Monday, 6 August 2012

CI to contribute to revision of UN’s consumer protection guidelines

Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of CI Office for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, reports on activities from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.


I was very pleased to be part of CI’s delegation to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently. 

This was an important moment for consumer rights - when CI was named to give input into the revision of the UN’s Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP).

The decision to revise the guidelines was the major outcome of the UNCTAD Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection: The interface between competition and consumer policies. Its proposals are to be tabled at the General Assembly in July 2014. 

The CI delegation to UNCTAD included myself as the head of the Asia Pacific and Middle East Regional Office and lead on the global coordination of CI’s Consumer Justice and Protection priority programme; Jeremy Malcolm who leads CI’s Consumers in the Digital Age priority programme; and Robin Simpson, CI’s senior policy officer from London who spoke on financial services, another of CI’s priority programme areas. 

We were accompanied by Connie Lau, retiring CEO of the Hong Kong Consumer Council who gave the key note address; and Pradeep Mehta from CI member CUTS India.

A number of ideas for areas in which the Guidelines could be improved were discussed, including the need to strengthen enforcement activities, and the addition of provisions on financial services, energy, consumer representation, and access to knowledge. 

CI also highlighted the need to add “access to basic needs” as part of the legitimate needs in Article 3 of the Guidelines as well as to have a clear definition of ”consumer” in terms of addressing the needs of poor and vulnerable consumers.
 
The agreed conclusions of the meeting specify that UNCTAD is to collaborate with CI, as well as with other relevant bodies such as the OECD, in developing the content of potential revisions.  

To this end, the next step in this process will be for CI to consult with its members on the areas that should be covered and to develop some suggested text for submission to UNCTAD that will be tabled at the upcoming 13th Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) meeting in July 2013 during which the process of negotiations will begin and be approved by July 2014.

This is an exciting time. It means that all CI members will have the opportunity to comment and bring their experience in consumer rights to bear on the Guidelines. I for one look forward to being a part of this important step for consumer rights.

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