Latest info of the last 30 days

Get the lastest updates from CI in a printer-friendly format.

CI Member the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched a new Facebook page to help empower consumers from indigenous communities.

australia facebook update

The new page will provide information about traders who are known to have tricked consumers and  share details of local events as well as interesting news articles to help circulate information.

Regional Director Derek Farrell: "Facebook has proven to be a very effective tool to speak directly to indigenous consumers about their rights, whilst raising warning about scams.

"The ACCC recognises that social media is being used extensively in remote, rural areas. The new Facebook page will provide timely and relevant consumer information and will also help us to detect consumer law problems at an early stage - enabling consumers to be assertive and confident enough to exert their rights."

This work is supported by the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) which provides consumer education, advocacy and financial counselling services to Indigenous consumers across Australia.

This new initiative follows the ACCC’s pilot “Your Rights Mob Tiwi Islands’ Facebook page which was launched last year on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

CI Member the Association of Consumers of Food Products, l’association des consommateurs des produits vivriers (ASCOVI) will be hosting a debate to increase consumer awareness surrounding the danger of consuming unsafe eggs, which are posing a threat to food quality, safety and security in Africa.

 

eggs_congo

The potentially unsafe eggs are widely available in stores and markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite exceeding their expiration date. The deceptive packaging also claims that the eggs will keep for six months.

Consumers have limited choice as locally produced eggs are increasingly exported to neighbouring countries.

Local eggs which remain in the market are sold at a higher price compared to those which are imported, due to additional taxes.

Africa does not have a clear policy or consistent budget with respect to agriculture and farming, for sustainable development at a regional level.

The debate organised by ASCOVI aims to encourage the government to take the measures required to promote local production and better food security for consumers.

It will be attended by consumers and local egg producers.

CI Members in Latin America and the Caribbean have signed a declaration aiming to ensure consumer rights are at the heart of key global negotiations.

10YFP_th

They are calling on their governments to promote the inclusion of the ‘United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection’ in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently under discussion.

The specific objective Members are calling for is: “By 2030, all countries will have implemented the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection”.

Consumer protection is essential for sustainable development as it contributes “to a more just society, a more equitable and efficient economy and a healthier and more prosperous population.”

More than 30 organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean have signed the statement which has been sent to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Consumer Protection Agencies of each country, as well as UN delegates in New York.

The UN Guidelines are currently under review, with a view to improve and update protection for consumers around the world. The process is expected to be completed in 2015.

 

CI Member, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) of Jamaica, has shown how savers are losing out because of shockingly low interest rates paid by mainstream banks.

jamaican financial news

Only one of the main three banks (First Caribbean) rewarded savers who had less than $5000JMD ($44 USD) in the bank.

This campaign by CAC signals a new emphasis on personal finance following its participation in CI’s recent e-learning course on Basic Financial Services.

The commission carried out a survey of interest rates paid on savings accounts by the three largest providers in Jamaica in late July.

The top three banks were NCB, BNS and First Caribbean and the survey also included important information for savers on withdrawal fees, dormant fees and fees paid for not keeping a minimum balance.

Commenting on the survey Mrs Dolsie Allen, CEO of the Consumer Affairs Commission in Jamaica said: "As a result of CI’s finance e-learning course, the Consumer Affairs Commission researched the actual interest rate offered on savings accounts by Jamaica’s three largest banks and the results were unbelievable.

"The rates were extremely low in all instances and non-existent for savers with low amounts in their accounts.  In one case no interest was offered before the amount in the account exceeded J$50,000.”

Mrs Allen also noted that “while some banks offer higher rates, these are tied to specific savings requirements, minimum balances, usage requirements, strategy, competition and other factors.”

Each year 150 million consumers enter the financial services market. The industry is growing at a pace in developing and developed countries.

Changes in how consumers receive and send money,  how we pay for things and the advent of mobile and online payments means that consumers are increasingly using financial services.

This market expansion needs to be complemented by more consumer advocates and watchdogs to help ensure consumers are getting a fair deal.

