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Consumers International is pleased to announce it will be partnering with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and our German Member the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) next year to tackle the vital and current issue of building better consumer rights in the digital world.

As part of the partnership Consumers International, BMJV and VZBV will co-host a G20 consumer summit on 15 March, World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), in Berlin, Germany. The summit, which will be part of the official G20 agenda for the German Presidency will discuss a range of topics including fair contract terms, secure payments, clear, accessible information, data security and data protection. Together we will be looking at how we can strengthen consumer protection and increase access to the digital economy in order for everyone to benefit from digital technology.

Digital technology has created unprecedented new opportunities for consumers to communicate, access information and choose from a range of products and services. Yet, in increasingly internationalised markets, consumers face a number of challenges which, without action, could undermine confidence and trust. The summit will also include a presentation of new international research on the most important areas for consumer digital rights and concerns, including the results of a consumer survey conducted in six G20 countries.

This event will be a key part of the activity for our WCRD #BetterDigitalWorld campaign.

This World Antibiotics Awareness Week more than 228,000 people across the world have called on top global restaurant chains to stop using meat raised with medically important antibiotics.

Consumers around the globe are calling on KFC, McDonald’s and Subway to make global, timebound commitments to limit antibiotics by writing to the CEOs through campaigning organisations Consumers International (CI) and ShareAction, and through online petitions with Consumer Reports and with SumOfUs.

By 2050, drug resistant infections are predicted to kill 10 million people a year – more than die from cancer today. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics in farming is a major driver of antibiotic resistance. Almost two-thirds of the world’s antibiotics are administered to farm animals, often to make them grow faster and to offset stressful and unsanitary factory farm conditions, rather than to treat sickness.

Alongside the e-actions, a coalition of NGOs, scientists and doctors, led by CI, has published an open letter to the CEOs of McDonalds, Subway and KFC, calling for global commitments to end the routine use of all antibiotics included on the World Health Organization (WHO)’s list of important antimicrobials, across all of the companies’ supply chains. 

The global campaign has followed progress made by the fast food industry in USA where, according to Chain Reaction 2, a recent report co-written by the world’s largest consumer organisation and CI Member Consumer Reports, 9 of the top 25 chains have made commitments to reduce antibiotic use. McDonald’s has removed chicken raised with medically important antibiotics from the menu in its USA branches, with Canada to follow. Subway has committed to serving chicken from animals raised with no antibiotics in its US stores by the end of 2016, with all of its meat to follow suit by 2025. While this is welcome partial progress, more ambitious action is required globally.

KFC lags dramatically behind the other two chains in the USA. The company does not have a clear and timebound policy to end the routine use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken supply.  KFC was one of 16 restaurant chains whose antibiotics policy received a letter grade of ‘F’ from the Chain Reaction 2 report. KFC faces growing pressure in USA, where it was already subject to a petition on antibiotics signed by 350,000 in August.

Outside North America progress is slower.  McDonald’s in Europe has said that it will stop the use of some important antibiotics in the chicken it serves, but fails to go as far as McDonald’s in the USA and McDonald’s in Canada. Subway has yet to make commitments anywhere outside of North America.  KFC has made no meaningful commitments anywhere.

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International:

“We welcome the progress made by Subway and McDonald’s in North America but we need global action.  These are global, household names who are in a position to lead their sector.  The progress made in the USA, particularly on chicken, can and must be replicated in other regions.

Without global action on antibiotic resistance we are looking at a truly frightening scenario where the smallest cut or a simple chest infection could kill us. Already we are seeing more and more common infections become resistant to our current drugs.

People everywhere are starting to wake up to how the choices made by the food industry are linked to growing antibiotic resistance – and the role consumers can play in demanding change.  People do not want meat from routinely medicated animals and are making their voices heard.  Companies need to listen to their customers.”

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Read our Open Letter to the CEOs of Mcdonald's, KFC and Subway

  • Consumers International (CI), working together with our 240 Members in 120 countries, is the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers.

Consumers International’s Antibiotics off the Menu campaign has already brought together more than 90 consumer organisations in more than 65 countries calling on Subway, McDonald’s and KFC to remove meat raised with important antibiotics from all of their restaurants. Find out more about the campaign here.

  • Consumers International Members in Belgium, Italy, Japan, Peru, Mexico and are hosting online initiatives allowing consumers to write directly to the CEOs of McDonald’s, Subway and KFC.
  • ShareAction is a UK charity that aims to improve corporate behaviour on environmental, social and governance issues through responsible investment by pension funds and other institutional investors. ShareAction’s petition to McDonald’s has been signed by 10,745 members of the public.
  • SumOfUs is a global consumer group that campaigns to hold big corporations accountable. Over 10 million people have taken over 50 million actions worldwide with SumOfUs since it launched. SumOfUs is hosting a petition to McDonald’s. It has been signed by 128,765.
  • KFC, along with 16 other chains, is subject to online petitions in USA, run jointly by CI Member Consumer Reports. 84,255 US consumers have signed.
  • Chain Reaction 2 was co-written by Consumer Union and published 20 September 2016.  It’s available here: http://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/more-fast-food-restaurants-serving-no-antibiotic-meat/
  • World Antibiotic Awareness Week is co-ordinated by the World Health Organization and aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. It runs from 14th- 19th November.
  • A coalition including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food Animals Concern Trust, Center for Science in the Public Interest, US Public Interest Research Group and CredoMobile delivered over 350,000 signed petitions to KFC headquarters in August, calling on the company to end routine antibiotics use in its chicken supply.

CI’s proposal for the United Nations to recognise World Consumer Rights Day as an official UN International Day was launched at the start of this year and in less than twelve months has made some good progress. 

