Consumer Protection and Consumer Advocacy During the Pandemic
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis Consumers International members in 100 countries called for a focus on the protection and empowerment of individuals in the marketplace and for co-ordinated strategies across nations and intergovernmental bodies to build fair, safe, resilient and sustainable economies through consumer protection.
Our joint statement called on G20 member governments to support a global co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that protects and respects consumers in both the immediate efforts to halt the spread of the virus and the worst impacts of the economic effects, and in future strategies to rebuild and renew our social, environmental and economic systems.
Read joint statement in full
We continue to update this information page with the latest developments and insight on how consumer advocacy is addressing the challenges that arise from COVID-19. We welcome feedback, comments and information from our members and partners. Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global News, Resources and guidance to fight COVID-19
See below for a collection of useful resources and actions from our global partners:
- What impact is COVID-19 having on food security, health and nutrition, and agriculture? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forecast warned that global food markets will continue to face disruption and uncertainty in 2021.
- UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) called on airlines to respect consumers’ rights and adhere to the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, in response to news that 4.5 million flights were cancelled globally due to lockdown restrictions.
- UN Environment has published its latest report on the organisation's COVID-19 response plan, which highlights the importance of working with the environment to protect people.
- The ‘global economy is on a tightrope’, according to the latest forecast from the OECD, with the biggest recession in nearly a century causing enormous damage to health, jobs and general well-being. See here for the expected implications of COVID-19 on online consumer protection.
- In response to the crisis, standards institutions are making some standards that could be valuable in the fight against COVID-19 freely available, supporting businesses and suppliers of products such as protective gloves, medical masks and ventilators. Useful links can be found at ISO and IEC (International), CEN and CENELEC (Europe), AFNOR (France), BSI (UK), ICONTEC (Colombia), ABNT (Brazil) and SAC (China).
How our Members responded to the crisis
See below for selected examples:
- In Australia, CHOICE is campaigning for banks and financial institutions to rise to the challenge of supporting consumers through COVID-19 with ‘empathy and fairness’, setting out four recommendations for action. See their full coverage on the pandemic here.
- The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has released Talking Telco, a series of guides to help Australians with phone and internet connectivity tips during the crisis.
- After Consumer NZ raised concerns about a major national airlines' approach to refunding passengers, the airline has now agreed to change its practices. They are also raising concerns about the failure of insurers to protect consumers who have had to cancel travel plans.
- In India, Consumer VOICE is supporting consumers on a range of different fronts, from sharing the latest WHO guidance, to testing hand sanitizers, advocating for the government stimulus package to offset the negative impacts of COVID-19 for consumers, and envisioning how the country can move forward and learn from the crisis.
- The Chinese Consumer Association prioritised several key areas during the country's initial COVID-19 peak in early 2020, including; refunds for those cancelling travel arrangements, the importance of monitoring negligent business practice and responsible messaging to alleviate consumer fears and prevent panic buying.
- Working with the Chennai Corporation for relief work, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group has donated around 3,500 masks to the government, and staff have voluntarily donated part of their salary to the relief effort. They are also driving conversation on the impact of COVID-19 in India, with commentary on the climate crisis, trans-fat policies, amongst other issues.
- Since India went into lockdown, CUTS' Centre for Human Development has been contributing to fight against COVID-19 by sharing reliable information and distributing
relief materials in Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Banswara and Pratapgarh districts of Rajasthan, with a key focus on protecting the most vulnerable consumers.
- The Consumer Council of Fiji is sharing financial education resources for consumers on Instagram and Twitter in response to a rise in the threat of indebtedness and economic vulnerability across Fiji
- To support Malaysian consumers who have experienced financial vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a rise in redundancies, pay cuts and economic uncertainty, FOMCA is calling for the Government to push date the due date for income tax returns.
- Hong Kong Consumer Council's 'Together, We Fight The Virus' campaign has set out to provide consumers with a range of guidance, tips and free resources for combating the virus. They have also created a ‘Price Watch’ tool that helps consumers to monitor the market for providers that are offering the best prices on essential services.
- IBON Philippines has set out recommendations how the Government can protect the poorest and most vulnerable consumers, and has criticised actions to-date for not doing enough to protect this group.
- Across Europe, consumer groups are demanding that airlines respect the right the refund for cancelled flights. Altroconsumo is calling on Italian airlines to respect the EU ruling on airline refunds, after the national aviation authority launched an investigation into some carriers that may have violated regulations. The Italian consumer group also shared their latest research for insight on how lockdown measures affected consumption trends.
- Consumentenbond has welcomed an EU and national government call that airlines for respect right to refunds, and is on standby to intervene if any airlines refuse to offer flexibility. They have also warned against measures taken by banks to introduce negative interest rates on savings.
- BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, has urged decision-makers to be mindful of how any response might affect a variety of consumer policy fields, and published statements on issues ranging from digital rights to sustainability. See a summary of their actions, and actions from their members, here.
- Euroconsumers, a consumer group that represents and protects consumers in Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Brazil, has created a live blog service that shares daily updates on the information and advice services provided by its members. Their latest webinar focussed on COVID-19 tracing Apps and Data Privacy.
