UN guidelines on consumer protection are a set of guidelines which lays down the basis on which consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress system should be established. These authorities so formed should make and enforce laws, rules, and regulations suitable according to their social, economic, and environmental circumstances present in the member state.
These guidelines were firstly on general assembly by the member states in the year 1985 then later expanded by the Economic and Social Council in Resolution of 26th July 1999 and recently revised by the general assembly in 22nd December 2015. These 2015 revised guidelines are made keeping in mind the developing countries and sustainable development goals. The UN further extended its assistance to member countries in framing and enforcing consumer protection laws.
Consumer rights include the Right to be informed, which means that the consumers have the right to be informed about the product quality, purity, standard, etc. to protect them from unfair food practises such as adulteration, dilution, etc. The right to be protected can also be known as the right to safety which means consumers have the right to be protected against marketing or promotion of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property. Right to be assured. Right to be herd which means consumer’s interests will get due consideration and attention on competent platforms. And right to redress means the right to approach a competent forum to get compensated or damages for any misconduct or violation of the abovementioned rights.
Why is it Important for the UN to make rules on Consumer Protection?
This can be understood in 3 parts: firstly to promote sustainable development, Secondly to assist member nations by providing basic guidelines based on which they can frame laws. And the third point is closely related to the second point that is to promote economic growth and reduce poverty. According to the United Nations, consumer protection plays a vital role in reducing poverty and in promoting economic growth.
United Nations aims to guard human rights. Consumer protection is one of the basic human rights which guards a consumer against hazardous products, adequate information, uninformed choices, and ineffective redress. It prevents abuse of consumers, makes them empowered, and works towards their welfare. It is beneficial not only to consumers but also to the players in the market i.e. companies by leveling competition and equalizing the playing field. These companies have to comply to the same guidelines provided by UNCTAD.
To avoid unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Directing both companies as well as countries. Unsustainable patterns of production lead to deterioration of the global environment.
To regulate global trade (exports and imports) by maintaining a minimum standard of goods beneficial and safe for consumers all around the globe.
To assist countries in reaching their economic goals and to assist countries in preparing their legislation on consumer protection.
To promote a high level of ethical conduct for the manufacturers, producers, companies, etc.
Three voluntary peer reviews have been conducted by the UN to support their plan, to formulate and keep a check on member nations upon the working of model consumer protection guidelines.
The united nations had assisted many countries in framing their policies on consumer protection and by providing countries with their world-class expertise to frame and implement laws on consumer protection. It continuously monitors and obtains feedback on working and implementation of consumer protection laws among the member countries to further improve its action plan and to move closer towards its objectives of creating a better world. Still, the consumer is not fully protected, for example during the covid 19 pandemic consumers were exploited by the health sector where they hiked the prices of life-saving drugs, healthcare services, etc. Other sectors too had abused advertising and placed their product wrongly in front of consumers. Overall the companies from different sectors had violated consumer protection guidelines formulated by the UN in some or other way. This has actually put a check on the implementation of consumer protection laws around the world and had occluded the path of the UN in achieving sustainable consumer protection and creating a better world for humans.
The UN had made some recommendations to the government of countries to protect consumers and take action against violators. Some of these recommendations are market monitoring initiatives, price capping on life-saving drugs, attend the needs of disadvantaged consumers, etc.
The consumer protection guidelines not only supplement consumer protection but also focus on competition. An intergovernmental group of experts on competition law and policy has been formulated by UNCTAD. The group meets and discusses each year ways of improving cooperation on competition policy implementation. Consumer protection and competition are interrelated and to regulate consumer protection is to curb and control competition. Corporations to overcome competition can take harsh steps which may be harmful to consumers. Such harmful steps might include unfair trade practices, wrong sales promotion, etc. This might harm consumers directly, but their implications are indirect therefore the UN tries to regulate competition to achieve consumer protection.
The UN has diverse member countries including developed, developing and non-developed nations. As far as developed nations go, they have a well-settled framework for consumer protection. Developing and underdeveloped countries’ consumers are the most vulnerable like some countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America. So, considering this the United Nation’ model action plan is prepared to achieve a better standard of living for consumers and a fair playground for the global multinational companies.
This article is written by Aakarsh Chandranahu, a student of Alliance School of Law.
For regular updates, join us: