Wednesday, 15 August 2012

An historic opportunity for the consumer rights movement


CI Director General Helen McCallum reflects on Rio+20, supermarkets, and a new chapter for international consumer rights.

It may not have made a mark in many people’s diaries, but 12 and 13 July could perhaps go down as the most important two days for the global consumer rights movement in more than 13 years. 

Over these two days, the UN formally announced its Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was to begin consultation on the first revision of the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP) – the first since 1999.

CI and its members were an integral part of the launch of the UNGCP in 1985, and the 1999 revision, which saw sustainable consumption directly referenced for the first time.

We plan to be right at the heart of the new revisions too. We are now in discussions with UNCTAD to officially recognise CI as a stakeholder in the consultation.

These discussions could not have come at a more relevant time. We have seen the worldwide explosion of digital consumption and the wholesale collapse of faith in financial consumer protection since the Guidelines were last opened up. 

There was no Google in 1999; Facebook was still five years away; mobile phone penetration in Africa was in its infancy; and no one had ever heard of iTunes or online privacy. The credit crisis, home seizures and multi-billion dollar bank bail-outs were nearly 10 years away. 

That’s why CI is pushing for financial services and consumer rights in the digital age to be fully reflected in the revised guidelines. This will be a momentous undertaking. I look forward to working with CI member organisations and other stakeholders across the world to make sure it happens.

Beyond this UNGCP revision, CI remains busy on several fronts. We’ve been taking stock of the outcomes of Rio+20 - a failure in many ways, but with some encouraging commitments to move forward on sustainable consumption. At the very least, governments are beginning to understand sustainability as a mainstream consumer rights issue, as well as a development concern. 

While we assess how best to take advantage of this over the coming months, it’s certainly worth taking a look at our new project to support sustainable consumption awareness-raising in developing countries. In my view, these are practical projects aiming to make a real impact on consumer behaviour. Check out our new Facebook group dedicated to these green action initiatives.

Also, take a look at a great selection of supermarket infographics from CI and CHOICE Australia, taken from our latest report which asks whether consumers are getting a fair deal from supermarkets.

And finally, if you’ve not already seen it, please take a look at our fabulous 90-second video guide to what CI does: Your Rights, Our Mission. You can watch it and share it below.





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