Nicola O’Reilly, Global Programme Manager (Financial Services), said: “It is fantastic to see the Consumer Affairs Commission of Jamaica taking practical action to help savers identify the best deals out there.  

“The CAC generated significant national media coverage for their work which helped them reach as many consumers as possible.”

 CI Members from 24 countries took part in the recent Basic Financial Services e-learning course – CI will continue to share updates on how they have taken practical action to support and empower consumers to get the best deal from banks and other financial services providers.

McDonald’s must keep its pledge to keep Ronald McDonald out of schools, says an activist coalition which includes CI Members.

mcdonalds_schools

IDEC, Proteste, El Poder del Consumidor, Instituto Alana and our CI Office for Latin America and the Caribbean have all signed a letter to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson urging him to remove the fast food mascot from schools and calls for wider publicity of this ban.

The letter organised by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free childhood’  has been signed by a coalition of 48 health, education and children’s organisations.

In June 2014 Mr Thompson pledged “in schools and our restaurants you never see Ronald McDonald”. Despite this, the mascot continues to make school appearances, with regional McDonald’s websites even advertising his availability.

Jennifer Harris, Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Yale Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity said: “The public statement by Mr Thompson, appears to indicate that he recognises that schools are not an appropriate forum for promoting the McDonald’s brand. He must be unaware that Ronald McDonald regularly visits schools."

“We urge Mr Thompson to stand by his words and end this common McDonald’s marketing practice that takes advantage of a captive audience of young children.”

This year Ronald McDonald has appeared in elementary and pre-schools in the US, China, Australia, the Netherlands and Brazil.

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.

 

  • Fourth annual rating of national IP law shows 'entrenched anti-consumer bias'
  • Global outcry over copyright enforcement exposes out-of-touch legislation

Consumers International (CI)[1] is calling on copyright holders and intellectual property (IP) legislators to work with consumers, not against them, to avoid future mass protests over the right to access the internet without interference.

 

The call comes as CI publishes its fourth annual IP Watchlist[2]; an international review and rating scorecard of IP legislation around the world. For the fourth year running the IP Watchlist reveals an entrenched anti-consumer bias among IP laws, which continues to serve the narrow interests of multi-national copyright holders from the music, film and publishing industries.

 

Of the 30 countries[3] rated in this year's report, none scored higher than an overall 'B' grade. Most scoring particularly badly in terms of draconian enforcement practices and restrictions on freedom for consumers to share and transfer legally purchased digital content.

 

On publishing this year's IP Watchlist, CI warns governments that the worldwide anti-copyright demonstrations seen in January and February 2012 (which included online protests by Google and Wikipedia, and demonstrations in Washington and several EU cities), could occur again unless consumer concerns are addressed in proposed IP legislation.

 

CI believes that the realities of consumer activity in the digital age mean copyright legislation is now a mainstream consumer policy issue. As such, the protests against EU and US laws to further restrict the public's use of digital content could have been avoided if consumer rights organisations and open access groups had been appropriately consulted.

 

Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Policy Officer at Consumers International said:

"Consumers International's IP Watchlist should be read by any lawmaker wondering how we reached such a crisis over ACTA and SOPA earlier this year and where such protests may likely crop up again. Our assessment shows that an entrenched anti-consumer bias continues to pervade IP legislation, and, if this goes unchecked, we are likely to see more protests over laws that do not reflect the legitimate rights and widespread practices of consumers in the digital age."

 

 

Notes to Editors

 


[1] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

 

[2] Consumers International's IP Watchlist 2012 is a survey of the copyright laws and enforcement practices of 30 countries. It is part of CI's Access to Knowledge programme - http://A2Knetwork.org

 

Forty-nine criteria were developed by a panel of IP experts, who weighted each of the criteria to account for its relative importance to consumers. Reports were then completed for the 30 countries in a collaborative effort by CI's member organisations and partners worldwide.

 

[3] Thirty countries took part in the IP Watchlist 2012 survey. The top five countries for consumer-friendly IP legislation were Israel, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, and the United States. The bottom five countries were Jordan, Argentina, United Kingdom, Thailand, and Brazil.

