Consumer Federation of America

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 to advance consumer interests through research, education and advocacy.

According to CFA's website, its members are approximately 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.[1]

CFA has a wide range of activities and interests, many centered around favoring rigorous and skeptical 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, and Wisconsin Consumers League 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.

Contents

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 Ester 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. [2]

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 ast the organization’s first Executive Director. She served until 1973, then was followed by Carol Tucker Foreman (1973-1977), Kathleen O’Reilly (1977-1980). Currently, Stephen Brobeck is the Executive Director of CFA (1980-present). Retired Senator Howard Metzenbaum served as Honorary Chairman from 1995 to 2008.

Funding

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 pres 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. [3]

Advocacy

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.”[4] CFA advocates on numerous issues that are important to the consumer community. In recent years, these issues have included:

  • Advocating for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency.[5][6]
  • Advocating for strong consumer protections for credit cards, including passage of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act. [7][8]
  • Advocating for the implementation of higher fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards. [9]
  • Advocating for consumer protections for investors, including passage of the Sarbanes Oxley law. [10][11]
  • Advocating for more authority and responsibility for the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of our food supply. [12]
  • Advocating for strong product safety laws, including passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and ATV regulation. [13][14]

America Saves

A pamphlet about how to save for retirement during a "Military Saves Campaign" created to help sailors learn how to manage their money and save for the future.

America Saves is a campaign of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). America Saves is a nationwide campaign that assists and encourages individuals to save money, reduce spending, and "build wealth."[15] 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 52 communities, enrolled almost 216,313 savers, and involved over 2,000 organizations in supporting local, regional and state wide 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.

References

  1. ^ CFA Website | About CFA. Retrieved July 2007
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of the Consumer Movement, ABC-CLIO, 1997, pp. 146-151
  3. ^ See CFA’s Annual Reports, on file with CFA.
  4. ^ "About CFA". Consumerfed.org. http://www.consumerfed.org/index.php/about-cfa. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  5. ^ Clarke, Dave. "Analysis: Consumer chief delay could hobble new agency". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6864BC20100907. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  6. ^ "TIME". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2000880-6,00.html#ixzz0zPvVoxF4. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ Plungis, Jeff (2009-05-19). "Senate Approves Credit-Card ‘Bill of Rights’ Measure (Update2)". Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aeaV._AndiMQ. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  8. ^ http://www.consumerfed.org/elements/www.consumerfed.org/file/consumergrouptestimony19mar09_hr627_hr1456.pdf
  9. ^ "Car Makers Have Technology to Meet 60 MPG Saving 44B gallons". Newsblaze.com. 2010-09-14. http://newsblaze.com/story/20100914084914zzzz.nb/topstory.html. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  10. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03E5DF133BF935A15755C0A9669D8B63&scp=2&sq=%22Travis+Plunkett%22&st=nyt
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ By the CNN Wire Staff. "Survivors of foodborne illness demand action on bill". CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/09/08/food.safety.bill/. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  13. ^ Felcher, Marla E. (Winter 2008, Volume XVIII, Number 1), “Rachel and Goliath,” Ms. Magazine
  14. ^ James Limbach (2010-01-28). "ATV Injuries and Deaths Among Children Decrease". Consumeraffairs.com. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2010/01/atv_deaths_decrease.html. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  15. ^ [2][dead link]

External links


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