- In response to a surge in digital scams during COVID-19, Forbrugerrådet Tænk in Denmark is directing consumers to it’s My Digital Defence App, which alerts them of known scams and shares online safety advice. You can see their full coverage of the crisis here.
- InfoCons Romania is calling on the Government of Romania to do more to ensure that consumers are supported with refund claims for services that are no longer being delivered during lockdown, from travel, to educational courses, and events. They are also alerting consumers when masks in circulation do not national health and safety requirements.
- In France, despite UFC Que-Chosir’s notice to 57 airlines demanding that they do more to respect the rights of their customers, and initiating legal action against 20 airlines, many are still persisting with their bad practice. UFC’s President has called on the French Government to follow Spain’s lead in applying more pressure on airlines that do not follow EU rules.
- Which? is calling for urgent UK government action to limit the prices of essential products during the coronavirus crisis, in response to price-gouging on online marketplaces. As travel restrictions begin to be relaxed, it is also monitoring the actions airlines are taking to prevent virus transmission. See full coverage here.
- As Germany takes over the EU Council Presidency in July 2020, VZBV has issued a statement highlighting the importance of an agenda that focusses on an EU-wide COVID-19 recovery plan that makes people's lives easier, safer, more sustainable and cheaper.
- In the US, Consumer Reports is committed to sharing evidence-based reporting and advice through their online guide to COVID-19, with key steps on health and wellness, and answers to the most frequently asked questions. They are also doing important work to call for stronger action to protect consumers from misinformation and privacy breaches during the crisis, and supporting consumers’ right to refunds for travel bookings.
As Latin American governments struggle to address the public health and economic fallout from COVID-19, consumer organisations in the region have been working tirelessly to protect the rights and essential needs of consumers. See our latest guest blog from ASPEC Peru for commentary, and see below for select actions.
- The spread of COVID-19 in Brazil is likely to have the biggest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable consumers. IDEC, alongside many other civil society organisations, is criticising the Government’s response to the crisis and demanding that it does more to protect the health and safety of its people.
- Across Latin America, our members are reporting misinformation and a lack of clarity over right to refunds as an issue for consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. ASPEC Peru are using radio, TV and social media to share clear and reliable information. They are also focusing on the impact that social distancing might have on the Peruvian education sector. They are also raising awareness of how social distancing might impact the Peruvian education sector, and calling for Government action to protect consumers from a shortage of prescribed medicines.
- In El Salvador, Centro para la Defensa del Consumidor (CDC) is highlighting the danger of COVID-19 exacerbating poverty issues, and preventing consumers from being able to their basic needs, from food and water to essential energy services.
- El Poder del Consumidor has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the vulnerability of people living with non-communicable diseases, and is calling on the Government to support front-of-pack food labelling legislation that can that guide consumers to healthier choices.
- In Chile, ODECU has also shared a set of recommendations for consumers, advising them on how they can stay safe, informed and protect their consumer rights during the COVID-19 crisis.
Over-indebtedness is also a major issue for consumers in the region due to lockdown restrictions, and effective tools to support consumers in this area are vital. In Argentina, a group of consumer associations lead by ADELCO, is calling for the Government to approve a Familiar Insolvency Law, which is based on a 'Model Law' Consumers International developed with guidance from its members in 2011.
- Members in Africa continue to prioritise action against misinformation and price gouging, which is preventing many from being able to afford essential products and services. Consumer Council of Zimbabwe is working closely with their national Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure consumers receive reliable information.
- ADECO in Cape Verde has been highlighting the importance of building a more sustainable world post-pandemic and showcasing a local examples of good environmental practices and sustainability projects on social media.
- Food shortages and price gouging is preventing many consumers across Africa from adequate access to food products. In Rwanda, ADECOR has outlined recommendations for the Government of Rwanda to support access to nutritious food during the pandemic
- To combat the surge in prices of certain goods in Kenya, Consumer Grassroots Association has set up a WhatsApp function for reporting retailers taking advantage of consumers, and is also sharing regular updates on social media to keep their followers informed.
The Middle East
- In Saudi Arabia, the Consumer Protection Association is running a social media campaign with infographics that address some of the most pressing issues for consumers during the crisis, from how to get access to essential food supplies to fake sanitary products to avoid.
- Price gouging is one of the biggest concerns for consumers in Oman, and many are finding it difficult to access food and health products as a result. The Public Authority for Consumer Protection is monitoring negligent practice and clamping down on any violations.
- COVID-19 calls for many precautions, including the use of masks and gloves - however this creates a greater problem when items are not disposed of appropriately. The Yemeni Association for Consumer Protection (YACP) is calling for standards to be set for hospitals and quarantine centres to provide equipment designated for sorting, processing and classifying waste.
We share regular updates on the consumer challenges we are encountering across the globe, and how consumer advocacy is supporting and protecting consumers through the crisis.
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Click below for a curated Twitter feed sharing the latest advice, insight and updates on COVID-19 from Consumers International members and partners.