This October, with the support of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) the proposal was tabled for discussion at the first UN Intergovernmental Expert Group Meeting on Consumer Protection. This meeting was established under the revision of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection and brings together senior representatives from government consumer protection agencies around the world.

Several country representatives spoke in favour of the proposal - a testament to the many letters and meetings that CI members have written and held over the last six months. However, some reservations were expressed by one country delegation and, as a result, the meeting agreed to hold further consultations.  Due to the fact that the IGE works on a consensus basis, the final notes of the meeting propose a consultation on UN recognition of a ‘World Consumer Day’ in line with the suggestions of the one country delegation rather than the ‘World Consumer Rights Day' proposal.  Consumers International have already made it very clear that we do not support the proposal for a ‘World Consumer Day’.

In an international context there is risk that this could be misunderstood (intentionally or unintentionally) as a celebration of consumption. This would undermine the work that Consumers International, our Members and many national consumer agencies do to promote responsible and sustainable consumption patterns. It would also run counter to many international commitments such as those relating to sustainable consumption and production, and climate change. As such Consumers International is not be able to support this proposal.

Nevertheless it is important to note that broad support for the CI proposal for UN recognition of ‘World Consumer Rights Day’ has been established among member states as a consequence of excellent work this year and CI will be working with our members to campaign for a successful outcome at the next Intergovernmental Expert Group Meeting on Consumer Protection in mid-2017.

On 26th October 2016, Nissan announced a date for ending the production of the Tsuru. The car, which received a ‘zero star’ rating in NCAP safety tests, is manufactured in Mexico, where it has been the bestselling car and is commonly used as a taxi. Production of the car in Mexico will end in May 2017.

Consumers International (CI) and its Members working with partners Latin NCAP and Global NCAP, launched a campaign for Zero Star Cars, including the Tsuru, to be removed from the market in November 2015.

During that time CI and its Members in USA, India and across Latin America, called on global car manufacturers, such as Nissan and General Motors, to change their practices, and have worked to inform consumers of how dangerous Zero Star Cars are.

How safe was Nissan’s Tsuru?

Zero Star Car testing between 2010 and 2015, showed that Nissan’s Tsuru was one of twenty two cars rated zero or one star, in terms of safety. None of the twenty two cars had airbags.  Even if airbags were added to the Nissan Tsuru it would have been unlikely to meet U.N. vehicle safety regulations and could not have been sold in the U.S., Europe, Australia or Japan.

CI Member, El Poder Consumidor and Latin NCAP investigated the Nissan Tsuru further and released their shocking findings on crash data involving Tsuru in April 2016.

Between 2007 and 2012, an average of 684 people died in Mexico each year in crashes involving the Nissan Tsuru. Over six years this gives a total of 4100 deaths in just one country.

More than just statistics: real life stories

CarSafety-CaseStudyCI and partners spoke with consumers in Mexico and shared evidence with them of the poor safety of Nissan Tsuru.

Gabriel Sánchez Calderón, 29, a taxi driver in Mexico City had eight Nissan Tsuru vehicles in his fleet at that time. “We know they do not have airbags,” he said, “but seeing it crash is alarming. Maybe I didn’t research as much as was necessary.

CI and Members El Poder del Consumidor in Mexico, ODECU in Chile, Union de Usuarios y Consumidores in Argentina, Aspec Peru, alongside Latin NCAP and Global NCAP, kept the pressure on Nissan in Latin America and other Zero Star rated car manufacturers. The planned removal of this vehicle from markets is a real success for the Zero Star Cars campaign.

What happens now?

Amanda Long, Director General of Consumers International, said, “This is a massive step forward for car safety and consumer protection. The campaign against the Nissan Tsuru highlighted the shocking variation in car safety standards between countries. The removal of this vehicle from the market is a step in the right direction and sends a clear signal to other car manufacturers selling Zero Star Cars that the consumer movement must be listened to and companies must make changes.

She added, “It is not difficult for other companies to follow suit, safety is cheap. If companies do not follow Nissan’s lead on this, consumers will be left to question how little manufacturers consider their lives to be worth.

To bring a car in line with basic United Nations safety regulations is low cost. For a typical small car to pass the UN frontal crash test (Regulation 94) it would require the addition of an airbag and strengthened body work. Global NCAP have estimated that it would cost $200 (USD) to add two airbags and strengthened body work.

  • Cost of airbag + strengthened body work = $200 (USD)
  • Cost of one airbag = $50 (USD)
  • Cost of electronic stability control (ESC) = $50 (USD)
  • Cost of ABS with ESC = $75 - $100 (USD)

CI, as part of this campaign have produced animations and other materials, such as a guide for consumers to check safety when buying vehicles. This guide is available in Spanish, English, Tamil, Hindi, and Gujarati; it will be released later this month.

Imagine a world where individuals are as powerful as the governments and corporations they interact with. A global marketplace where consumers have the power to challenge unfair, unsafe and unethical corporate practice - and win.

To achieve this we need to think big. We need to act global.

 

 

The new Consumers International (CI) strategy will do just that. In an increasingly globalised and digitised world, we will increase the collective power and influence of CI and its Members internationally to achieve more positive impact for consumers across the globe. 

 

We envisage partnering with our membership to deliver co-ordinated, targeted, multi-national campaigns and advocacy which make a major impact in advancing consumer rights and empowerment across the world.  We will do this in the global marketplace and through international policy-making forums.

 

Harnessing the direction and vision of the CI Council and Director General, and following extensive feedback from the CI membership, we have developed a strategy to deliver a new level of success for CI Members and consumers.

 

We cannot do this alone. Our greatest strength is the depth and breadth of our membership. Their energy, insight, expertise and unrivalled potential to mobilise consumers is the backbone of what we can deliver together.

