The 15th of March is the day when the world celebrates consumer rights. On this day consumer organisations and movements take the opportunity to generate awareness on consumers’ basic rights.
This celebration takes place on the 15th of March because this date marks the anniversary when President John F. Kennedy back in 1962 addressed the US congress on the issue of consumer rights. President Kennedy was the first world leader who recognized the important role consumers play in the economy when in his declaration said that “Consumers by definition, include us all. 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.” On this same occasion, President Kennedy declared four basic consumer rights: the right to safety, to choose, to information and the right to be heard.
Eventually these four rights became eight as over the years the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to redress, the right to education and the right to a healthy environment were added to the original four.
These eight rights safeguard consumers’ economic interests even before actually purchasing a product or service. The right to be informed ensures that consumers are provided with all the information they need on the product or service they are interested in purchasing so they can make an informed buying decision. Consumers should also be provided with information on sellers and how to communicate with them in situations when consumers need to make a complaint on the problems encountered. This right facilitates consumers’ purchase choices and simultaneously protects consumers against dishonest or misleading advertising and product labelling.
To make an informed choice consumers also need to have different products and services to choose from. By comparing products and services consumers have the possibility to select the best product or service according to their needs and financial means.
When consumers encounter problems with any of the products or services purchased, the right to redress gives them the possibility to request the trader to provide them with an adequate solution or compensation. If a satisfactory solution is not achieved after complaining with the seller, consumers may then request the assistance of a consumer authority or association to be provided with the required assistance to resolve the dispute and obtain the remedy the law provides. In Malta, consumers may obtain such assistance either through the Office for Consumer Affairs within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, a registered ADR entity or a registered consumer association.
The right to safety ensures that consumers only have access to purchase products that are safe. Through this right consumers are protected against products, production processes and services which may harm their life and health.
Another important right that safeguards consumers’ interest is the right to be heard. This right requires that consumers’ associations are set up to represent the interest of consumers when government policies that affect consumer rights are made. Consumers are also entitled to have access to basic essential goods and services, adequate food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education and sanitation.
To benefit from and effectively exercise these rights consumers must be aware of them and hence the right to consumer education.
15 March 2018
World Consumer Rights Day half-day conference: "Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer"
This year’s World Consumer Rights Day conference organized by the MCCAA focused on how consumers can be best safeguarded in today’s digital world.
Parliamentary Secretary for Consumer Protection and Valletta 2018 Deo Debattista said that online shopping is nowadays entwined in consumers’ everyday lives. In fact, more than half of the Maltese population opts to shop online for the goods and services it requires.
“The importance of e-commerce to small countries like Malta is evident, as the 2017 Consumer Conditions Scoreboard rates Malta among the countries who are more likely to buy online, not only from another EU Member State, but also from outside the EU. The limited product choice on our island and competitive prices found online tend to urge our consumers to venture more in online shopping,” Debattista noted.
During Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it was this Government’s priority to make as much progress as possible on the legislative dossiers, which aimed at strengthening the Digital Single Market. A very important achievement was the general approach reached for the Review of the Consumer Protection Co-operation Regulation, a Regulation which aims at modernising cooperation between national administrations and reducing damage for consumers because of cross-border infringements to EU consumer law.
“The Maltese Government is committed to change this by implementing initiatives and policies that encourage entrepreneurs to take their business online. E-commerce presents a great opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises to reach new customers,” the Parliamentary Secretary said.
During her address Chairperson for the MCCAA, Ing. Helga Pizzuto, emphasised the importance for consumer authorities, consumer associations and the digital market platforms to work together to provide consumers with access to fair and secure markets.
She added that “Digital market places are providing unprecedented choice and convenience to consumers. That the consumer is benefitting from access to a global digital market is confirmed by the steady rise in online sales. This in turn necessitates a review of the safety nets, which need to be in place to ensure that consumers’ rights are safeguarded at all times. The theme of this year’s World Consumer Conference puts the spotlight on this reality”.