On 15 March, 1962, US President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic address to the US Congress in which he outlined his vision of consumer rights. This was the first time any politician had formerly set out such principles.
'Consumers by definition, include us all,' Kennedy said in his Congressional Statement, 'They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group... whose views are often not heard.'
Over time, the consumer movement has developed this vision into a set of eight basic consumer rights that now define and inspire much of the work CI and its members do (around areas such as financial services and communications):
- The right to satisfaction of basic needs - To have access to basic, essential goods and services: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.
- The right to safety - To be protected against products, production processes and services that are hazardous to health or life.
- The right to be informed - To be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
- The right to choose - To be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
- The right to be heard - To have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
- The right to redress - To receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
- The right to consumer education - To acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
- The right to a healthy environment -To live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.
Read how to say these consumer rights in French or Spanish.
In the 1980s, CI's then president, Anwar Fazal (left), led the call to also introduce a set of consumer responsibilities to compliment consumer rights.
These remain crucial principles for many consumer rights organisations today:
- Critical awareness - consumers must be awakened to be more questioning about the provision of the quality of goods and services.
- Involvement or action - consumers must assert themselves and act to ensure that they get a fair deal.
- Social responsibility - consumers must act with social responsibility, with concern and sensitivity to the impact of their actions on other citizens, in particular, in relation to disadvantaged groups in the community and in relation to the economic and social realties prevailing.
- Ecological responsibility - there must be a heightened sensitivity to the impact of consumer decisions on the physical environment, which must be developed to a harmonious way, promoting conservation as the most critical factor in improving the real quality of life for the present and the future.
- Solidarity - the best and most effective action is through cooperative efforts through the formation of consumer/citizen groups who together can have the strength and influence to ensure that adequate attention is given to the consumer interest.
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