 

This is why a focus on greater alignment and partnership with our Members across the globe is core to our strategy. Together, we will achieve major change through influential, evidence-based advocacy and impactful, targeted, multi-national campaigns that solve the problems consumers experience in a global marketplace. We will do this by forcing changes in supplier practices and winning better deals for consumers.  

 

This will deliver more value for our membership too. Whether small, medium or large, Members across the world will gain through CI and the global movement achieving a new level of impact for consumers and greater recognition for our work on the international stage. We want to dramatically increase the opportunity for Members and Supporters to work together and learn from each other.

 

We will innovate to empower our membership, and the consumers they serve. Making full use of the opportunities brought forward by the digital age, we will create a collaborative online platform for the global consumer movement which will support new forms of consumer empowerment and Member benefits.

 

Such digital innovation will allow the global movement, alongside consumers themselves, to speak with one voice on the global stage – tackling injustices in the global marketplace with the weight of numbers needed to make multi-national businesses take notice.

 

The platform we seek to create will also be a space for our Members and Supporters to share knowledge, best practice and assets; to access and contribute to research; and develop campaign materials and digital empowerment tools. It will be a platform open and accessible to every size and type of CI Member, offering a range of ways to get involved.

 

Our CI Member Survey 2014, which has informed the development of our new vision, clearly demonstrated that our membership want CI to further align its priorities with their own; to collaborate more closely and deliver real impact on common issues. Our membership want us to innovate in the digital space, build recognition for CI and the global movement and advance evidence-based marketplace-focused campaigns. Our new strategy will do exactly that.

 

The vision for the future is all about harnessing the power and wisdom of the global consumer movement, and through our membership, engaging consumers too. Our vision is about unlocking consumer power on an international scale, and positioning consumer groups with a new sense of relevancy and immediacy in people’s everyday lives.

 

The challenge is one of collaboration.  Now, let’s work together to truly make consumer rights the most powerful agent for change in the world.

 

 

AL & Senecon handshakeThe 20th Consumers International World Congress will be held in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil in late October/early November 2015. The agreement to co-host the event with Brazil’s national secretariat for consumers, SENACON, was signed between the two organisations during the CI Council summit held in Brasilia last week.

Amanda Long (on the right), CI Director General says "We are absolutely delighted to be heading to Brazil for CI World Congress next year. Brazil is a vibrant nation in a fantastic position in various aspects of development.  The focus that it shows in driving social participation in developing consumer protection is exciting."

Juliana Pereira da Silva, Secretary of SENACON, says "Being the host of Consumers International World Congress is like being an Olympic host. We feel extremely honoured to know that Brazil has become a reference on the international scene as a country that works for consumer rights."

The CI World Congress is held every four years and marks a seminal moment in the international consumer rights calendar. The event is a platform for CI’s diverse Members to shape the future agenda of global consumer action and inspire multi-national campaigning.

Alongside the formal business of electing a new Council and President, the core aims of the World Congress are for delegates to build cross-border partnerships on consumer rights issues; network with CI Members, government agencies and other stakeholders; and hear from world-renowned speakers on major consumer concerns and emerging trends.

The CI World Congress brings together CI Members and Supporters from all around the globe and attracts leaders from the corporate sector, policy-makers, funding bodies, academics and civil society groups.

Other nations to co-host CI World Congress in recent years have included Hong Kong (2011), Australia (2007) and Portugal (2004). The 2015 Congress will be the twentieth event in CI’s 54 year history.

Details of the theme and precise dates to follow shortly.

Over 330 international experts and civil society groups are calling for a binding treaty to tackle poor diets, in a signed open letter, co-authored by Consumers International. 

See this content in Spanish

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The letter has been sent to the heads of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ahead of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) which will take place in Rome this week. 

CI, alongside the World Obesity Federation and other leading health campaigners and consumer advocates are urging governments to take greater action to address diet-related ill health, using a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets. 

CI and World Obesity have drafted recommendations for a Global Convention advising world governments to: 

  • Reduce children's exposure to marketing through regulatory action;
  • Impose compositional limits on the saturated fat, added sugar and sodium content of food;
  • Bring in fiscal measures to discourage the consumption of unhealthy foods; 
  • Require all trade and investment policies to be addressed for their potential health impacts.

Amanda Long, Consumer International’s Director General said: “Diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are increasing in all regions of the world, most rapidly in developing countries.

“The policy actions that governments can take now will determine whether we can turn on tide on this health crisis. A binding Global Convention offers the best hope of protecting and promoting the health of all consumers.” 

Tim Lobstein, Policy Director for the World Obesity Federation adds: “The rapid expansion of the marketing of highly processed foods is undermining health in much of the developing world.

“Regulatory action to control food markets will require political courage. We should start with a Global Convention which can help Member States, particularly smaller nations, to build a robust defence of public health.”

The letter is co-authored by CI, the World Obesity Federation, the UK Health Forum and consumer groups in Fiji and Mexico, with support of over 320 individuals and organisations. 

CI’s recommendations for a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets uses a similar mechanism to the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, which has already proved successful in reducing tobacco use. 

Consumers International has launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #JunkFoodWorldCup to draw attention to the way the football World Cup is being used to market unhealthy food. The campaign is part of CI’s call for more global action to tackle unhealthy diets.

#JunkWorldFoodCup_th

CI is asking people to collect examples of adverts in which pictures of footballers and other images relating to the World Cup are used to advertise food and beverage products that are high in fat, salt or sugar. These examples will then be published on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #JunkFoodWorldCup.

"If children see their favourite footballer advertising crisps or a highly sugared beverage, they will associate that product with sport and with being fit and healthy."

