Consumer Federation of America
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|Legal status||nonprofit organization|
|Purpose||Research, advocacy, education, and service|
According to CFA's website, its members are nearly 300 consumer-oriented non-profits, which themselves have a combined membership of 50 million people. CFA members include national organizations such as Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG, state and local consumer organizations, state and local protection agencies, credit unions, rural electric cooperatives and public power groups. Members pay dues ranging from under $100 to $20,000 per year, elect the board of directors and vote on policies.
CFA has a wide range of activities and interests, many centered on scrutiny of businesses and their practices, products, and services by citizens, civic groups, the news media, and government regulatory agencies as a method of defending the interests of the public at large. It is generally regarded as liberal in the modern American sense of the term, and is associated with the consumer movement. CFA is headquartered in Washington, DC, with numerous state and local members. CFA is a 501(c)(3) organization.
State consumer federations such as Consumer Federation of California, Alabama Arise, Chicago Consumer Coalition, Wisconsin Consumers League, and the North Carolina Consumers Council also exist, advocating for similar rules and regulations but with a narrower geographic focus. All CFA member groups retain their autonomy. At the same time, their bylaws reflect a tendency to be united in purpose in order to more significantly impact public policy.
Origins and Leadership
CFA emerged from a national consumer forum, called Consumer Assembly that was first held in April 1966 to advance new consumer protections. Encouraged by White House Consumer Adviser Esther Peterson, representatives from nearly 60 consumer groups, consumer cooperative groups, and industrial trade unions decided to form a permanent organization that was formally launched in April 1968.
CFA made Consumer Assembly its annual conference and held this forum in conjunction with the organization’s annual meeting. At this meeting, member organizations elected a 40 to 43-person board of directors and debated and voted on policy resolutions for the organization.
The CFA Board selected Erma Angevine as the organization’s first Executive Director. She served until 1973, then was followed by Carol Tucker Foreman (1973-1977), Kathleen O’Reilly (1977-1980), Stephen Brobeck (1980-2018), Jack Gillis (2018-2022). Currently, Susan Weinstock is the CEO of CFA (2022–present). Retired Senator Howard Metzenbaum served as Honorary Chairman from 1995 to 2008.
Historically, CFA’s base of support has been member dues' payments, contributions, and grants. For decades, Consumers Union has contributed, through contributions and grants, more than $100,000 a year.
Over the past decade, the largest source of support has been grants by national foundations including Ford, Annie E. Casey, Rockefeller, Atlantic Philanthropies, and Heron. Other revenue is derived from cy-près awards, Consumer Assembly, the annual Awards dinner, and financial services and food policy issue conferences, to which some corporate groups contribute. America Saves (see below), which CFA organized and manages, was supported initially by the Ford Foundation, but now mainly is supported by corporate foundations.
Advocacy is one of the important tools that CFA uses to advance the consumer interest. “CFA works to advance pro-consumer policies on a variety of issues before Congress, the White House, federal and state regulatory agencies, state legislatures, and the courts. We communicate and work with public officials to promote beneficial policies, oppose harmful ones, and ensure a balanced debate on issues important to consumers.” CFA advocates on numerous issues that are important to the consumer community. In recent years, these issues have included:
- Advocating for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
- Advocating for consumer protections for credit cards, including passage of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act.
- Advocating for the implementation of higher fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards.
- Advocating for consumer protections for investors, including passage of the Sarbanes Oxley law.
- Advocating for more authority and responsibility for the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of the food supply.
- Advocating for product safety laws, including passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and ATV regulation.
America Saves is a nationwide campaign of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) that assists and encourages individuals to save money, reduce spending, and "build wealth." The campaign is a social marketing effort that seeks to stimulate behavior change, similar to other social marketing efforts to reduce smoking, curtail drunk driving, and promote wearing seat belts.
Launched in Cleveland in 2001, America Saves campaigns have expanded to over 65 communities, enrolled almost 400,000 savers, and involved over 2,500 organizations in supporting local, regional and statewide campaigns. Banks and credit unions are offering low minimum balance, no-fee savings accounts. In order to enroll as a Saver, individuals commit to a savings plan that identifies a savings goal.
Examples of local campaigns include (among others) Cleveland Saves, Philadelphia Saves, and Milwaukee Saves. Regional campaigns include Silicon Valley/South Bay Saves, Northwoods Saves, and Okaloosa County Saves. And, statewide campaigns have been organized in Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arizona (based in Phoenix), and Delaware. In addition to individual campaigns, America Saves plans and implements initiatives related to particular populations—youth, faith-based organizations, military personnel, African Americans, Hispanic Americans; and, to specific savings strategies—homeownership, tax refunds, at work saving, and car purchases.
With the American Savings Education Council, America Saves organizes an annual "America Saves Week" where they encourage new individuals to join the campaign and existing members to assess their goals. During Saves Weeks, America Saves comes together with its partners (Federal Reserve Board, Cooperative Extension, Department of Defense, etc.) as well as its locally run campaigns. These organizations work during the week to assist individuals to manage their existing funds, participate in informational workshops, and to create savings accounts.
