Consumers Association of Ireland AGM – Show me the members!

At 1pm today in the O’Connell Suite of the Burlington Hotel in Dublin, the Consumers Association of Ireland held their AGM. There were 16 members present – 8 of whom were on the council or executive of the association (basically involved in running/overseeing the association).

That’s right – 8 ordinary members of the Association showed for the AGM – a number which I heard described as a “good turnout”.

That’s only 8 out of the 5,500 or 8,000 members – depending on who you speak to. That’s only a single member more than quorum. Up until a few minutes before 1pm, even achieving quorum was looking unlikely.

I’ll provide more updates on what happened over the coming days (especially since there were no journalists present), but I did get an answer on the membership numbers discrepancy. The true number of paying members is actually closer to 4,000 than 5,500 and a far cry from 8,000.

However, the reason that 8,000 members is quoted is ingenious.

Here’s how it works! For every class, in every school that has a schools subscription, the CAI assumes that that’s actually 20 extra association members. So, take as an example a school that has 15 classes and pays its €140 in membership. The CAI actually increases their membership by 300 rather than just the 1.

Or by 300 “potential” members as the Chief Executive described the school kids today!

Disclaimer: I am a member, council and executive member of the Consumers Association of Ireland and all this was news to me today.

6 Responses to Consumers Association of Ireland AGM – Show me the members!

  1. Serial October 31, 2008 at 08:38 #

    This proves that CAI is not a membership organisation. It is a magazine publisher. CAI should stop pretending to be a representative body.

  2. Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 09:15 #

    CAI must support the governments move to increase class sizes via education cuts – that way they can ‘increase’ their membership numbers.

    Do all the school kids get their own copy of Consumer Choice?

  3. Jenny T October 31, 2008 at 10:05 #

    You say youre a council and excutive member of CAI (sounds important!) – is that the same as being a director?

    But why didn’t you know about the CAIs membership counting policies?

    Did you never ask for a breakdown of numbers?

    Isn’t there an onus of you to ask questions when you’re involved with running an organisation.

    Its not a cardinal sin to inflate membership numbers. Most organisations do it. Sometimes you have to, to get grants. Though you need to do it in a way you don’t get caught out!

  4. Mick October 31, 2008 at 14:48 #

    A bit odd to hold an AGM on a weekday lunchtime in a place that isnt even in the city centre.

    Not easy for members to attend if they have jobs.

    Value Ireland – youre involved with this crowd. Why did they chose such a time and place? Surely more would have come for an evening meeting.

  5. Value Ireland October 31, 2008 at 21:43 #

    Yes, I think you're pretty much right. There was mention during the AGM that the CAI could potentially cut back publication to quarterly for example, and have more money available for consumer activity, rather than losing €50,000 for the year. This wasn't really entertained from the top table.

    As an example of where more consumer activity would be useful, I'm amazed how little consumer (organisation) reaction there has been to the 0.5% VAT rate increase. You'd think this AGM could have been a perfect opportunity to make a stand on behalf of all consumers on that issue.

    It's a standard 20 students per class assumption, no matter what the size. I only found out about the practice yesterday, so I'll have to go back to find out if it's 20 magazines per class, or 1 per class.

    @jenny t:
    Thanks for your comments Jenny – based on your IP address address of your computer from where you're viewing and commenting from – would you like to make any declaration of any interest or involvement in the CAI?

    With regards to your comments, yes, an executive member of the CAI is the same as a director.

    And with regards to asking questions, you're absolutely right that the onus is on me to ask questions. But on the flip side, the onus is on those involved in running the organisation to answer those questions. If they don't answer those questions, or are vague and evasive in their answers, then there's not a whole lot I can do except to attempt to keep asking the right questions – almost to the point of looking like a crank unfortunately.

    Take for example a particular issue, that I'll elaborate on further at another time, where in January 2008 I asked a particular question. I asked the same question in February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September. It was only 10 minutes before the AGM in October that I received the answer to my question. And even then, the answer wasn't provided directly to me but was published on the CAI website instead.

    With regards to your comments on inflating membership numbers, I completely understand that this may happen. I was just surprised that the practice here inflates the number by approximately 100%.

    The CAI receives government funding each year from the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment. This year the expectation is that it will receive €65,000. However, I understand that an FOI request to the Department earlier this year showed that the CAI claimed membership of 9,000.

    I believe meetings such as the AGM (as well as all council and executive meetings) are held at mid-week lunchtimes in order to facilitate those who must travel from outside Dublin to attend.

    While meetings could be held in the evening, I do know that some people will travel via public transport and so evening meetings do not suit as there'd be no late trains or buses to get people back home afterwards (I guess).


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