Letter: Importance of well-informed consumers

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The Independent Online
Sir: With regard to David Nicholson-Lord's article 'Consumerism with a shrunken vision' (25 May), the Consumers' Association early on embraced the 'wider agenda' of consumerism that Mr Nicholson-Lord espouses: we founded the International Organisation of Consumers' Unions, the majority of which represent Third World consumers, in 1972. And we have led for many years on major global issues such as trade, food and environmental standards, and quotas on food and textiles.

Closer to home, the association has progressively expanded its definition of 'consumer issues' to include public utilities and public services, not to mention fundamental rights such as access to justice. People subscribe to Which? and our other magazines because, among other things, they recognise we are committed to empowering them - and indeed, all consumers - to make informed consumer decisions.

All this is ignored by Mr Nicholson-Lord. Extraordinarily, he condemns as 'of shrunken vision' an issue of Which? that investigated genetically engineered food and the safety of the Channel tunnel, as well as CFC-free fridges. It also included important topics such as cash machine fraud, estate agents' descriptions and compensations for power cuts, not to mention the famous Which? product tests.

Even in these 'traditional' product- and service-testing areas - which Mr Nicholson-Lord inexplicably believes are our sole remit - we have been in the forefront of wider bases of assessment, including environmental performance. We don't subscribe to the theory of putting environmental issues into a green ghetto. For us, they are mainstream factors likely to influence purchasing decisions.

It is gross oversimplification to present modern consumerism as concerned wholly, or even mainly, with quantity rather than quality. Well-informed consumers will often consume less rather than more; and they will almost always consume more wisely. All this seems to have passed your consumer correspondent by.

Yours faithfully,


Editorial Director

Which? magazines

London, NW1

27 May