Rhoda Karpatkin 1930 – 2023

Rhoda Karpatkin with Monique Goyens DG of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation and Rob Weissman, the President of Public Citizen in 2016, Washington DC

Rhoda, known as the Grande Dame of the international consumer movement died peacefully at home on the 4th of August, aged 93. There have been many tributes to her life and work in the United States, but her contributions to shaping and developing the international consumer movement is equally important and cannot be overstated, including her positive and important contribution to the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue.

During her tenure as President of Consumers’ Union (now Consumer Reports), Rhoda was also part of Consumer International’s (formerly IOCU) executive board, and its President between 1984 and 1991. She was a passionate supporter of developing the consumer movement in developing countries, and equally in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Establishment of regional offices in Latin America and work towards an Africa Office took place during her presidency. She traveled widely round the world, speaking to governments about the importance of consumer rights and protection laws, both for their economic prosperity and well-being of their people.

Rhoda was a strong supporter of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, and part of its Steering Committee (board) since its launch in Washington in 1998 and until 2016 in her capacity as President Emeritus of Consumer Reports. In this role she greatly helped bond the U.S. consumer organisations, to work together on common policy goals to influence U.S. and EU policies, including on trade issues where there were previous disagreements. She had an amazingly clear analytical and strategic perspective on important issues impacting people, coupled with an understanding of their cultural differences and tolerance for different points of view and perspectives; and she was particularly passionate about work for disadvantaged and underprivileged people in the service of whom she spent the last years of her life, working for the poor on New York’s Upper West Side.

In fact, Rhoda has never retired and remains a shining role model for us all.