With the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP) scheduled for revision in 2014, next year looks set to be a crucial one for the consumer movement, writes our Director General Helen McCallum.
A new project to map the state of consumer protection around the world will help CI and its members to spur decision-makers into action – both internationally and at the national level.
The UN Guidelines were a key achievement for the global consumer movement when they were established in 1985. They have since become a key international reference point for consumer groups and governments around the world.
However, the world is a very different place today and modernising the UNGCP is vital if they are to remain relevant to consumers in the 21st Century. For quite some time, CI has been closely involved in these discussions with UNCTAD, the UN agency leading the revisions.
That’s why CI has launched a major new survey of its members in order to assess the level of protection currently afforded to consumers around the world.
We aim to build a comprehensive picture which will not only provide vital evidence to aid CI’s engagement with international institutions, but crucially will also support CI members directly in their efforts to strengthen consumer protection in their own countries.
Surveys are extremely useful for CI as they allow us to demonstrate that an issue is affecting consumers in
many countries and thus requires a global response.
We go to great lengths to ensure that they are also valuable to our members.
For example, CI members often tell us that being able to compare the situations between their country and regional neighbours has been an extremely effective strategy to employ when lobbying their governments.
The results of this survey will allow members to identify examples of good practice in consumer protection in similar countries and demonstrate to their governments what is possible in a comparable national context.
It might also help highlight any areas where progress has been made, granting consumer rights advocates the opportunity to congratulate their government and hopefully encourage them to do more.
And, of course, the results will support members on World Consumer Rights Day 2013 as they draw attention to the most urgent consumer protection issues in their country as part of next year’s theme: “Consumer Justice Now!”
Why surveys create consumer rights successes
By taking part in global surveys, CI members are committing precious time and resources, something that we are acutely aware of.
These exercises are vital to our work, ensuring that CI’s policy and programmes truly reflect the priorities of our membership and the concerns of consumers everywhere.
Recent surveys have, for example, helped us to better understand the business models our members operate and to identify strategic areas to focus our efforts to build strong consumer organisations.
Perhaps most importantly, they have played a key role in many of our greatest recent successes.
To take just one recent example, information provided by members about the problems faced by consumers in financial services was instrumental in enabling CI to convince the G20 to take action on the issue.
As a direct result of this, international standards and guidelines are being developed that can be used to advance financial consumer protection at the national level - where it really matters.
Similarly, the reason it is so important to ensure that the UNGCP are fit for the modern age is that they will act as a highly effective instrument to encourage national governments to pass laws and implement policies that strengthen consumer protection.
CI’s members are its ‘eyes and ears on the ground’, and without their experience and insight we would simply not be able to fulfil our mission to champion consumer rights internationally.
I would like to thank our members in advance for their help. We really couldn’t do it without you!