 

For full list of countries and their ratings download a copy of the IP Watchlist 2012 at http://A2Knetwork.org/watchlist

 

 

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.

World Banana Forum logo THThe second World Banana Forum is taking place on 28 - 29 February in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Altroconsumo, Italy is representing Consumers International (CI) at the forum to share the work that a number of CI members are doing on sustainability in supply chains.

The World Banana Forum brings together stakeholders in the banana supply chain including producers, trade union, co-operatives, exporter groups, fresh produce companies, retailers, governments and civil society organisations. The aim is to arrive at a shared vision of a 'sustainable banana value chain for present and future generations'.

Altroconsumo's Eliana Guarnoni is attending the forum on behalf of CI and sister organisations International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT) to take part in the discussions and to bring the perspective of consumer organisations to the debate. Many CI member organisations regularly investigate the conditions in supply chains in order to provide this information to consumers.

Eliana will also be taking part in the Global Meeting of Women Banana Workers which takes place on 24 and 25 February, as well as visiting plantations in Ecuador. Follow her progress on CI's Twitter and Facebook pages.

Making the link with retailers

A leading representative of civil society at the forum is Banana Link, an organisation with a rich history in working to improve working conditions in the banana supply chain. As part of the Make Fruit Fair coalition, they are campaigning to address the power imbalance between big retailers and producers - a key structural issue that puts the conditions of workers in countries like Ecuador under great pressure. Make Fruit Fair have launched a petition calling on the EU to regulate and stop supermarkets abusing their power.

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.

  • Twenty year struggle within global food safety body ends with 'consumer rights milestone'
  • Move clears way for greater monitoring of the effects of GM organisms

Consumers International (CI)i and its member organisations celebrated victory today as regulators from more than 100 countries agreed on long overdue guidance on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food.

The Codex Alimentarius Commissionii, made up of the world's food safety regulatory agencies, has been labouring for two decades to come up with consensus guidance on this topic.

In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labelling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text.

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labelling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

This will have immediate implications for consumers. Edita Vilcapoma of the Peruvian consumer group ASPEC, representing Consumers International at the Codex meeting in Geneva, said:

"Peru's recent introduction of GM food labelling faced the threat of a legal challenge from the WTO. This new Codex agreement now means that this threat has gone and the consumer right to be informed has been secured. This is major victory for the global consumer movement."

The agreement also recognises the enormous health monitoring benefits of giving consumers transparent information about the presence of GM foods. Consumers International's lead delegate at Codex, and a senior scientist at Consumers Union of the United States, Dr Michael Hansen, stated:

"We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognises that GM labelling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring. This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labelled - so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction."

The labelling milestone is particularly welcomed by CI member organisations in Africa, who have been fighting on behalf of their consumers for the right to be informed about GM food. Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International and CEO of the Kenyan Consumer Information Network said:

"While the agreement falls short of the consumer movement's long-held demand for endorsement of mandatory GM food labelling, this is still a significant milestone for consumer rights. We congratulate Codex on agreeing on this guidance, which has been sought by consumers and regulators in African countries for nearly twenty years. This guidance is extremely good news for the worlds' consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates".

--

Note to Editors

i Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

ii The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/index_en.jsp

The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) and Consumers International are deeply dismayed that the G8 group of political leaders' preparatory meeting dedicated to internet issues ('e-G8 Forum', May 24-25 in Paris) will be "organised and financed by industry"1 in view of the full Summit meeting May 26-27. Debate will centre on the burning issues of the future of the internet, how they should be managed and who should do so.

However, the Forum raises serious concerns due to a complete absence of consumer representatives and participation limited to industry, rights holders and entrepreneurs.

Recent developments such as the controversial conclusion of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the debate on both sides of the Atlantic on Net Neutrality2 and now the imbalanced agenda of the e-G8, add to growing criticism of the exclusion of civil society from such key debates.

