According to J. F. Kennedy, Consumers, by definition, includes us all. The former U. S. President went on to explain that, “they are the largest economic group…..affecting, and affected by, almost every public and private economic decision….But consumers are the only important group…..whose views are often not heard.”
As a result in 1983, the international consumer movement set aside 15 March of every year as a special day to observe World Consumer Rights Day. These commemorations are aimed at promoting basic rights of all consumers, protesting the market abuse and social injustice that undermines the freedom of consumers.
On 9th April 1985, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGAS) adopted the United Nations Guideline for Consumer Protection to embrace the principles of eight consumer rights and provide a framework for strengthening national consumer protection policies. With the UN’s adoption of the guidelines, consumer rights were finally elevated to a position of international recognition and legitimacy, acknowledged by developed and developing countries alike.
These rights include:
- The right to satisfaction of basic needs – to have access to basic, essential goods and services: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.
- The right to safety – to be protected against products, production processes and service which are hazardous to health or life.
- The right to be informed – to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
- The right choose – to be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
- The right to be heard – to have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
- The right to redress – to receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
- The right to consumer education – to acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
- The right a healthy environment – to live and work in an environment which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.
However, these rights continue to be ignored or trivialized by governments, producers and the powerful. World Consumer Rights Day draws attention to such violations and provides a platform for consumer groups to address them in the countries where they operate.
For consumers to fully enjoy their rights, they too have responsibilities that they are encouraged to uphold.