The Consumer Action Group (CAG) is a non-profit UK organisation that campaigns for customer rights, and in particular for the recovery of unlawful penalty charges imposed by UK banks on their customers. It was founded by Dave Smith and Marc Gander and was the first organisation of its kind to campaign for effective regulation of the UK retail banking sector while assisting many thousands of ordinary people to successfully challenge their banks for the return or unlawfully imposed penalty charges.
The two founders of the Consumer Action Group met in a Yahoo forum called Bank Charges Hell (BCH), which boasted over 200 members. It became apparent that this method of communication for a national campaign (BCH concentrated on people having their money returned to them) was not viable, and the administrator of BCH was contacted with ideas of a discussion forum as a platform to launch a national campaign against unlawful bank charges. The administrator of BCH turned down the offer, and as a result Dave Smith and Marc Gander formed the Bank Action Group forum. The name was later changed to The Consumer Action Group.
Recently, as the site has expanded and moved into other areas, its overall name has changed to 'The Consumer Forums'.
This is to demonstrate that the initial founding reason - i.e. the bank charges issue in the UK is not the only area of expertise that the group has.
The Consumer Forum site now consists of a Wiki which has over 400 articles (inspired by Wikipedia), which has been likened to a 'Rosetta Stone' of consumer law - in other words, a bridge between the legalese usually in use by the legal profession, and the layman.
Also in existence is a debt-help forum, a consumer issues forum, and a bank charge forum.
Many of the standard letters that are available on the site can be created automatically, simply by a member completing a small form with basic information in.
A 'buddy system' exists in which a member can enter their postcode; a list of results will show like-minded people within a certain radius who are prepared to go to court with that member in the event of a court case, for moral support.
There also exists within the Consumer Action Group, or as recent changes have seen, The Consumer Forums, a highly successful and striving sub-section, namely, the Debt Action Group. It is the prime aim of this sub-section to give help and advise as to dealing with debt collection agencies whom are largely unregulated within UK financial law. This sub-section has been extremely successful in defending many actions by creditors where in the past would have gone by un-noticed and un-defended because of pure ignorance of the law.
The Debt Action Group also strives to ensure that collection activities by debt collection agencies complies with UK Statute Law and the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidelines.
No charge is made for use of these tools.
The site moderators state that they do not tolerate any form of potentially libelous postings and err on the side of caution as, 'to even defend such an action from a large corporation would probably end in the site's demise'.
On occasion this has upset some users and has in fact spawned 'copy-cat' sites, who, due to their small size and lack of popularity will not have to fend off the same attacks.
The site owners believe that to fight for the bigger cause and the demise of unfair practices in the UK is greater than just helping the individual.
Despite this, individual members have been very successful in retrieving monies taken from them unfairly by using information on the site.
To protect member's personal information, the site parent company is registered with, and complies with the Data Protection Act.
The Consumer Action Group is funded primarily by donations from members that have received monies owed to them that they consider had been taken unfairly.
Other funding comes from the sale of relevant legal books that are offered at a discount to members compared to their high street prices.
On occasion, when larger sums of money are needed, for example a fighting fund to aid in the fighting of a case against 'unfair' bank charges, Martin Lewis's Money Saving Expert site contributes as well.
The Consumer Action Group (at the time of posting) has over 170,000 registered members. The members are 'culled' on a regular basis, i.e. if a membership has not been verified by email for over 2 weeks 0then those members are taken out of the overall total. The total membership with these members included is closer to 205,000.
Each day, the Consumer Action Group membership rises by between 100 and 400 members - at peak times (after national TV exposure for instance) this number has been in excess of 1000.
Weekends are statistically slow times for the Consumer Action Group (especially in the UK summer months) and daily registrations have been as low as 80 new members although typically at weekends; 150-200.
On average even the weekend registration rate is increasing month-on-month which could be seen as a reflection on consumer-life in modern Britain.
Due to its popularity and to the fact that banks have been forced to pay back many millions of pounds to their customers who have used the methods available at the site, the Consumer Action Group is prone to legal and sometimes personal attacks, from which its site owners are sometimes forced to defend themselves.
The Consumer Action Group has been accused of all sorts of nefarious acts, including defamation, copyright infringement and hacking. Allegations are often made by companies and organisations that have been the target of the site's activities, as well as from the proliferation of 'copy-cat' sites that have sprung up in recent months. To date, not a single allegation of wrong doing has been vindicated. It has been noted that often copy-cat sites that are engaged in attacks on the Consumer Action Group simultaneuosly make full use of its resources and materials for their own ends.
The Consumer Action Group is owned by a limited company in part to protect the owners from the potential consequences of attacks against it.
As it has grown in popularity the Consumer Action Group is frequently asked to comment publicly on UK consumer issues - especially if they relate to the financial sector. Because the Consumer Action Group has always tried to adopt a moderate tone when commenting on issues, it enjoys a high level of respect among the media. To date spokespersons from the Consumer Action Group have contributed to news articles and features in virtually every major UK news publication and outlet.