Helen McCallum, Director General of Consumers International commented:

"To deliberate and decide behind closed doors on such fundamental digital issues prompts serious concerns of legitimacy, process and indeed, whose interests are being served. The voice of users and civil society has been relegated to the spectator's gallery, while the internet's big businesses are encouraged to redraw the maps. All eyes will be on a possible, subtle shift in 'ownership' of the internet, something which should interest us all.

Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) said:

"Cornerstone policies on digital issues are currently being settled at national, European and global level. Consumers' interests should be at the forefront, of these deliberations, not an afterthought.

"With the electronic explosion in personal information collected, stored, bought and sold, the risks to privacy have multiplied. Indeed, our basic notions of what is privacy are being redefined by the internet. These huge questions need to be carefully and comprehensively answered, but here the G8 only seems willing to act as cheerleader for commercial interests."

 

ENDS

 

1 http://www.eg8forum.com/communique_EN.html

2 i.e. an open internet whereby traffic and content is not unduly 'managed', prioritised or charged for higher bandwidth services such as audiovisual streaming, film and torrents.

 

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.

'Not enough brain power' spent on consumers during financial crisis - French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde to tell consumer world congress

  • Consumer leaders from more than 60 countries gather in Hong Kong to address the global challenge of financial consumer protection.
  • Vice President of Consumers International calls for new rules to reign in 'abusive' system.
  • Representatives from the Financial Stability Board, the OECD, and the World Bank join discussions on financial services

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 will say:

"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".

 

The message comes as consumer organisations from around the world meet in Hong Kong to debate the state protection for financial consumers.

 

Financial consumer protection is currently the focus of an unprecedented level of international attention. Following requests from the G20 leaders, the OECD, the Financial Stability Board and the World Bank are all in the process of developing international proposals on the issue.  All three organisations will be represented at the CI World Congress to hear the views of consumer organisations.

 

Madame Lagarde will also say "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."

 

The message from Madame Lagarde will be followed by a keynote address from James Guest, Vice President of CI and CEO of Consumers Union in the United States. Highlighting the impact of financial abuses in the US, India, Egypt, Spain and Bosnia, James Guest will talk about the significance of the CI campaign on financial services.

 

James Guest will say:

"The financial services system has become abusive and needs to be reined in. Consumers need protection, and so does the global financial system. It needs to be protected from itself; from the greed and irresponsible behaviour that over several years has pushed the global financial system to the brink of collapse."

 

Consumers International has recently released a set of recommendations calling on the G20 to take action on financial consumer protection. The recommendations 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 call for an international organisation to be established to support national bodies and review implementation.

 

As well as financial services, other issues on the CI World Congress agenda will include sustainable consumption, corporate responsibility, consumer access to safe and nutritious food, and consumer rights in the digital world.

 

CI President Samuel Ochieng said on the eve of World Congress:

"The 19th Consumers International World Congress is about exploring ways in which we can empower consumers around the issues that really matter in the 21st Century - sustainability, corporate responsibility, safe and nutritious food, access to knowledge in the digital world, and a fair financial system that puts consumers first, not last."

 

Chairman of the Hong Kong Consumer Council Professor Anthony Cheung complimented CI for adopting a most fitting theme for this congress 'Empowering Tomorrow's Consumers' He said:

"Tomorrow's consumers are bound to be confronted by new unprecedented issues arising from a changing world. Their consumer welfare is something that we must focus our attention on as a matter of urgency and priority."

 

 

-ends-

Media accrediation for CI World Congress can be applied for here:

www.consumersinternational.org/congress/media

Notes to Editors:

  • Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere.
  • The Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC) is an independent statutory body committing itself as the trusted voice for consumer betterment towards safe and sustainable consumption in a fair and just market. Joined Consumers International (CI) in 1976, HKCC became CI Council Member in 1978 and has been the Executive Member since 1994.
  • Consumers International's recommendations to the G20 on 'Safe, fair and competitive markets in financial services' can be found at /our-work/financial-services/key-projects/g20-campaign
  • Consumers International's 19th World Congress takes place at the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre, 3-6 May. Day 1 is dedicated to fringe event with Day 2 & 3 taken up with the official programme. Day 4 is the CI General Assembly. All details are at www.consumersinternational.org/congress
  • The CI World Congress occurs every four to five years. It includes the General Assembly where CI's President, Executive and Council are voted in.
  • The last Congress took place n Sydney in 2007. The CI World Congress was previously held in Hong Kong in 1991. The co-hosts for the event are CI's Hong Kong member, The Consumer Council.

