Consumers Screwed, Consumer Reports is OK With It

The current issue of Consumer Reports (June 2007) has a scary cover line:

 don't wash
What?! That's outrageous! Surely Consumer Reports will bring these corporate fraudsters to heel! Our ire rising, we flip immediately to page 42:
Not so long ago you could count on most washers to get your clothes very clean. Not anymore. Our latest tests found huge performance differences among machines. Some left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing. For best results, you'll have to spend $900 or more.
Oh boy, another big-business ripoff, screwing over the little guy? "Oh, you wanted a washer that would actually get your clothes clean? Well, ma'am, that's going to cost a little more. Actually, a lot more. Step this way…"
What happened?
More accurately, what the hell happened?
As of January, the U.S. Department of Energy has required washers to use 21 percent less energy, a goal we wholeheartedly support.
…light dawns…
But our tests have found that traditional top-loaders, those with the familiar center-post agitators, are having a tough time wringing out those savings without sacrificing cleaning ability, the main reason you buy a washer.

Put another way: manufacturers used to make relatively inexpensive washers that actually worked. But (thanks to Your Federal Government) that's against the law now, so either prepare to shell out a lot more money, or pray that the Unwashed look somehow comes back into fashion.

Given the current environmentalist upsurge, you should also probably be prepared to make such choices over and over in the future, as "ecofriendly" regulations raise prices on future consumer products that won't work as well as the items you're replacing.

One would think that an organization that purports to be a champion of the consumer might look a little more critically at government regulation, specifically the kind that raises prices and decreases consumer product quality. Consumer Reports, however, has rarely seen a government regulation that it didn't like, and this is no exception. (If it were a corporation doing this—well, of course, they'd be apeshit.)

It would be neat if we had a magazine that said: "Wait a minute; why don't we deregulate washer energy usage, and let consumers decide what to buy, based on their own relative preferences for clean clothes, energy efficiency, and up-front cost? And we'll provide accurate information to help them make an informed decision!"

But that wouldn't be today's Consumer Reports. Maybe they should give up their name and let an actual pro-consumer group be Consumer Reports instead?

Last Modified 2007-05-06 10:50 AM EDT