Occasions such as the World Cup can significantly boost sales for the food industry. There could be as much as US$2.3bn spent on World Cup TV advertising globally, according to tentative estimates by media buying agency network Group M. Food and drink companies will account for a lot of this spending. 

There is also expected to be a huge drive to use social media. Twitter has already reported more tweets about the 2014 World Cup before it has started than there were during the whole of the 2010 World Cup. 

Advertisers will be keen to link TV adverts with online activities. Sales of products with advertising linked to the World Cup are likely to see a huge spike. According to the market research firm Nielsen in the first week of the 2010 World Cup, sales of crisps and chocolate rose by 10% and 37% respectively compared with the same week the previous year.

The aim of CI’s campaign is to highlight how the food industry uses international sporting occasions to sell unhealthy food. CI Food programme manager Anna Glayzer said, ”Using footballers and images relating to football to advertise foods high in salt, sugar or fat gives the false impression that these products are healthy".

"The impact that this has on children is particularly worrying as they are more susceptible to advertising messages and imagery.  If children see their favourite footballer advertising crisps or a highly sugared beverage, they will associate that product with sport and with being fit and healthy".

Last month CI published Recommendations towards a Global Convention to Protect and Promote Healthy Diets. 

In it, CI calls for governments to introduce legislation that controls the marketing of unhealthy foods to children by restricting advertising that is likely to create an erroneous impression about a product’s health benefits and other characteristics. 

CI also advocates the prohibition or restriction of the sponsorship of international events by companies and brands associated with unhealthy foods and beverages.

Consumers International and World Obesity Federation are calling on the international community to develop a global convention to fight diet-related ill health, similar to the legal framework for tobacco control.

global obesity report cover

Unhealthy diets now rank above tobacco as a global cause of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The two international membership bodies will officially launch their Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets (pdf) at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The Recommendations call on governments to make a binding commitment to introduce a raft of policy measures designed to help consumers make healthier choices and improve nutrition security for everyone.

Measures include placing stricter controls on food marketing, improving the provision of nutrition information, requiring reformulation of unhealthy food products, raising standards for food provided in public institutions and using economic tools to influence consumption patterns.

Publication of the Recommendations comes on the 10th anniversary of the WHO Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity and Health, which recognised the impact of unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

Since then however, global deaths attributable to obesity and overweight have risen from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010, thus intensifying the pressure on governments to take stronger action to tackle the rising epidemic of obesity and consequent chronic disease.

Consumers International Director General, Amanda Long says: "The scale of the impact of unhealthy food on consumer health is comparable to the impact of cigarettes. The food and beverage industry has dragged its feet on meaningful change and governments have felt unable or unwilling to act.

"The only answer remaining for the global community is a framework convention and we urge governments to seriously consider our recommendations for achieving that. If they do not, we risk decades of obstruction from industry and a repeat of the catastrophic global health crisis caused by smoking."

World Obesity Federation Director of Policy, Dr Tim Lobstein says: "The global prevalence of obesity - defined as a BMI ≥30 - doubled between 1980 and 2008, to 10% of all men worldwide, and 14% of all women.

"That’s 205 million men and 297 million women - more than half a billion obese people. In terms of numbers, the United States has led the way, but they are closely followed by China, Brazil and Mexico.

"These figures show the scale of the problem to be addressed. If obesity was an infectious disease we would have seen billions of dollars being invested in bringing it under control.

"But because obesity is largely caused by the overconsumption of fatty and sugary foods, we have seen policy-makers unwilling to take on the corporate interests who promote these foods. Governments need to take collective action and a framework convention offers them the chance to do this."

Obesity is a major risk factor for a wide range of non-communicable diseases. Figures show that in 2008, 36 million people died from non-communicable diseases, representing 63 per cent of the 57 million global deaths that year. In 2030, such diseases are projected to claim the lives of 52 million people.

Several organisations are endorsing these recommendations. These are:

 

 

 

demi greene TH

It is with great sadness that Consumers International received the news that Deni Greene passed away on 2 June 2012. Deni was a great consumer advocate, with strong character and a wry sense of humour.

Deni represented the Consumers Federation of Australia over many years, principally on environmental standards. However it was during the development of ISO 26000 that many Consumer International members came to know her in her roles both as project editor and Australian consumer expert. Deni was a vital and committed consumer advocate who was passionate about her work. ISO 26000 was published in November 2010.

The consumer world will miss her very much for her knowledge and experience, but also as a friend.

An obituary can be found on CFA'S website.

An online guest book has also been set up. This is an opportunity to share remembrances and condolences with her family and others outside of standards development.

Friends and colleagues of Deni are establishing an award in her honour and are seeking contributions to the fund to support the award. More details are on Consumers Federation of Australia's website.

nepal

 

If Nepal wants to bolster its nascent consumer movement, it needs to get more information into circulation through consumer education and awareness programmes and set up clear and effective systems for redress to boost consumer confidence.

These were the main findings of Consumers International's (CI) recently-concluded programme of work in the country.

As part of the programme, a national policy conference was held in Kathmandu to look at the country's existing consumer protection infrastructure and make recommendations for its improvement.

The overriding themes for improvement which came out of the conference were: information creation and dissemination, establishment of consumer courts and enforcement of clear protection laws.

The conference concluded that a strong consumer protection policy should be created and then disseminated via a national information system to raise awareness of rights and responsibilities among consumers, business and government.

It also concluded that separate national monitoring and investigating systems should be established, along with a separate court for consumer cases.