 

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

 

 

  • Final preparations for consumer movement's global gathering in Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to open proceedings
  • Sustainable consumption and fair financial services top the agenda

 

European Union Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, will deliver the opening keynote address to the Consumer ­­­International (CI) 19th World Congress in Hong Kong, 3-6 May, it has been announced.

With under a month to go until the event, Commissioner Hedegaard joins an illustrious list of internationally renowned speakers who will be addressing the world's consumer movement at the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).

Other leading speakers include Alan Jope, Chairman, Unilever Greater China; Sue Rutledge, Director, Consumer Protection, World Bank; Anwar Fazal, civil society leader and former CI President; James Guest, President, Consumers Union of the United States; and Gerd Leonhard, CEO, The Futures Agency.

The CI World Congress, which will be officially opened by Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, will be attended by leaders of consumer organisations from over 100 countries, together with representatives from industry, governments, inter-governmental bodies, and civil society. It is being co-hosted by CI member organisation, the Hong Kong Consumer Council.

Commissioner Hedegaard will address the role of consumers in the green economy, a key issue area in light of the overall Congress theme of 'Empowering Tomorrow's Consumers'. Other consumer issues that will feature in sessions across the four-day event include: financial services, corporate social responsibility, food safety, and consumer rights in the digital age.

Consumers International Director General, Joost Martens said:

"We are delighted to have Commissioner Hedegaard address the CI World Congress on an issue that is vital to the future of consumption patterns across the globe. Our event is about looking at ways in which consumer groups can help tackle the major challenges facing the world, and give them the tools to empower individual consumers to make a positive difference.

 

"Alongside the green economy and issues of sustainable consumption, we have an impressive array of world experts exploring issues of global importance to consumers; such as fair financial services, corporate responsibility and access to knowledge in the digital world."  

 

Hong Kong Consumer Council Chairman, Professor Anthony Cheung said:

"Hong Kong is strategically positioned to hold this World Congress in Asia, which has witnessed some of the fastest growing economies as well as the rampant inflation affecting large populations of consumers.

 

"We are honoured to have the Congress held in Hong Kong and to have the opportunity to co-host this single most important world assembly of consumer leaders and advocates at a crucial juncture of time. Fresh ideas and new action are urgently called for to tackle the many pressing issues facing consumers worldwide."

-ends-


 

 

Media accrediation for CI World Congress can be applied for here:

www.consumersinternational.org/congress/media

 

 

Notes to Editors:

 

  • Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere.
  • The Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC) is an independent statutory body committing itself as the trusted voice for consumer betterment towards safe and sustainable consumption in a fair and just market. Joined Consumers International (CI) in 1976, HKCC became CI Council Member in 1978 and has been the Executive Member since 1994.
  • Consumers International's 19th World Congress takes place at the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre, 3-6 May. Day 1 is dedicated to fringe event with Day 2 & 3 taken up with the official programme. Day 4 is the CI General Assembly. All details are at www.consumersinternational.org/congress
  • The CI World Congress occurs every four to five years. It includes the General Assembly where CI's President, Executive and Council are voted in.
  • The last Congress took place n Sydney in 2007. The CI World Congress was previously held in Hong Kong in 1991. The co-hosts for the event are CI's Hong Kong member, The Consumer Council.
  • Full list of confirmed chairs and speakers:

Alan Jope, Chairman, Unilever in China

Alejandro Calvillo, Executive Director, El Poder del Consumidor (Mexico)

Anna Glayzer, Programme Officer (Food safety and Nutrition), Consumers International

