at a congressional hearing to recommend ways to reform the credit system. We’re calling for measures to grant consumers more control over their credit information, and make it simpler to get reports and scores free of charge.

Holding Big Tech Accountable

61%

of U.S. Consumers

61% of U.S. consumers favor stronger government action—including new laws, regulations, and enforcement actions—to discipline Big Tech platforms and reduce harmful conduct. That’s according to a 2020 nationally representative survey conducted by CR, which was highlighted in a blockbuster report by the U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee. The report lays out how Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google engage in anticompetitive practices that hurt innovation and consumers. CR is now mobilizing consumers across the country to urge their representatives to support bipartisan bills that would rein in the monopoly power of Big Tech companies so that we all have more choice and power online.

Protecting our Data Privacy

3

U.S. states

Three U.S. states have now passed data privacy laws, and CR members helped advance these measures to the governors’ desks. Colorado and Virginia approved laws in 2021, following the California Consumer Privacy Act signed in 2018. Our members in these states contacted their local lawmakers to urge them to support strong laws. CR advocates testified before the legislatures to recommend ways to give consumers more control over their privacy. These laws provide consumers the right to access, delete, and stop the sale of their personal information, and they require consent for processing sensitive information. The Colorado and Virginia laws are not as strong as California’s, and CR is advocating for improvements before they take effect.

CR also helped pass California’s Proposition 24 to close loopholes in its law, and the California attorney general’s office cited CR’s report on how some companies were making it hard for consumers to exercise their privacy rights, which sparked changes to better enforce the law. Ultimately, CR would like to see a national privacy law that protects the data of all consumers.

PREVENTING DEADLY FURNITURE TIP-OVERS

11,300

That’s the number of children who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to furniture tip-overs per year, on average, between 2017 and 2019. CR’s testing shows that it is possible to make affordable dressers that don’t risk tipping over from the weight of a child. But manufacturers have only a voluntary stability standard, which CR says is too weak. We continued to help parents of children who were killed in tragic tip-over incidents meet with Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff, and urged Congress to raise the standards for safety. We celebrated a win in 2021 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the STURDY Act, a bipartisan bill to create a mandatory national rule for furniture stability. CR contacted companies to urge them to endorse the STURDY Act, and retailers such as Home Depot, Ikea, and Amazon came out in support of the bill. We’re now focused on the Senate to try to get the STURDY Act approved, then signed by the President.

image by Chris Philpot

WORKING FOR BETTER BROADBAND

76%

of Americans

76% of Americans agree that internet service is as important as running water and electricity. But unlike water and electricity, internet access isn’t treated like an essential service in the U.S. Prices keep going up, companies go unregulated, and many Americans are struggling to get online because there’s no affordable or reliable broadband where they live.

That’s why CR launched Let’s Broadband Together, a nationwide initiative to uncover what people are really paying—and getting—for their internet service, so we can find solutions for better, more affordable broadband for all of us.

Growing CR membership and services

95%

satisfaction rate

There’s a 95% satisfaction rate for consumers who use CR Recommended and report that it has helped them make better purchase decisions. CR Recommended has more than 250,000 webpage views.

BREAKING CR’S FUNDRAISING RECORDS

$30.17

million


CR broke our fundraising record in fiscal year 2021 through the generous support of our members. We are deeply grateful to our longtime and new members for supporting CR's mission to create a fair and just marketplace.

1.05+

million


The number of gifts we received in fiscal year 2021, which topped the most ever made to CR.