The Consumers Association is a charitable body which can at times wield as much power as any Government department. They publish a magazine called ‘Which’ and the magazine is generally trusted by 1000’s of people as a result of their mixture of empirical testing of products such as household appliances along with the test panels made up of individual consumers. Unfortunately this mix can sometimes lead to unfair outcomes. If three kettles, washing machines or similar products are broadly similar in terms of qualitative testing and on price, then the fact that a small panel of people all prefer one kettle does not make it the best kettle. All of us are capable of selecting our preferences, but few of us have the influence of such an important magazine, which has the power to put people out of business. I am not a big fan of Which from the days when I was a financial adviser. I was obliged to pass lots of exams to advise individuals in their own home, on a one to one basis. However the magazine allowed a number of people to pass their judgement on financial products even though none of the people involved had ever been tested for their own abilities to give advice. Despite this they were influencing 1000’s of people in one well read publication.
According to this report the trading arm of the charity that publishes the magazine has recently set aside £1.4M to pay 4 of its top employees on the assumption that they hit their growth targets. This will double their salaries. It is staggering that these 4 people can be earning over £300,000 each, let alone that their bonuses could lead to this salary being effectively doubled. The way in which the magazine can raise so much income includes the income raised from endorsing products which can use the badge above. The manufacturers presumably pay a fee to be endorsed in this manner. Perhaps it is time for Which to carry out a review of their own operations?