Anthony Cheung, Chairman, Hong Kong Consumer Council

Anwar Fazal, civil-society leader and former CI President

Bart Combée, President, Consumentenbond

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, EU Commission

David Hammerstein, intellectual property advisor, Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, and former Spanish MEP

Diana Tsui, CSR Director, KPMG

Gerd Billen, Executive Director, The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv)

Gerd Leonhard, The Futures Agency

Guido Adriaenssens, Chief Executive Officer, International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT)

H C Yang, Vice President and Secretary General, China Consumers' Association

Hassan Qaqaya, Chief, Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Section, Competition Law and Policy and Consumer Protection Section, UNCTAD

Helio Mattar, Founder, Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption (Brazil)

Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of CI Office for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, Consumers International

Jaiok Kim, President, Consumers Korea

James Guest, CEO, Consumers Union of United States

Jami Solli, specialist on financial services in consumer protection law

Jan Gustav Strandenaes, Senior Adviser, The Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED)

Jean Halloran, Consumers Union of United States

Jens Henriksson, International Officer, Swedish Consumers' Association

Jeremy Malcolm, Access to Knowledge Programme Coordinator, Consumers International

Jonathon Hanks, University of Cape Town

Jørgen Schlundt, Deputy Director, National Food Institute, Denmark

Justin Macmullan, Head of Campaigns, Consumers International

Lisa Gunn, Executive Director, Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defence (IDEC)

Luke Upchurch, Head of Communications, Consumers International

Niall Dunne, former Director, Saatchi & Saatchi Sustainability

Norma McCormick, Chair, ISO Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO)

Peter Kell, Chair, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Premila Kumar, Chief Executive, Consumer Council of Fiji

Rasmus Kjeldahl, Executive Director, Danish Consumer Council

Ratna Devi, Deputy Secretary General, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA)

Rehan Saiyed, Storm Corporate Design Limited

Richard Henry Kimera, Chief Executive, Consent, Uganda

Robert Welford, Chairman, CSR Asia

Robin Simpson, Senior Policy Advisor, Consumers International

Samuel Ochieng, President, CIN Kenya and Consumers International

Stefan Larenas R, President, Organisation of Consumers and Users of Chile (ODECU)

Sue Rutledge, Director of Consumer Protection, World Bank

Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Centre for Internet and Society, India

Thami Bolani, Chairman, National Consumer Forum (South Africa)

 

 

 

 

 

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.

World's consumer organisations sign open letter to G20 calling for financial protection for "real people"

Consumers International (CI)[i], which represents 220 consumer organisations in 115 countries, 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.

Justin Macmullan, CI's head of campaigns explains: "Many G20 members have sought to increase financial stability through the development of stress tests, improved independence of credit rating agencies and requirements to increase capital ratios.  And yet, as a group, the G20 has done nothing to address consumer financial protection which - as exemplified by US sub-prime mortgages - was a key catalyst for the financial crisis.

"The interconnected nature of global banking means that people around the world will live with the consequences of this for years to come.  And yet, 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.

CI urgently wants to see the establishment of an Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection which would help to ensure that consumers from both developed and developing nations have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services.

CI members around the world have been lobbying their own governments as well as the South Korean government to make sure that the interests of "real people" are not overlooked for the interests of big business.

Justin Macmullan concluded: "The time has come for the G20 world leaders to make a real commitment to protecting their citizens from abusive financial services industry practices which are not in the best interests of the consumer.

"International co-operation on financial consumer protection has the potential to deliver substantial savings for individual governments.  This can be achieved through the co-ordination of research, the development of standards and guidelines, the sharing of best practice and the avoidance of costly crises."

-ends-

Notes to Editors:

[1] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere.

Our member organisations have extensive experience of working in financial consumer services including the testing of financial products and services, the provision of financial education and information to consumers, as well as consumer representation and advocacy.

CI wants the Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection to create and recommend adoption by national governments of minimum standards relating to:

  • Fair contract terms and charges for financial products and services
  • Information design and disclosure on financial products
  • The governance and functions of national financial consumer protection bodies.

It should also make recommendations for:

  • The promotion of effective competition in markets for financial consumer services
  • The development of a permanent organisation for international standard setting and co-ordination with regard to financial consumer protection.