State & Local Consumer Member Groups
- Alaska Public Interest Research Group
- American Council on Consumer Awareness
- Arizona Consumers Council
- Arizona Public Interest Research Group
- Democratic Processes Center
- Arizona Consumers Council Foundation
- California Alliance for Consumer Education
- California Consumer Affairs Association
- California Public Interest Research Group
- California Reinvestment Coalition
- Center for California Homeowner Association Law
- Center for Public Interest Law
- Consumer Action
- Consumer Federation of California
- Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, California
- Utility Consumers Action Network
- United Policyholders
- New Mexico Public Interest Research Group
- Center for Economic Justice
- Texas Consumer Association
- Exodus Lending
- Texas Legal Services Center
- Texas Low Income Housing Information Service
- Texas Watch
- Alabama Arise
- The Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
- Arkansas Public Policy Panel
- Consumer Federation of the Southeast
- Florida Consumer Action Network
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Florida Funeral & Cemetery Consumer Advocacy
- Florida Public Interest Research Group
- Havana Community Technology & Learning Center, Inc.
- United Way of the Big Bend, Inc.
- Georgia Public Interest Research Group
- The Kentucky Equal Justice Center
- Kids in Danger [Fighting for Product Safety]
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators
- Fund Democracy, Inc.
- Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina
- The Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Triangle
- North Carolina Consumers Council
- North Carolina Public Interest Research Group
- Columbia Consumer Education Council
- Tennessee Citizen Action
- UDC CES CREB
- Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
- Maryland Public Interest Research Group
- Consumers League of New Jersey
- New Jersey Citizen Action
- New Jersey Public Interest Research Group
- Bay Ridge Consumer Federation
- Center for Justice and Democracy
- Empire Justice Center
- Empire State Consumer Project
- Harlem Consumer Education Council
- Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project
- New York Public Interest Research Group
- Public Utility Law Project of New York
- Community Action Partnership of Mercer County
- Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group
- Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
- Virginia Poverty Law Center
- Mountain State Justice
- Connecticut Public Interest Research Group
- Consumer Assistance Council
- Consumer Assistance Office Metro West, Inc.
- Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc.
- Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
- Massachusetts Consumers' Coalition
- Massachusetts Consumers Council
- Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group
- National Consumer Law Center
- South Shore Community Action Council' Consumer Aid Program
- Rhode Island Public Interest Research Group
- Funeral Consumers Alliance
- Vermont Public Interest Research Group
- Iowa Public Interest Research Group
- Center for Economic Progress, Chicago
- Chicago Consumer Coalition
- Illinois Public Interest Research Group
- Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
- Woodstock Institute
- Public Interest Research Group in Michigan
- Minnesota Public Interest Research Group
- Consumers United
- Consumers Council of Missouri
- Consumer Protection Association
- Ohio Public Interest Research Group
- Citizens Utility Board
- Economic Justice Institute- Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Consumers League
- Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group
- Colorado Public Interest Research Group
- Consumer League for Education and Reform
- Consumers United Association
- Consumers United
- Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon
- Oregon Consumers League
- OSPIRG Foundation
- Washington Community Action Network
- Washington Public Interest Research Group
- "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Consumer Federation of America. Internal Revenue Service. December 31, 2018.
- "Consumer Federation of America Inc." Tax Exempt Organization Search. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- "Board of Directors. Consumer Federation of America. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- "Staff". Consumer Federation of America. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- CFA Website | About CFA Archived 2009-09-08 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 2007
- Encyclopedia of the Consumer Movement, ABC-CLIO, 1997, pp. 146-151
- See CFA’s Annual Reports, on file with CFA.
- "About CFA". Consumerfed.org. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Clarke, Dave (2010-09-07). "Analysis: Consumer chief delay could hobble new agency". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Brill, Steven (2010-07-01). "Government for Sale: How Lobbyists Shaped the Financial Reform Bill". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
- Plungis, Jeff (2009-05-19). "Senate Approves Credit-Card 'Bill of Rights' Measure (Update2)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- http://www.consumerfed.org/elements/www.consumerfed.org/file/consumergrouptestimony19mar09_hr627_hr1456.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- Lieber, Ron (2010-06-26). "YOUR MONEY; Wave of New Rules to Protect Consumers". The New York Times.
- Gelles, Jeff. "Consumer Watch: Rise of the 'anti-lobbyists'". Inquirer.com. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
- the CNN Wire Staff (2010-09-09). "Survivors of foodborne illness demand action on bill". CNN.com. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Felcher, Marla E. (Winter 2008, Volume XVIII, Number 1), “Rachel and Goliath,” Ms. Magazine
- James Limbach (2010-01-28). "ATV Injuries and Deaths Among Children Decrease". Consumeraffairs.com. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
-  Archived April 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Official Consumer Federation of America website
- Consumer Federation of California Website
- Consumer Federation of America Official Facebook Page
- Washington Community Action Network Website
- National Consumer Law Center Website
- Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Website
- North Carolina Consumers Council Website