What are consumer rights?

What is a consumer?

We are all consumers. From the obvious necessities we purchase daily, to how we connect with the world using mobile phones or travel to and from work. We consume every day and in every part of our lives. 

Do consumer rights & needs matter?

Our core belief is that all people have a right to access safe goods and quality services, to be treated fairly and offered effective solutions if things go wrong.

This is more than just making sure you get a good deal on a new car. It’s about our right to access the basic things we need to live, including food, shelter and safe drinking water. It’s about making sure your new television won’t break down after three months, that your car has the features and technology to keep you safe, and that the data companies collect about you online isn’t lost or stolen. Sometimes accessing our consumer rights can be the difference between life and death. And in many countries the goal of realising these rights is still a long way off.



Developing international guidelines on consumer protection

US President John F. Kennedy first outlined a vision of consumer rights in a special message to Congress on 15 March 1962 (the day we now celebrate World Consumer Rights Day). Over time, the consumer movement developed this into a broader
vision  of our rights and needs as consumers that now guides much of our work and that of our members. 

Following successful campaigning by Consumers International, the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1985. These were brought up to date in 2015, when the General Assembly adopted the revised UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection. These guidelines are an important tool, giving added legitimacy to the principles of consumer rights and practical support and guidance for the development of consumer protection around the world.  The guidelines contain a number of consumer needs that broadly reflect the consumer rights.

Our accessible guide to the UN consumer protection guidelines summarises the main principles of consumer protection and how they can be applied.