 


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

Response to the communiqué from G20 finance ministers and central bank governors

As G20 finance ministers issue a statement detailing the progress they have made in finding 'policies conducive to reducing excessive imbalances and maintaining current account imbalances at sustainable levels', Consumers International (CI)[i] is urgently calling for G20 leaders to remember the needs of the everyday consumers of financial services.

Justin Macmullan, CI's head of campaigns, explains: "The communiqué from G20 finance ministers and central bank governors acknowledges the high interdependence among G20 countries in the global financial system.  It also notes that 'uncoordinated responses will lead to worse outcomes for everyone' and yet there is barely a mention of a unified approach to the needs of the real people who consume financial services on a daily basis.

"Each year, the global economy creates up to 150 million new consumers of financial services, most of whom are in countries where consumer protection and financial literacy are still in their infancy.

"The communiqué mentions the need for global co-operation to address financial inclusion, but does not make a commitment to protect citizens from abusive financial services industry practices.

"CI, together with our 220 member organisations,  urgently want to see the establishment of an Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection which would help to ensure that consumers everywhere have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services."

-ends-

Notes to Editors

CI wants the Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection to create and recommend adoption by national governments of minimum standards relating to:

  • Fair contract terms and charges for financial products and services
  • Information design and disclosure on financial products
  • The governance and functions of national financial consumer protection bodies.

It should also make recommendations for:

  • The promotion of effective competition in markets for financial consumer services
  • The development of a permanent organisation for international standard setting and co-ordination with regard to financial consumer protection.

 


[i] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere.

 

Our member organisations have extensive experience of working in financial consumer services including the testing of financial products and services, the provision of financial education and information to consumers, as well as consumer representation and advocacy.

 

For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

 

 

Consumers International (CI)[i], is calling on G20 finance ministers, who meet in South Korea, Friday 22 October, and world leaders, who meet on 11 November, to make a real commitment to protecting their citizens from financial services industry practices which are not in the best interest of the consumer.

CI urgently wants to see the establishment of an Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection which would help to ensure that consumers from both developed and developing nations have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services.

Justin Macmullan, Head of Campaigns at CI said: "Consumers have had to put up with abusive practices from the financial services industry for too long and the global recession is making matters worse.  Each year, the global economy creates up to 150 million new consumers of financial services, most of whom are in countries where consumer protection and financial literacy are still in their infancy.

"At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, world leaders made a commitment to 'protect consumers, depositors and investors against abusive practices and promote high quality standards'.  Now it is time for them to turn their words in to action.  Getting this right is not only vital to consumers, but also to the ongoing stability of the world economy."

CI wants the Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection to create and recommend adoption by national governments of minimum standards relating to:

  • Fair contract terms and charges for financial products and services
  • Information design and disclosure on financial products
  • The governance and functions of national financial consumer protection bodies.

 

It should also make recommendations for:

  • The promotion of effective competition in markets for financial consumer services
  • The development of a permanent organisation for international standard setting and co-ordination with regard to financial consumer protection.

Justin Macmullan continued: "International co-operation on financial consumer protection has the potential to deliver substantial savings for individual governments.  This can be achieved through the co-ordination of research, the development of standards and guidelines, the sharing of best practice and the avoidance of costly crises.

"There are very strong feelings on this issue amongst CI's 220 member organisations, many of whom have lobbied their governments to demand that consumers are not forgotten in the G20 discussions.  CI has also contacted the President of the World Bank and the President of the European Council and will continue to press for change until consumer needs are at the heart of the financial services industry, not an after-thought."

-ends-

 


[i] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere.

 

Our member organisations have extensive experience of working in financial consumer services including the testing of financial products and services, the provision of financial education and information to consumers, as well as consumer representation and advocacy.

