On March 15 1962 US President John F. Kennedy gave a speech on consumer rights which led to the creation of the Consumer Bill of Rights. Consumer rights activist Anwar Fazal later proposed the observance of a "World Consumer Rights Day" marking that date, and on 15 March 1983 consumer organizations began observing that date as an occasion to promote basic rights of consumers.
In his speech, John F. Kennedy said: 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.
There are eight basic consumer rights, which include the rights 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
- safety – to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life
- information – to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling
- choice – to be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality
- be heard – to have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services
- redress – to receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services
- 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
- a healthy environment -to live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well being of present and future generations
In Ukraine, the law "On consumer rights protection" was adopted in 1991, as in the majority of post-soviet republics. Since 1995 the law has been modified, amended and improved almost annually. The document regulates the relations between consumers and producers, providers, sellers. The law also defines the rights of consumers and mechanism of their observation. The question is whether these rights are really observed.
Russian experts estimate positively the development of human rights work for the past year. According to the chairman of the Consumers Union of Russia Petr Shelisch, the high-raked authorities finally paid close attention to the problem of consumer rights protection and adopted a number of draft bills, approved by human rights activists. Cancellation of "mobile slavery" is considered the most important victory.
"Russia has adopted the law, which cancels property rights of mobile operators to phone numbers. From now on a Russian citizen can change a mobile operator without losing his phone number," Shelisch reminded.
Among other positive changes, there is the law on bankruptcy of private persons. "If you have a really bad financial situation, you can declare bankruptcy and admit that you are not able to pay off a one-thousand-dollar credit, for example. And nobody will persecute you, as it used to be before," CEO of the International confederation of consumer rights societies Dmitriy Yanin noted.
According to him, next year Russian will also impose ban on smoking in public places (bars and restaurants). At the same time, the expert pointed out that none of CIS countries has signed the Montreal convention on carriage by air yet. "Comparing to Europe, citizens of CIS countries get smaller compensation for lost luggage or insurance payout to families in case of fatal accident," he said.
However, this sphere still has a big number of unsolved issues. "Dishonest commercials, mass falsifications of food products and medicines, failure to observe court decisions in favor of consumers - these are evidences of legal system's collapse," Shelisch believes. Russian human rights activists intend to demand adoption of Customer's Code of Russia and introduction of relevant subjects into the school program.
In his turn, Dmitriy Yanin recalled the "cheese war" with Ukraine. "It is a funny situation. Importers are controlled better than producers for the domestic market are. We have high quality imported goods, while the requirements to domestic production are minimal," the expert said.
He also voiced his doubts on expediency of governmental policy to reduce pressure on business. In Yanin's opinion, the goal of this policy (reduction of corruption level) is noble, but the methods are wrong. "I want to recall a case in Perm. The sanitary service could not shut down a shop, making cakes with salmonella for 15 days. Hundred people were hospitalized with poisoning. Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights took samples and confirmed contamination with salmonella, but the decision to shut down the baker arrived only after 15 days!" Yanin told.
As for Kazakhstan, the Agency for Protection of Competition, engaged into observance of consumer rights, was created only three years ago, in 2010. "The majority of complaints (41%) are about goods' quality (mobile phones, household appliances). Then there are complaints on quality of services (29%) and complaints about housing and community amenities," head of the department on consumer rights of the Agency for Protection of Competition Asem Bakinbayev said.
According to her, this year the Agency has initiated the adoption of the law on consumer rights protection. In such a way, the government will render support to public organizations, engaged into the process. Last year President Nazarbayev noted that relations between the state and entrepreneurs must be built in terms of interests of consumers.
However, judging from comments on internet-forums, Kazakhstan citizens are not happy with the level of consumer rights protection. One of the users complained about a foreign object in baby food, bought for her six-year-old daughter. Experienced users of the forum told her not to bother: "You will never prove the presence of a foreign object in baby food. You will never get your money back and will never punish the seller. The only thing you will get is wasted time and a nervous wreck."
And what do we have?
Experts believe that in Ukraine 'consumer rights protection' term covers bigger range of issues than in any other CIS country. "Ukrainian state inspection controls four directions - consumers' protection, observance of the law on advertisement, observance of the anti-tobacco legislation, market control over industrial group of goods," official of the State service on consumer rights protection Oleh Kobelko says. He noted that unlike in Russia Ukrainian authorities cooperate with business, not punish it. "Major part of mistakes our entrepreneurs make are not intentional. We have adopted a number of memorandums and hold a constant dialogue with the business," he noted.
According to head of the Kyiv department of the State service on consumer rights protection Anton Klyatski, the problem of import of adulterated goods was solved thanks to cooperation. "We decided to abandon the practice of immediate fining and banning of poor-quality goods. If we find certain non-compliance with the standards, we warn this producer and give him two weeks to make things rights. If the producer does not replace the goods, retail networks simply won't work with him. It is easy to identify adulterated goods and owners of supermarkets will not deliberately violate the law, as they now it will cost them huge fines," he explained.
The amount of adulterated goods in Ukraine has reduced and counting. Out of 24 thousand complaints filed last year, a half concerned poor quality of services not food. "Third part of complaints concerned communal services, then there are complaints about nonfood products and only then about foodstuffs. In my opinion, complaints about food products are rare just because nobody bothers to file a complaint about 200 grams of sausage. But again, it is my personal opinion," Kobelkov said.
At the same time, Ukrainian specialists are concerned about increased amount of complaints about remotely concluded contracts. The matte concerns online sale and TV stores. Ukrainians are often dissatisfied with goods they buy through internet or phone. However, Ukrainian experts agree that Ukrainian legislation provides decent protection for consumers, and what Ukrainians need is the will to fight for their rights. As the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way.
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