Following the conclusion of the programme of work, CI published Understanding Provisions of Consumer Protection in Nepal (pdf) with a set of specific recommendations for the further strengthening of Nepal's consumer protection infrastructure. Chief among these were:

  • Establish fast track courts for consumer complaints
  • Provide inspection officers with sub-judicial rights for on-the-spot punishment of wrongdoers
  • Establish consumer complaint mechanism for each individual sector
  • Strengthen the Consumer Protection Council with increased representation from  the consumer movement
  • Standardise consumer products
  • Establish consumer laboratories for effective testing of products
  • Establish a collaborative consumer information centre to raise awareness of consumer rights

CI published the booklets in Nepali and English and they were disseminated to consumer organisations, government agencies, institutions and schools to highlight consumer rights.

The programme was run through CI's regional office in Kuala Lumpur under the auspices of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization through the EC-Nepal WTO Assistance Programme towards "making the consumer movement a viable market force" from September 2011 until March 2012.

 

Don't miss... 19 April, 17.30 GMT: CI President Jim Guest will be online with World Bank Live to take questions on financial consumer protection

g20mex th

CI President Jim Guest is to meet exclusively with the chair of the G20 finance ministers today, ahead of their meeting in Washington.

 

Jim Guest, who is also CEO of CI member Consumer Reports, will also be highlighting the crucial role of consumer groups in financial protection at a related World Bank/G20 event: 'Financial inclusion: From principles to action'.

 

In line with CI's recommendations to the G20, Jim Guest will be making the case for strong regulatory oversight to ensure that financial products and services are safe, fair and appropriate.

 

CI's meeting with Dr Jose Antonio Meade, the Mexican finance minister, who will chair the meeting of the G20 finance ministers now that the G20 presidency has switched from France to Mexico, comes at a crucial time for CI's advocacy work. Many of our demands for better financial consumer protection are up for discussion.

 

The G20 finance ministers will be considering the Mexican presidency's priorities on financial services that include financial inclusion, financial education and financial consumer protection.

 

On financial consumer protection, the G20 finance ministers will be asked to approve two main streams of work.

 

First will be the development of a set of guidelines for the implementation of the OECD high level principles on financial consumer protection that were adopted by the G20 last year.

 

Second, they will be asked to support the creation of a new international organisation for national financial supervisors. This will be built on an existing loose network of financial supervisors called FinCoNet.

 

The formalisation of FinCoNet will fulfil one of the recommendations made by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in their report to the G20 last year. It will also create an institution that can carry forward the other recommendations made by the FSB.

 

On the CI blog: Read expert analysis from CI's Head of Campaigns, Justin Macmullan, on the potential outcomes of the G20 meetings in Washington.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal lent his support to the global consumer movement recently by calling for better consumer protection against unfair corporate practices and proposing a "ninth" consumer right to privacy in a televised address to the American Senate.

senator blumenthalThe first such formal statement on consumer rights  by a senior politician was exactly 50 years ago, when on 15 March 1962 US President John F. Kennedy noted that we are all consumers and that we comprise the largest economic group "affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision."

Blumenthal's address on World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) echoed JFK's  and found resonance in this year's WCRD theme: 'Our money, our rights: Campaigning for real choice in financial services'.

In his address, Blumenthal shared his passion for giving consumers a voice to confront corporations engaged in  "deceptive and dangerous or abusive practices".

Acknowledging the contribution that the work of CI and its members make to "encourage consumers to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions for themselves in the marketplace", Blumenthal highlighted the global relevance of many consumer issues , particularly in relation to the current global financial crisis, as well as emerging issues around privacy in the digital age.

Blumenthal proposed a ninth right - the right to personal privacy - to the 8 consumer rights currently recognised by the global consumer movement.

According to the Connecticut senator, the digital age has brought with it a number of new challenges for consumers. One issue of growing concern is the security of personal information. Policy makers and the public alike are increasingly alarmed by the staggering scale of intrusion into private lives - whether by governments or companies - which is made possible by new technologies.

Blumenthal  questioned , "why would it be okay for a company like OnStart to track drivers who cancelled their subscription and sell that information on their movements to marketeers?", when in fact "the Supreme Court has just ruled that it's not okay for the government to track people via GPS in their car without a warrant".

Blumenthal's address was broadcast live on Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN), the US television channel that provides running coverage of government proceedings and other public policy events.

Watch the senate session featuring Richard Blumenthal's address on WCRD here.

Thursday 15 March is World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2012! This year's theme is Our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services, and the global consumer movement is highlighting this issue all over the world.


The right to choose

This is a basic consumer right that is continuously undermined when it comes to financial services. Consumers all over the world are getting a raw deal, but often find it difficult to shop around for a better option.

Without a strong incentive to offer more choice and better service, banks and other financial institutions are not competing with each other to offer better value.

In turn, consumers find it difficult to move their money and are trapped in bad deals. This problem applies to all sorts of financial products and services - from bank accounts to global money transfers - and it repeated the world over.  It's clear that more needs to be done to promote choice and competition in financial services.

 

Consumer rights: 50 years on

15 March 2012 is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's statement on consumer rights - he was the first ever leader to define what consumer rights should mean.

 

What is happening around the world?

CI's member organisations across the world are taking action to call for meaningful choice for consumers - whether it's switching banks, buying insurance or transferring money overseas.

  • See what consumer rights groups are doing for World Consumer Rights Day on our global activity map

 

Join the conversation

  • Join the discussion on our Facebook site
  • Follow on twitter with #WCRD2012

The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), a coalition of US and EU consumer advocacy groups coordinated by Consumers International has sent a letter to the head of Google calling on the search giant to suspend its controversial changes to its privacy policy.


The changes, which take effect across the world from 1 March, will allow Google to monitor signed-in users across a wide array of its products, including its search engine, YouTube, Gmail and Blogger.