 

For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

 

 

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:

  • Investigative film shows unacceptable social and environmental conditions suffered by pineapple-grower communities in Costa Rica
  • Pineapple plantation workers receive just 4% of retail price, retailers 41%
  • Cut price tropical fruits undermining supermarket's own initiatives

Consumers International (CI)[i] today launched a Europe-wide campaign[ii] to expose the complicity of leading European supermarkets in the unacceptable social and environmental conditions being suffered by pineapple-growing communities in Costa Rica.

Three-quarters of pineapples sold in Europe come from Costa Rica, with many leading supermarket chains buying from Del Monte, which exports 50% of Costs Rica's pineapples, and Grupo Acon.

CI today released an investigative film revealing the conditions for workers and their families on pineapple plantations in Costa Rica, including those supplying Del Monte, and Grupo Acon. The film, Pineapples: Luxury fruit, at what price?[iii], will be followed by a report later this month revealing:

No living wage:
Grupo Acon workers facing continued cuts in wages for long shifts of backbreaking work, six days per week, that already fall well below a living wage.

Workers suffering from exposure to toxic chemicals:
"I got a skin disease from the chemicals I used whilst I worked preparing the pineapple beds... I had gloves, an apron and a mask to wear but it didn't stop me having problems". Ex-worker at Pindeco (Del Monte subsidiary)

"Twice I was poisoned. The symptoms included vomiting, nausea, physical weakness, lack of energy and skin irritations.... I was taken off the job with chemicals for 15 days and made to do other work, but I didn't get any time off to recover - I had to be back to work the next day". Ex-worker at Pinales de Santa Clara plantation (Del Monte supplier)

Hazardous working conditions:
"
Less people work at night than during the day, not many workers like to do night shifts. There are snakes in the plantations at night and these sometimes bite workers.  Three workers have been killed this way in the last year. The artificial lights they give us aren't good enough either, they cast shadows where you can't see anything." (Worker, Grupo Acon)

Contamination of water supplies:
Communities that have drinking water brought in by tanker, as the local source is too polluted by chemicals used in pineapple production to consume. Residents are forced to continue to use local water sources for washing and attribute skin complaints and health problems to this. Hacienda Ojo de Agua has been producing pineapples adjacent to these communities for seventeen years.  The company sells its fruit to Del Monte.

Union breaking:
"When the mass sackings started only non union members were re-hired and the workers that were re-hired found that their new jobs were on lower wage rates. Wages reduced by about 40% in this period and union membership has been reduced to just 11 workers now, from 90 before the sackings started." (Alfonso, Grupo Acon)

These unacceptable conditions exist despite the stated commitment of many supermarkets to source responsibly. Consumers International's research[iv] into the policies of powerful European supermarkets concludes that these positive intentions are being undermined by retail price cuts and aggressive procurement practices that lead to cuts in worker wages and fewer resources for developing better working practices.

Catherine Nicholson, Programme Coordinator at Consumers International said:

"Consumers want low prices, but not at the cost of fair living conditions for producers. While European supermarkets point to their socially responsible policies, price wars are having an unacceptable impact on the conditions for pineapple workers in Costa Rica.

"If supermarkets are serious about promoting fair working conditions in their supply chains they need to pay a fair price to producers, work with them to improve conditions, and adopt purchasing practices that support that commitment."

 


[i] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

 

[ii] The CI campaign kicks-off with the launch of an investigative documentary made for the global consumer body by Guardian Films. Pineapples: a luxury fruit, at what price? is being released by CI and its member organisations in Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Poland, Spain and the UK. The aim is to shed light on the poor conditions for workers in Costa Rica and the failure of EU supermarket chains to take their responsibilities seriously.

[iii] Pineapples: Luxury fruit, at what price? can be viewed in here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p4Kt1dDPDo Language versions and hi-res copies available on request.

[iv] CI is running a wider programme looking at supermarket corporate social responsibility http://tiny.cc/re2af. CI was invited to present the programme's findings on European supermarket policies to the UN last March and in May held a debate at the European Parliament which brought together Costa Rican union activists, retailers and policy makers.

The full findings are available to download: Checked out: Are European supermarkets living up to their responsibilities for labour conditions in the developing world? http://tiny.cc/uuyxa

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

GoView more options