- Consumer Bill of Rights
Before the mid-twentieth century, consumers were without rights with regard to their interaction with products and commercial producers. Consumers had little ground on which to defend themselves against faulty or defective products, or against misleading or deceptive advertising methods.
By the 1950s, a movement called consumerism began to gather a following, pushing for increased rights and legal protection against malicious business practices. By the end of the decade, legal product liability had been established in which an aggrieved party need only prove injury by use of a product, rather than bearing the burden of proof of corporate negligence.
- 1 The Four Basic Rights
- 2 Expansion to eight rights
- 3 References
- 4 Sources
The Four Basic Rights
The Right to Safety
The assertion of this right is aimed at the defense of consumers against injuries caused by products other than automobile vehicles, and implies that products should cause no harm to their users if such use is executed as prescribed. The Right was established in 1972 by the US federal government, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has jurisdiction over thousands of commercial products, and powers that allow it to establish performance standards, require product testing and warning labels, demand immediate notification of defective products, and, when necessary, to force product recall.
The Right to Be Informed
This right states that businesses should always provide consumers with enough appropriate information to make intelligent and informed product choices. Product information provided by a business should always be complete and truthful. Aiming to achieve protection against misleading information in the areas of financing, advertising, labeling, and packaging, the right to be informed is protected by several pieces of legislation passed between 1960 and 1980.
The Right to Choose
The right to free choice among product offerings states that consumers should have a variety of options provided by different companies from which to choose. The federal government has taken many steps to ensure the availability of a healthy environment open to competition through legislation including limits on concept ownership through Patent Law, prevention of monopolistic business practices through Anti-Trust Legislation, and the outlaw of price cutting and gouging.
The Right to Be Heard
This right asserts the ability of consumers to voice complaints and concerns about a product in order to have the issue handled efficiently and responsively. While no federal agency is tasked with the specific duty of providing a forum for this interaction between consumer and producer, certain outlets exist to aid consumers if difficulty occurs in communication with an aggrieving party. State and federal Attorney Generals are equipped to aid their constituents in dealing with parties who have provided a product or service in a manner unsatisfactory to the consumer in violation of an applicable law. Also, the Better Business Bureau is a national non-governmental organization whose sole agenda is to provide political lobbies and action on behalf of aggrieved consumers.
Expansion to eight rights
In 1985, the concept of consumer rights was endorsed by the United Nations through the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, which expands them to included eight basic rights. These have also been restated as a charter of rights by the international NGO Consumers International, recognising the following additional rights:
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 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 to a healthy environment
To live and work in an environment which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.
However, consumer protection can only truly exist in first world, industrialized, or developed nations due to the fiscal resources necessary to properly execute legal protection of consumer interests.
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