In 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave a memorable speech, which led Congress to enact the Bill for Consumer Rights. At that time, there were four specific rights. Over the years, this became an international standard recognised by the United Nations. The U.N. has amended the original four to a total of eight basic consumer rights, which are acknowledged by its participating members. With all rights, consumer or otherwise, come individual responsibilities.
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One of the original four, the Right to Safety protects the consumer from products, manufacturing practices or services that could prove detrimental to the health or life of the individual consumer. To ensure this right, it is the consumer's responsibility to use the product for its intended purpose and properly follow instructions and warnings.
The Right to Be Informed requires that companies supply all of the information that would be necessary to make an intelligent decision about purchasing a particular product. This right also establishes that it is illegal for companies to furnish "dishonest or misleading advertising or labelling." Consumers are responsible for analysing the information appropriately.
The Right to Choose ensures that consumers be able to choose from a variety of products and services. The distributors of the products or services must price them based upon competitive markets and guarantee their quality. Consumers are responsible for comparing all prices before making decisions and identify differences between similar products.
The Right to Be Heard means that government entities should hold the consumer's interests at heart when implementing policies. Also, businesses should address customer concerns in the development and production of goods and services. Consumers are responsible for informing businesses and elected officials of issues pertaining to specific items.
Satisfaction of Basic Needs
The Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs ensures that all consumers have suitable access to necessary goods and services, such as food, shelter, education, health care and sanitation. This means that consumers are responsible for governing their own consumption, so as not to impinge upon others receiving the same basic needs.
The Right to Redress ensures that customers have an avenue with which to receive compensation for unsatisfactory performance of service or inferior products, or for damage inflicted from their use. It is the consumer's responsibility to actively seek appropriate restitution.
The Right to Consumer Education provides for programs and information that must be available to individuals to help them make more informed decisions about products. It is the consumers' responsibility to take initiative in learning about new and changing products throughout their lives.
The Right to a Healthy Environment implies that businesses and governing bodies must install policies in production and regulation which do not harm the natural world. Consumers are responsible for purchasing goods and services that cause little environmental impact for themselves and future generations.
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- United Nations: United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection
- CUTS International: Consumer Rights and its Expansion--Rights and Responsibilities
- New South Wales Government Fair Trading: International Consumer Rights
- Learning Seed: The Savvy Consumer: Know Your Consumer Rights (and Responsibilities)
- American Liberty Rights: Consumer Responsibilities