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CHOICE is an Australian not for profit consumer organisation, previously known as the Australian Consumers Association. It is a non-partisan organisation that was founded in 1959 which researches and campaigns on behalf of Australian consumers. It is similar to the Consumers Union in the United States and Which? in the United Kingdom, which are considered sister organisations.
The aim of the organisation is to provide up-to-date information across a wide range of consumer issues that allows individuals to make informed consumer decisions. It also lobbies for change on behalf of consumers when required. CHOICE tests and rates a range of products and services, including appliances, baby products, electronics and home entertainment, computers, food and health and financial products and services. More than 170,000 people subscribe to CHOICE.
CHOICE buys all the products it tests on the open market and does not accept advertising. Its income is derived from subscriptions and from the sale of its publications and products. It does not receive ongoing funding from commercial, government or other organisations.
CHOICE also campaigns on behalf of consumers and is a representative on many national and state-based government committees, councils and independent bodies related to consumer rights and issues including food regulation and labelling, health and financial services, telecommunications and digital technology, standards codes, ecologically sustainable development and the environment.
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Following World War II, the economy and population of Australia was booming, but it was becoming clear that consumers did not have much guidance or protection.
Ruby Hutchison, MLC, the first woman to be elected to Western Australian upper house, had been receiving complaints from her constituents about the quality and value for money of goods. She knew of overseas consumer organizations in the US and UK so she found out how they worked with a view to creating something similar in Australia.
In 1959 Hutchison travelled to Sydney to discuss her idea with a group of like-minded people, including Roland Thorp, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Sydney. Discussions culminated at public meeting on 17 September 1959 at the Sydney Town Hall with the establishment of the Australasian Consumers’ Association, which was renamed the Australian Consumers’ Association in 1963. The primary aim was to produce a magazine that would inform consumers about their rights and about products, their value and safety.
The first magazine was launched in April 1960 and distributed to 500 subscribers. Membership grew quickly and in 1961 the organization was represented at an international Conference of Consumers’ Associations in The Hague, where it became a founding member of the International Organisation of Consumers Unions (IOCU — now Consumers International, CI), along with consumer organisations in the US, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
At first, the Australian Consumers' Association reprinted material from its UK and US counterparts. In 1962 it participated in the first international IOCU test (of watches). It also conducted tests in university labs outside work hours and established a scientific testing panel. The experts on the panel were responsible for one test each per year, which they’d oversee on behalf of the ACA and the organisation established a reputation for thoroughly verifying its test data.
The organisation publishes several products including: