CI50 policy briefings

To celebrate CI's 50th anniversary, we highlighted a selection of key Consumers International policy documents, as well as international documents core to the consumer movement, in which CI's interventions have played a major role.

The mission, vision and values of Consumers International (CI) are underpinned by its policy documents. These policies, developed and agreed by CI's members, have been instrumental in influencing international conventions and agreements that support and protect consumer rights.

United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection

2010 marked the 25th year of the adoption of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection. The draft UN guidelines were discussed at great length from the 1960s onwards before finally being adopted in 1985. After extensive work from CI, the guidelines were formally expanded in 1999 with Section G on sustainable consumption, and were re-adopted in the UN General Assembly decision 54/449. They provide a vital context and indeed legitimacy for CI's work. For example, when governments are reluctant to allow such rights they can be reminded of their obligations as UN members.

The UN General Principles set out the legitimate needs of consumers as follows:

  1. the protection of consumers from hazards to their health and safety
  2. the promotion and protection of the economic interests of consumers
  3. consumer access to adequate information to enable making informed choices according to individual wishes and needs
  4. consumer education, including education on the environmental, social and economic impacts of consumer choice
  5. the availability of effective consumer redress
  6. freedom to form consumer and other relevant groups or organisations and the opportunity for such organisations to present their views in decision-making processes affecting them
  7. the promotion of sustainable consumption patterns (added in 1999).

The guidelines have been interpreted by CI and 'translated' into clear consumer rights as follows:

  • the right to the satisfaction of basic needs
  • the right to safety
  • the right to be informed
  • the right to choose
  • the right to be heard
  • the right to redress
  • the right to consumer education
  • the right to a healthy environment.

Read more about CI and consumer rights.

These points were last reaffirmed by the CI World Congress in Lisbon in 2003, and each of them underpins major areas of policy such as work on basic services (energy and water), food safety measures, transparency in financial services, action against monopolies, structures of representation, development of new methods of dispute resolution, and recent work on climate change.

The events of the last few years in the domains of climate change (with clear implications for energy and water) and the financial crisis (intensified by lack of guidance and disclosure to consumers) make the guidelines as relevant as ever.

The UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection are available in six languages:


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