“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government.
They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity.”
– Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Consumers from all over the world are entitled to certain rights and privileges in today’s global market. Such rights are available to all without discrimination. Knowing your consumer rights is imperative to being a responsible consumer. To know them is to be responsible for rightfully exercising them. So, to make companies and businesses dutifully consider the consumer, learning your fundamental rights and what you can do to assert them properly is essential.
Asserting & Exercising Your Consumer Rights
1962 was the year American President John F. Kennedy declared the four fundamental rights for consumers: the right to safety, the right to be informed or have information, the right to choose, the right to be heard. President Richard Nixon then added a fifth right, the right to redress, in 1969. The succeeding President Gerald Ford added a sixth, the right to consumer education, in 1975. Finally, in April 1985, such consumer guidelines became adopted by the United Nations General Assembly after thorough consultation with international consumer groups. Today, there are eight consumer rights officially recognized around the world. They are enumerated below, along with some ways consumers can assert and exercise them:
1. The Right to Safety
You have the right to be protected against the marketing of and selling of goods, products, and services that are hazardous to health and life.
You can assert your right to safety by:
- Asking for a sample or tester of a good or product before purchase, especially in cases where only large containers are available
- Trying to contact the distributor or manufacturer if no one can address your safety concerns regarding the goods, products, and services satisfactorily
- Referring to a professional consultant or a person knowledgeable enough to know how the good or product works, if there is any doubt about its effectiveness
- Watching out for special warnings on the good or product labels
2. The Right to Information
You have the right to be protected against false, fraudulent, or misleading advertising & labeling and be given the facts and information needed to make a better consumer decision. Likewise, businesses, distributors, and manufacturers must ensure that all good, product, and service information is truthful and accurate.
You can assert your right to information by:
- Not being afraid to ask questions concerning the prices, quantity, and quality of goods, products, and services bought
- Reading good or product labels carefully to determine the exact content (ingredients), use, and proper handling of goods or products
- Reading and understanding all provisions in documents (waivers, warranties, guarantees, or service contracts) before signing or finalizing a purchase
- Contacting the distributor or manufacturer directly, which will be best to give you more detailed information regarding goods, products, and services
3. The Right to Choose
You have the right to choose from a wide range of goods, products, and services at fair and competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
You can assert your right to choose by:
- Choosing your goods, products, and services wisely
- Canvassing for prices of similar products before making a purchase
- Not being passive to ensure that you get a fair deal as a consumer
- Not hesitating to inquire more about any particular good, product, or service you may be interested in
- Specifying to sales representatives exactly what you want or need
4. The Right to Be Heard
You have the right to have your consumer interests heard and represented in the creation and execution of government policies and the development of products and services.
You can assert your right to be heard by:
- Being part of a consumer collective and having a platform to use your voices as consumers
- Being aware of how consumer laws and regulations are being implemented in your locality
- Coordinating with a legitimate and accredited consumer protection organization in your area should the need arise
- Expressing your consumer concerns to legislators via official correspondence
- Giving helpful suggestions to companies about improving their goods, products, or services via their customer service representatives
- Taking time to attend public hearings or even meetings conducted in your area regarding consumer issues
5. The Right to Redress
You have the right to an effective remedy or compensation (redress) for misrepresentation, inferior goods, products, or substandard services.
You can assert your right to redress by:
- Filing consumer complaints or lawsuits
- Getting in touch with an internal ombudsperson if management does not act on your complaint
- Requesting a replacement, refund, or repair of a good or product
- Making an effort to request money or other benefits as fair compensation for a company or business’s mistakes
6. The Right to Consumer Education
You have the right to gain access to programs and information that help make you more informed decisions as a consumer and to acquire the knowledge & skills necessary to be an informed consumer.
You can assert your right to consumer education by:
- Browsing newspapers, magazines, and other pertinent literature for articles that may educate consumers on how to get the best value for their money
- Inquiring about consumer education activities and programs in your area
- Involving yourself in public hearings or meetings conducted in your area regarding consumer issues
- Participating in seminars, conferences, and forums conducted by official consumer groups, government agencies, and business industry sectors regarding consumer products, new concepts & developments, etc.
7. The Right to Basic Needs
You have the right to adequate food, water, shelter and have access to essential goods, products, and services that guarantee your day-to-day survival.
You can assert your right to basic needs by:
- Practicing sustainable consumption so as not to prevent others from meeting their own needs
- Looking for quality, not quantity as regards goods, products, and services
- Being vigilant in communicating with local businesses to ensure that basic commodities are readily available in the market during times of crisis
8. The Right to a Healthy Environment
You have the right to live and work in an environment that is neither threatening nor dangerous to the health & well-being of your generation and other generations.
You can assert your right to a healthy environment by:
- Doing your share to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste products and materials
- Informing local officials and consumer organizations regarding illegal activities that harm the environment (illegal logging, dynamite fishing, and others) in your area
- Making proactive choices that minimize the environmental impact of one’s purchases on the rest of the world (using reusable shopping bags, for example)
- Organizing environmentally-conscious cleanup groups in your area
All of the consumer rights mentioned above are promoted and recognized around the globe. However, they won’t mean anything unless you learn them by heart and do your best to assert them regardless of any issues you face in today’s increasingly globalized market. For companies or businesses to consider the consumer, you must consider yourself and know your worth. So go on, valued consumer, shop responsibly, and assert yourself!
Deinah Storm used to work in the corporate world as a marketing affiliate. She quit her job to pursue her passion for writing, but to this day, Deinah is committed to educating consumers about the different marketing scams and how to avoid them.