 

The TACD letter asks Google CEO Larry Page to "suspend your March 1 plan to modify the terms of services for users of Google services… [as] It is both unfair and unwise for you to 'change the terms of the bargain' as you propose to do."

 

The letter goes on to outline TACD's concerns: "you propose to combine data from all of your services, provided by your users in very different contexts and for very different reasons, into a single profile without user consent and without any meaningful opportunity for users to opt-out."

 

Consumer rights groups across the world have expressed concern about Google's privacy change, which many see as another step in the continuing erosion of privacy in the digital age.

 

Consumers International programme on Consumer Rights and Representation is calling for the modern challenges to privacy and access to be fully reflected in the UN Guidelines to Consumer Protection. The UN Guidelines have not seen any change in this area since their adoption in 1985, 10 years before mainstream take up the Internet, and 13 years before the launch of Google.

The Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce of Jamaica has endorsed several key elements of a draft banking code for the Caribbean, following long term discussions with Consumers International. The final code would be a groundbreaking win for consumers, bringing greater clarity and plain language to banking fees, contract terms and service standards.


The Honourable Anthony Hylton has invited all stakeholders to work together to develop a progressive code, which would embody international best practices and be acceptable to the banking sector and consumers alike.


Catalyst for a new banking code

Addressing a consultation on the draft banking code at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston, on 19 January 2012, the Minister reflected on the 2010 Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) survey of bank charges and observed that the findings provided the "catalyst for the development of the proposed banking code."


Financial services in the Caribbean

Consumer Protection in the Caribbean

The development of the code is part of the 'Promotion of Consumer Protection in the Caribbean' project, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which involves Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. It is a key step in the ongoing work on financial services in the Caribbean region by Consumers International.

Regional Project Coordinator, Consumer International, Candice Ramessar, emphasised that the draft code is not an attempt to coerce the banking sector, but rather to encourage them to adopt practices and principles that are in the best interest of the banks as well as their customers.


The code

The draft code contains 11 key commitments, which include providing clarity on:

  • non-discriminatory access
  • service standards
  • product information
  • credit information
  • variation in fees and charges
  • provisions for elderly
  • disabled and pregnant consumers,
  • and dispute resolution.


Highlights of the code

Among the key commitments of the draft code is a requirement that banks should display service standards at their branches and on their websites, as well as make copies available on request.

Terms and conditions of contracts should be fair and should set out both parties' rights and responsibilities in plain and simple language, while legal and technical terms should only be used if necessary.

The code also states that banks will provide notification of changes in fees and charges at least 60 days before they are to take effect. ATMs are to display all fees associated with each transaction prior to the completion of the transactions.

Financial counsellorOur DfID-funded project is already showing fantastic results

Consumers International is pioneering free financial education counselling for poor communities in East Africa with a mix of photocopied materials and youtube.

The initiative, which has helped set up financial counselling services in slum and rural communities in Kenya and Tanzania, has already seen a 125 per cent rise in the number of people sticking to budgets and a 50 per cent fall in those skipping loan repayments.

The project is focused around a free-to-use financial counsellor's handbook, designed to be printed-out and photocopied by consumer groups wanting to set up counselling services.

As an introduction to the project, CI has produced a short film explaining how to use the handbook effectively.

Launched on youtube, the aim of the film is to demonstrate the ease with which financial counselling can get off the ground, the legacy of the project within the community, and the remarkable results of this straight-forward approach.

 

 

Download the Counsellor's Handbook
Blog - Small scale financial education making a big difference
See the project results data
More on the project's background

New proposals to be put to the G20 for improving financial consumer protection do not go far enough, Consumers International believes.

The draft international principles on financial consumer protection, drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and now out for public consultation, were requested by G20 finance ministers.  This follows Consumers International's call to the G20 for international action to enhance consumer protection in financial services as part of the Consumers for Fair Financial Services campaign.

However, the current draft principles raise serious concerns for the consumer movement:

  • Overall the draft does not demonstrate the commitment needed to address consumers' concerns about financial consumer protection. Too often the principles are undermined by language such as 'voluntary', 'non binding' and 'as appropriate.'

  • CI is very concerned that the draft does not recommend that consumers' assets such as bank deposits should be guaranteed. Deposit guarantee schemes are a protection for all actors, not only consumers. Systemic stability is also protected by such guarantees, which dissuade consumers from making panic withdrawals from their banks.

  • There should be a clear reference to the right of regulatory authorities to require that products have to conform to certain standards in order to be released onto the market, or to continue to be marketed.
  • Finally, CI urges governments to support the development of an international organisation for promoting financial consumer protection. The existing international network of financial consumer protection organisations, FinCoNet, should be given the political support and resources to play a more effective role at the global level.

As part of the public consultation CI member organisations around the world are writing to their finance ministers and directly to the OECD with this response, as well as submitting examples from their own country of the consequences of failures in financial consumer protection.

Members of the public can also comment directly on the proposals. Details of how to do this can be found on the OECD's public consultation page.

Find CI's summary response below, and, together with other position papers, on the Resources page in the Consumers For Fair Financial Services section.

Civil society has reacted with dismay and disappointment as the 19th session of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development ended without agreement in New York in the early hours of 14 May.

CI was heavily involved in the negotiations at CSD-19, as member states came together for one of the final UN discussions on sustainability before the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012.

CSD-19 was a crucial meeting for the future of sustainable development, with member states, civil society organizations and related UN agencies working on the issues of transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and - of great interest to the consumer movement - the 10 year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production.

Unfortunately, at the very end of these negotiations (Friday 13th), with many of the thematic policy recommendations already agreed - the policy text for the 10-year framework of programmes among them- member states were not able to achieve a final consensus regarding a particular issue and this policy cycle ended with no substantive results.

