Friday, 20 December 2013

Five big wins for consumers in 2013

So as the year draws to a close what are the five biggest wins for consumers this year? For the major issues we consumer campaigners have to face there were some great victories in the areas of nutrition, prices and consumer law. CI Digital Editor Vik Iyer reflects on 2013.

Mexico junk food tax

Mexico did not just enforce the tax on junk food – they increased the proposed levy as it continues to combat its obesity epidemic.

CI Members in Mexico have long campaigned for this move and even states in the US, which tends to favour laissez-faire economics,  have examined measures penalising junk food and drink.

In Mexico, initial proposals had been for a 5% tax on fatty foods but that was increased to 8%.  Soft and sugary drinks will be taxed at one peso ($0.07) per litre.

More good news for consumers saw major food manufacturers agree to ‘traffic light labelling’ in the UK, following the examples of big supermarkets.

Is there a mood change going in Big Food? Maybe, just maybe: as this rather sheepish Coke interview suggests.

Google privacy defeat

Revelations about spying and privacy have dominated the news this year. But legal action by a CI Member in Germany showed that the consumer movement can act as a check on the excesses of supersize Internet companies.

Several clauses of Google's privacy policy and terms of use were declared unlawful by the court thanks to legal action from, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv).

All in all, 25 clauses in the privacy policy statement and the terms of use were affected, which were phrased too broadly or illegally restrict consumer rights.

“This decision is an important message to IT companies. They need to rethink in the matter of data protection and take German regulations on data protection and consumer rights seriously” said Gerd Billen, Executive Director of the vzbv and CI Council member.

Mobile phone price hikes

In the United Kingdom, CI Member Which? won its Fixed Mean Fixed campaign to allow consumers to exit mobile phone contracts where prices go up.

This is exactly the type of action likely to feature heavily in our upcoming World Consumer Rights Day campaign.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Consumers told us price hikes on fixed contracts were unfair, and now people will be able to leave these contracts and switch to a cheaper provider without being hit by extortionate exit fees.”

Fijians get consumer law overhaul

Our Member the Consumer Council of Fiji campaigned for major changes in the law to improve the lives of consumers – and their advocacy worked.

Firstly, the government has announced a Consumer Compensation Tribunal that will adjudicate over claims on third party insurance and other consumer complaints.

Secondly, a taskforce to monitor prices of duty-reduced items will be established.

The Council has long argued that duty reductions often do not translate into lower retail prices for consumers.

Oman launched a unique price monitor

Finally, in a consumer protection first – certainly in the Middle East – the Public Authority for Consumer Protection of Oman (PACP) launched a mobile digital price checker for its 8,000 field staff to monitor prices across the country.

The handheld device can scan a whole range of products to check prices are not exceeding market levels. Information is fed back into a price monitor database to keep a close eye of market fluctuations and the Authority’s staff can even issue and print out fines from the handheld device where retails are excessively overcharging.

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