Consumer Protection and Consumer Advocacy During the Pandemic
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis Consumers International members in 100 countries are calling for a focus on the protection and empowerment of individuals in the marketplace based on consumer rights, and for co-ordinated strategies across nations and intergovernmental bodies to build fair, safe, resilient and sustainable economies through consumer protection.
We are calling 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 will 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 guidance to fight COVID-19
See below for a collection of useful resources and actions from our global partners:
- 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. Here are links from ISO and IEC (International), CEN and CENELEC (Europe), AFNOR (France), BSI (UK), ICONTEC (Colombia), ABNT (Brazil) and SAC (China).
- What impact is COVID-19 having on food security, health and nutrition, and agriculture? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) is sharing regular updates from its COVID-19 webpage, including guidance for supporting global food systems during the crisis. It is also calling for more funds to be attributed to hunger-fighting and livelihoods-boosting activities.
- UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is calling on authorities need to do more protect consumers, by monitoring and acting on unfair business practices and criminal activities exploiting fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
- 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 OECD is sharing regular analysis on how the pandemic will affect the global economy and society. See here for the perceived implications for online consumer protection.
- The UN Statistics Division has released a report using data from 36 international organisations, providing a snapshot of some of the latest information available on how COVID-19 is affecting different aspects of public and private life, from economic and environmental fluctuations to changes that affect individuals in terms of income, education, employment and changes affecting public services. Read the full report here.
How are our members supporting and protecting consumers through this crisis? See below for selected examples:
- In Australia, CHOICE is supporting consumers with some of their biggest concerns during the crisis, calling for an end to price gouging, and for banks to introduce five crucial measures to relieve the financial burden on consumers. They are also launching a new award system to acknowledge businesses for fair and ethical practice during the crisis. See their full coverage 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. For their full suite of advice and guidance for consumers, see here.
- 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 calling out traders who are breaking food safety regulations and placing consumers' health in dangerous with the sale of putrid meat.
- In Malaysia, many consumers are at risk of being directly impacted by the global economic downturn. FOMCA have called for banks to extend their loan moratorium to protect consumers from potential indebtedness. They also advocated for a Government stimulus package that not only strengthens health services but also protect the rights of consumers.
- 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 raised concern that the national economy is likely to be severely impacted by the crisis, and has set out recommendations how the Government can protect the poorest and most vulnerable consumers.
- In Italy, Altroconsumo is providing a free advice service, sharing information on everything from travel repayments to mortgage claims. As the Italian Government begins to amend its lockdowns restrictions, Altroconsumo has also shared guidance on what the changes mean for consumer access to certain products and services. See their latest research for insight on how lockdown measures affected consumption trends.
- Across Europe, consumer groups are demanding that airlines respect the right the refund for cancelled flights. Consumentenbond has welcomed an EU and national government call that airlines to respect this right, and is on standby to intervene if any airlines refuse to offer flexibility. Their online hub also shares advice on everything from data privacy to the financial implications of the crisis.
- 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.
- 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, following UFC Que-Chosir’s notice to 57 airlines demanding that they do more to respect the rights of their customers, it is initiating legal action against 20 airlines for ‘obstructing the right reimbursement for passengers on cancelled flights’, despite EU guidance calling on airlines to respect this right.
- 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. Their #RefundPassengers campaign is also highlighting the failure of many airlines to issue refunds for cancelled flights. See full coverage here.
- In Germany, VZBV, is pursing legal action against two airlines for administering fines to consumers who do not complete their flight itinerary or do so in the order in which they booked. Their information page also provides answers on many of the questions and concerns consumers have shared during pandemic.
- 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 how to stay safe, 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.
- 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 is working with other Mexican civil society groups to call for robust long-term plans to combat the climate crisis as the country rebuilds after COVID-19. They are also highlighting that the high consumption of sugary drinks and junk food increases vulnerability to the virus.
- 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.
- 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
- Members are reporting many issues emerging due to COVID-19, with serious concerns over misinformation and businesses failing to follow safety advice. 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. See here for the WHO's latest guidance.
- 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.
- To combat misinformation in Yemen during the pandemic, YACP is using its social media channels to share verified health advice from reputable sources such as the WHO.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be sharing regular updates on the consumer challenges we are encountering across the globe, and how consumer advocacy is supporting and protecting consumers through this crisis. Follow us on social media, and sign up to our email services, to stay informed.
Click below for a curated Twitter feed sharing the latest advice, insight and updates on COVID-19 from Consumers International members and partners.