Consumer research for older and disabled people

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History

Rica's history

Rica has a long track record of assessing products and services.

The charity was originally founded in 1963 by the social engineer Michael Young, as the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica). It was managed by the UK Consumers' Association, publishers of Which? for nearly thirty years. Over this time it had a wide ranging programme of research covering a wide variety of consumer issues.

Early Rica reports covered an extremely eclectic mix of subjects which reflected the high minded and rather academic nature of the new organisation. These included examinations and investigations of estate agents, railway stations, consumer education, town planning, new nations and car defects. However as early as 1965 an investigation of the particular needs of elderly consumers marked out the territory that was later to become Rica's specialist area.

Disadvantaged consumers

In the seventies, Rica's work began to focus on disadvantaged consumers. Work at that time included investigations into the widely available drug Clioquinol, a critical report of special footwear, ground-breaking research into the sexual problems experienced by disabled people, and tests of the 'invalid tricycles' then issued by the then Department of Health and Social Security.

A series of 13 comparative test reports, funded by the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases, launched Rica's central interest in the assessments of special equipment and mainstream products through laboratory tests and assessments carried out by disabled people.

Effective information

Rica's other abiding interest - in the provision of effective information - was mainly founded on work carried out in the 1980s. Initial work included interviews with 905 older people about their information needs, experiments with different ways of presenting and distributing information.

In 1984, Rica was commissioned by Consumers' Association to research and published seven reports on disability to mark CA's silver jubilee. It has specialised in this area ever since. Its main aim is to provide thorough researched information which older and disabled people need to choose the most appropriate products and services.

The charity became fully independent, with its own trustees and programme of work in 1991. Close links are however maintained with Consumers' Association at trustee level, and through a core grant from CA and a programme of joint work.

In the 1990s, the charity, while retaining its registered name (Research Institute for Consumer Affairs), began to publish consumer guides under the trading name Ricability.

In 2013, for simplicity and consistency, we have re-branded back to Rica for all areas of our work - consumer guides and research consultancy work.

Although the nature of our work has changed over the years, the charity has retained the core principles established by its founders. These are:

  • dedication to the interests of consumers
  • high research standards
  • strict independence
  • information provided in clear understandable forms