What is today known as basic consumer rights evolved from the March 15, 1962 historic speech presented by President John F. Kennedy to the United States Congress in which he extolled four basic consumer rights – the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard. The United Nations through the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection expanded these four consumer rights into eight.
Consumer rights movement across the world have been tenacious in canvassing for the promotion of these basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights must be respected and protected.
In Nigeria, as in many other countries, consumers suffer various forms of market abuses and social injustices which undermine them. This is mainly because many do not know their rights as consumers. The first stage of fighting for consumer rights is the removal of ignorance associated with the consumers. It is imperative for every consumer to know these basic rights and insist on them at all times.
Below are the eight basic consumer rights:
- 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 information – 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.
Critical awareness – As consumers we have the responsibility to be more alert and questioning about the price and quality of goods and services we use.
Action – We have the responsibility to assert ourselves and act to ensure that we get a fair deal. As long as we remain passive consumers we will be exploited.
Social concern – We have the responsibility to be aware of the impact of our consumption on other citizens, especially the disadvantaged or powerless groups whether in the local, national or international community.
Environmental awareness – We have the responsibility to understand the environmental and other consequences of our consumption. We should recognize our individual and social responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth for future generations.
Solidarity – We have the responsibility to organize together as consumers to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect our interest.