This lack of consensus among governments and the consequent failure of CSD 19 becomes a complicated precedent for the negotiations of the Rio+20 earth summit and it certainly represents a bad sign for civil society organisations working for many years on this issue - CI among them - because it generates a significant gap in the process towards the achievement of the required global, regional and national policies, measures and actions to address the current patterns of production and consumption in a more sustainable manner.

For a detailed analysis of CSD-19, and the possible implications of its failure, download the IISD's Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Not enough 'brain power' spent on consumers during financial crisis - French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde tells CI World Congress. 

Minister Lagard addresses consumer leaders from more than 60 countries gathered in Hong Kong to consider the global challenge of financial consumer protection.

In a video address to the Consumers International (CI) World Congress in Hong Kong, Christine Lagarde French Minister of Economic Affairs and chair of the G20 finance ministers in 2011 said:

"It is my personal belief that on the occasion of the [financial] crisis we didn't spend a lot of time, nor a lot of brain power on consumers", going on to say, "consumers were the victims on many occasions and in many instances".

Madame Lagarde also said "It is only fair that consumers are part of the process of rebuilding trust and rebuilding regulation and making sure that the same situation does not happen again."

Follow all the news on Consumers International World Congress here.

In an open letter released today, the heads of consumer organisations in eighteen G20 countries called on their finance ministers to ensure that the rapid increase in international attention given to financial consumer protection leads to 'a comprehensive solution and tangible benefits for consumers.'

With G20 finance ministers meeting this weekend in Washington, the letter calls for G20 finance ministers to use their influence to ensure the opportunity presented by so much international attention is not squandered.

The letter notes that in just six months the issue has been forced on to the agenda for G20 leaders' and G20 finance ministers. At the same time the World Bank is consulting on a new set of guidelines on the issue, and more than fifty government financial consumer protection agencies are meeting in May to discuss strengthening future collaboration.

The consumer organisations are all members of Consumers International (CI), and have helped develop our set of recommendations for global action on financial services.

Safe, fair and competitive markets in financial services. Recommendations to the G20 on options to enhance consumer protection in financial services, cover consumer protection for financial transactions, the structure and functions of national financial consumer protection agencies, redress systems, the promotion of competition in the sector, and the safety of consumers' deposits and investments. The recommendations also call for an international organisation to be established to support national bodies and review implementation.

Consumer organisations from around the world will be meeting in Hong Kong from 3-5 May for the CI World Congress with financial consumer protection high on the agenda. Speakers include the director of the World Bank's global programme on consumer protection and financial literacy and consumer organisations in the United States, China, the Netherlands, South Africa and Malaysia.

Full list of signatories:

Samuel Ocheing
President, Consumers International

James A. Guest
President & CEO, Consumers Union of United States, Inc.
UNITED STATES

Beatriz Garcia Buitrago
President, Consumidores Argentinos
ARGENTINA

Nick Stace
Chief Executive, Choice
AUSTRALIA

Lisa Gunn
Executive Co-ordinator, Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor
BRAZIL

Michael Janigan
Executive Director, Public Interest Advocacy Center
CANADA

Monique Goyens
Director General, BEUC The European Consumers Organisation
EUROPEAN UNION

Alain Bazot
President, UFC-QUE Choisir?
FRANCE

Gerd Billen
Executive Director,  Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband
GERMANY

Connie Lau
Chief Executive, Consumer Council of Hong Kong
HONG KONG, CHINA

Pradeep S Mehta
Secretary General, CUTS International
INDIA

Sudaryatmo, SH
Chairman, Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen
INDONESIA

Luisa Crisigiovanni
Director, Altroconsumo
ITALY

Alejandro Calvillo Unna
Executive Director, El Poder del Consumidor
MEXICO

Mr Dmitriy Yanin
Director of the Confederation of Consumer Associations of Russia
RUSSIA

Thami Bolani
Chairman, National Consumer Forum
SOUTH AFRICA

Jaiok, Kim
President, Consumers Korea
SOUTH KOREA

Ali ÇETİN
Vice-President, Tüketici Dernekleri Federasyonu
TURKEY

Peter Vicary-Smith
Chief Executive, Which?
UNITED KINGDOM

 

Costa Rican NGO National Front of Sectors Affected by the Pineapple Industry (FRENASAPP), called for a moratorium on further expansion of pineapple production in a public statement released yesterday.

Referring to CI's investigative film about the pineapple trade, FRENASAPP said it based its demand on a "series of stories circulating in Europe and the campaign in the European market against the commercialisation of pineapples in Costa Rica, initiated by the prestigious NGO Consumers International [as well as] a series of unpunished damages by pineapple companies".

The communiqué notes that intensive pineapple production has led to numerous environmental impacts including pollution of groundwater and surface water, draining of wetlands, destruction of forests, sedimentation of rivers, soil erosion, and infestations.

Workers rights violations

FRENASAPP's communiqué stresses "the serious violation of rights of workers," including the right to occupational health, to work in decent conditions, and to earn a living wage.

Environmental consequences violate human rights, "since the right to life is based on fundamental necessities such as the right to health and a healthy environment, to water, to food, and to adequate housing- all of which are being violated".

Furthermore, the communiqué states that "pineapple industry activity essentially benefits transnational companies and their national partners, deepens external dependency, promotes land concentration and undermines food sovereignty… at the expense of decent living communities, particularly the rural poor".

 

FRENASAPP is formed of local groups and communities affected by the pineapple producing regions of Brunca, the Atlantic Huetar and Huetar Norte. The group also has the support of organisations such as Forum Emaus Cedarena Ditsö, environmentalist groups, Asadas Association, development associations and several NGOs and civil society organisations.

