World Consumer Rights Day is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement.More importantly, it is a time for promoting the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
World Consumer Rights Day was first observed on 15 March 1983 and has since become an important occasion for mobilizing citizen action. Two years later, on 9 April 1985, ‘The United Nations’ General Assembly adopted the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, following a decade of hard lobbying by Consumers International, then known as IOCU, and consumer organizations. Consumer organizations around the world use materials produced by Consumers International to generate local initiatives and media coverage for their work over the coming year.
World Consumer Rights Day has its origins in former US President John F. Kennedy’s declaration of four basic consumer rights:
- The right to safety.
- The right to be informed.
- The right to choose.
- The right to be heard.
To these, the consumer movement through Consumers International has in recent years added four more rights:
- The right to satisfaction of basic needs.
- The right to redress.
- The right to education.
- The right to a healthy environment.
Together these eight rights form the basis for ongoing work by Consumers International and consumer groups worldwide. ‘Consumers by definition, include us all,’ Kennedy said in his 15 March 1962 declaration to the US Congress. ‘They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group.whose views are often not heard.’ The guidelines embrace the principles of the eight consumer rights and provide a framework for strengthening national consumer protection policies. With the UN’s adoption of the guidelines in 1985, consumer rights were finally elevated to a position of international recognition and legitimacy, acknowledged by developed and developing countries alike. Yet they can continue to be ignored or trivialized by governments, producers, and powerful interests. World Consumer Right Day draws attention to such violations and provides a platform for consumer groups to address them in the countries where they operate.
World Consumer Rights Day depends on local initiatives, planned and carried out by consumer organizations on every continent. Initiatives can take the shape of special campaigns, press conferences, public exhibitions, workshops, street events or new publications, to name only a few possibilities. World Consumer Rights Day initiatives sometimes continue well beyond 15 March, forming the basis for long-term work by groups. World Consumers Rights Day initiatives can be concerned with the foods we eat, the medicines we take or the products we use in our homes. They can draw attention to unethical marketing practices, expose hazardous technologies and production processes, or point out the need for consumer legislation and its enforcement.