Five decades of Altroconsumo: shaping a future for better buying, acting and living
When Altroconsumo was founded (known then as the Comitato Difesa Consumatori or Consumer Defence Committee), forward thinking and passionate lawyers, journalists, experts came together to create something that had not existed before. It set a framework for rights and rules that would defend and empower consumers in the marketplace.
The 1970s consumerism era grew out of an economic boom, but consumers quickly found themselves facing an economic crisis and needed to make careful choices.
At that time, when consumers were protected only by insufficient and scattered rules, Altroconsumo started testing and comparing products, guiding consumers in making the right choices, empowering them and enhancing their role in the new “consumerism” culture.
Nowadays, we’re in a full-blown market where we’ve seen the quality of products and services grow and customer care is a key point in companies’ strategies.
Altroconsumo contributed to making consumers more aware of their rights and they now know the best ways to navigate the market.
Altroconsumo products and services have evolved to keep pace with the times and today, this work continues with a team of over 240 committed professionals including marketers, journalists, advocates, lawyers and sectoral experts from finance, travel, energy, digital and home appliances delivering for and with Italian consumers.
“In its first 50 years, thanks to the professionalism, daily commitment and trust of many people, the organization has grown, enriched and made an important contribution to defending the rights and promoting the role of consumers, both in our country and in Europe, gradually accompanying the transformations of the market and society,”
Alberto Pirrone, country manager and general manager of Altroconsumo.
Driving force for consumer rights
Where companies don’t comply with the law, Altroconsumo refers to the Italian Consumer Code reminding of key consumers rights: right of withdrawal, guarantee, unfair clauses, ban on misleading advertising, class actions, injunctions and Alternative Dispute Resolutions.
Moreover, Altroconsumo coordinated campaigns and collective enforcement actions against big companies like Intesa Sanpaolo, Dieselgate, Autostrade e Trenord.
Altroconsumo works alongside Euroconsumers other members in Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Brazil. It uses its strength and experience to build cross border class actions against global companies like Apple and VW when they mistreat consumers.
Alongside this, their approach towards companies has evolved throughout the years with the aim of reaching through dialogue a more equitable market, which is respectful of the rights of consumers and people.
Altroconsumo is also a driving force in innovative and ambitious pan-European projects tackling the green transition and fixing consumer complaints for the digital age. They have worked with colleagues in BEUC and Euroconsumers to establish data-led repair culture for electronic devices CircThread, to run Clear-X a collective purchasing for sustainable energy and develop the CICLE platform for cross-border consumer complaints handling.
What’s changed in 50 years?
Altroconsumo formally celebrated its anniversary at the Euroconsumers Forum in October 2023 in Rome. At the event, Paolo Martinello, President of Altroconsumo Foundation and President of Altroconsumo from 1995 – 2012 described a typical Italian consumers’ world in 1973. This was a world where insurance and telecoms were provided by the central government and a choice of two black and white channels on TV:
“No one imagined that phones would become portable, or intelligence would become artificial”
As Martinello explained, Consumers are in a stronger position now than in 1973, thanks to the early work done by organizations like Altroconsumo to build consumers rights and the opening up of data and information across markets. However, these rights and empowerment are only useful when there’s real competition between market players.
Over the next few years, Martinello would like to see businesses competing on how well they can accept and deliver on challenges posed by consumers – for a sustainable society or for a secure and respectful digital world.
Committed to change: the next 50 years
Also launched at the fifth edition of the Euroconsumers Forum in Rome was Altroconsumo’s new Committed to Change (“Impegnati a cambiare”) platform that can put consumers back at the centre as agents of change, for the better, of both the market and the society. Alberto Pirrone explains:
At the moment, consumers don’t sit at the table where big decisions about sustainability, the economy and society are made. 60 million Italian consumers need to have their voices heard.”
The platform will engage consumers around the need to buy better, act better and live better and meet their goals of respecting rights, diversity, the environment and tomorrow’s generations.
It aims to meet the needs related to services which will simplify life, the challenge of aggregating people, of positioning them at the center of the market and society and of enhancing collective well-being.
It will let consumers join forces with other citizens, businesses and institutions to promote a new type of individual and collective responsibility, every time a product or service becomes part of people’s lives. In the future, the platform will develop into a multi-subject campaign dedicated to the main consumer priorities in people’s lives.
Even the concept of consumer itself is evolving and Altroconsumo is tackling this with the concept of “Altro” (“Other”).
The forward looking ambition of the Committed to Change platform is typical of Altroconsumo’s track record in looking forward to what consumers and markets need next.
In 1973, they set up a framework of essential consumer rights and company responsibility. They are now building on that groundwork with a vision of what consumers expect and deserve in 2023 – a seat at the table and a simple path to purchasing decisions that can make a difference now and for future consumers and citizens.
Future challenges for Altroconsumo are those linked to the digital world, to fake news, counterfeits products, to the new frontiers of artificial intelligence, which needs to be at the service of people and the protection of personal data and sensitive information.
Buona fortuna e buon compleanno Altroconsumo!