CI urgently wants to see the needs of everyday consumers of financial services pushed to the top of the agenda at this week's G20 summit.  Consumer organisations from 30 countries, including the G20 countries, have signed an open letter pressing the summit attendees to ensure that the worldwide financial crisis is never repeated. The letter below has also been translated into French.


Dear Sir,

As world leaders gather for tomorrow's G20 summit, Consumers International, which represents 220 consumer organisations in 115 countries, is urgently calling for the needs of everyday consumers of financial services to be pushed to the top of the agenda.

Poor financial consumer protection - as exemplified by US sub-prime mortgages - was a key catalyst for the financial crisis. The interconnected nature of global banking then spread the crisis rapidly from country to country, threatening livelihoods, savings and social stability. People around the world will live with the consequences for years to come.

For many consumer organisations the financial crisis highlighted what is an ongoing emergency in financial services. Consumers International's members in large and small, rich and poor countries are dealing with complaints about financial products and services every day.  And each year the global economy creates up to 150 million new consumers of financial services, many of whom are in countries where consumer protection and financial literacy are woefully inadequate.

Last month, the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors issued a statement detailing the progress they have made in finding 'policies conducive to reducing excessive imbalances and maintaining current account imbalances at sustainable levels'.  This is, of course, important but once again there is barely a mention of the consumer - a crucial element that remains conspicuous by its absence from these international discussions.

The global nature of banking means that countries around the world are now facing the same challenges - it is common sense that they work together to develop solutions. We need a commitment from the most powerful nations in the world to protect "real people" from abusive financial services industry practices.

CI urgently wants to see the establishment of an Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection which would report to the G20 summit in 2011.  This would be a first step to ensuring that consumers from both developed and developing nations have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services.

Getting this right is not only vital to consumers, but also to the ongoing stability of the world economy.

Yours faithfully,

Samuel Ochieng, President, Consumers International and Chief Executive, CIN, KENYA

James A Guest, Vice President, Consumers International and President and CEO, Consumers Union of U.S. Inc, U.S

Consumer organisations in G20 countries

Ricardo Nasio, President, PROCONSUMER, ARGENTINA

Beatriz Garcia Buitrago, President, Consumidores Argentinos, ARGENTINA

Nick Stace, Chief Executive, Choice, AUSTRALIA

Lisa Gunn, Executive Co-ordinator, IDEC, BRAZIL

Maria Ines Dolc, Institutional Coordinator, Proteste, BRAZIL

Michel Arnold, Executive Director, Option Consommateurs, CANADA

John Lawford, Counsel, PIAC, CANADA

Connie Lau, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Consumer Council, CHINA

Monique Goyens, Director General, BEUC - The European Consumers Organisation, EUROPEAN UNION

Reine-Claude Mader, President, CLCV, FRANCE

Alain Bazot, President, UFC-QUE Choisir?, FRANCE

Gerd Billen, President, Federation of German Consumer Organisations, GERMANY

Pradeep S Mehta, CUTS International, INDIA

Nirmala Desikan, Trustee, Consumers Association of INDIA

Sudaryatmo, SH, Charirman, Yayasan Lembarga Konsumen, INDONESIA

Luisa Crisigiovanni, Director of Altroconsuomo, ITALY

Maite Cortes Garcia Lozano, Colectivo Ecologista Jalisco, MEXICO

Alejandro Calvillo Unna, Executive Director, El Poder del Consumidor, MEXICO

Petr Shelisch, Chairman of the Consumers Union of RUSSIA

Mr Dmitriy Yanin, Director of the Confederation of Consumer Associations of RUSSIA

Dr. Mohammad A. Al Hamad, Chairman of the Executive Board, President of the Consumer Protection Association, SAUDI ARABIA

Thami Bolani, Chairman, National Consumer Forum, SOUTH AFRICA

Jaiok Kim, President, Consumers Korea, SOUTH KOREA

Ali Cetin, President, Federation of Consumer Organisations, TURKEY

Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive, Which? UK

Non-G20 countries invited to attend the summit

John Kapito, Executive Director, Consumers Association of MALAWI

Francisco Sanchez Legran, President, FACUA - Consumers in Action, SPAIN

Jose Maria Mugica Flores, Director General, OCU, SPAIN

Ana Isabel Ceballo Sierra, President, Asociación General de Consumidores, ASGECO Confederación, SPAIN

Do Gia Phan, Vice President, Vietnam Standard and Consumers Association, VIETNAM

Demanding more from our leaders on financial consumer protection.

Consumers everywhere need access to stable, fair and competitive financial services. They have had to put up with abusive practices for too long and the recent global recession has not improved matters.With its members around the world, CI has launched Consumers for Fair Financial Services - a new campaign to address this crucial issue.

Despite making commitments at recent summits in Pittsburgh and Toronto, financial consumer protection has remained neglected by the G20. But getting this right is not only vital to consumers, but also to the stability of the world economy.

This is why the consumer movement is calling on G20 leaders to set up a new Experts Group on financial consumer protection at the their next summit in Seoul, South Korea on 11 to 12 November 2010. The Experts Group should be tasked with reporting to the G20 summit in 2011, with strong recommendations on protecting consumers of financial services.

To find out more download CI's full campaign call below:

The United Kingdom's Future of Banking Commission has today delivered its findings to the UK Government, calling for profound reform of the banking system.

The United Kingdom's Future of Banking Commission has today delivered its findings to the UK Government, calling for profound reform of the banking system. The Commission, which was set up by CI's UK member Which?, is a cross-party body looking to increase consumer input into financial services reform.

Read more...

See also... Consumer solutions to the financial fix, Our Money, Our Rights! - World Consumer Rights Day 2010

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