consumer rights and responsibilitiesChances are, you’ve returned at least one product before in your life – perhaps it was defective in some way, or was given to you as a gift, and didn’t fit, or maybe it wasn’t quite what you expected. There was a time when you, the consumer, would have had a tough time getting your money back, and all consumers had a difficult time being treated fairly by manufacturers. In March of 1962, that all changed, when President Kennedy gave a speech to Congress introducing the Consumer Bill of Rights. In this speech, Kennedy, with the help of consumer rights activist Helen Ewing Nelson, and aide Fred Dutton, laid out four basic rights that consumers should have, which was then expanded to include four more rights.

These eight privileges covered not only people’s rights as consumers, but also grew to include basic human necessities, such as food, water, and shelter. However, along with these rights come responsibilities, and we as consumers must earn these rights, and exercise them wisely, and not take advantage of them. Today, we are discussing these rights and responsibilities, and how they relate to our everyday lives. If you’re interested in this topic, but see yourself on the other side of the equation, this article on online marketing tools, and this course on internet marketing for local business will show you how to reach as many consumers for your business as possible.

The Consumer Bill of Rights

The best place to start off is to discuss the first four basic rights that JFK helped to bring about for consumers. Before consumers had these rights, businesses had little to no responsibility when it came to hearing and compensating for customers’ complaints about their products. People who were victims of fraud and injury caused by products had almost no recourse when attempting to seek retribution from these companies, until these rights came into the picture.

  1. The Right to Safety: This right refers to any product, other than an automobile, that may cause bodily harm to the consumer when used as it was intended to be used. This right gained further attention in 1972, when the US government formed the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which set up safety and performance standards for products, requiring them to be tested and carry warning labels if necessary. Conversely, the consumer’s responsibility here is to use the product safely, follow all directions, and to be aware of any future warnings regarding the product. If you’re concerned about safety in the workplace, this course on safety training for supervisors will help get your work area ship shape.
  2. The Right to Be Informed: Here, it is the company’s responsibility to provide accurate and truthful information so that the consumer is able to make intelligent and informed choices. This right covers all products, but its original aim was to eradicate misleading information in the areas of financing, advertising, labeling, and packaging. Some examples of the legislation passed as a result of this right include the Wholesome Meat Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. The responsibility of the consumer lies in their obligation to analyze this product information, and to use it wisely.
  3. The Right to Choose: Consumers not only have the right to a variety of options to choose from, but the environment in which the products and services are offered must be healthy, and conducive to fair competition. The government has promoted this environment by passing legislation regarding patent law, anti-trusts, and price-cutting and gouging. The responsibility of the consumer is to simply make their choices carefully. If you’ve got a patent you’d like to protect, this course on how to write and file a patent will show you how to deal with patent protection yourself.
  4. The Right to be Heard: Consumers have the right to express their complaints and concerns, resulting not only in safer goods and services, but also for the creation of laws regarding this safety. There’s no official forum for these complaints to be heard, but state and federal attorney generals, as well as organizations like the Better Business Bureau deal with these situations all of the time. It’s a consumer’s responsibility to express their concern when necessary.

So important to modern society was this Consumer Bill of Rights, that Consumers International, the only independent and authoritative voice for consumers on a global scale, adopted these four rights, as well as the next four you’re about to read about, not only made them part of their charter, but also marked the day of Kennedy’s speech, March 15, as World Consumer Rights Day.

1985 Expansion of Rights

Even though the original Consumer Bill of Rights was a big leap forward in ensuring that not only would consumers be safe, but also be given a voice, there were more steps that needed to be taken. As a result, in the 1980s the UN set up the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection to expand upon the rights previously granted to consumers in the 60s.These rights extended beyond mere products, and simply protecting the individual consumer, but went on to include their environment, their living situation, and the well-being of future generations. If you want to shape your own future, this course on goal setting will help you find your life’s purpose so you can live the life you want.

  1. The Right to Satisfy Basic Needs: People have a right to have access to basic fundamental needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, sanitation, water, etc. Not only should consumers have access to these necessities, they should be responsible enough to consume these items sustainably, so that not only are they fulfilled, but so others can have their needs met, as well.
  2. The Right to Redress: If a consumer has lost money or otherwise felt cheated due to misrepresentation, shoddy products, or unsatisfactory services, they have the right to request money or other benefits to make up for their loss. The responsibility that lies with them is to seek appropriate compensation if a wrong is committed, in order to any wrongdoings are unacceptable.
  3. The Right to Consumer Education: Consumers have the right to make the best-informed decision when making a purchase, and this information should be readily available, and easy to understand. It is their duty to remain properly informed as the nature of products evolves over time, and information changes.
  4. The Right to a Healthy Environment: Expanding out from consumers rights, and into basic human rights, people have the right to live and work in an environment that is healthy non-threatening. This is not only for the people now, but also for future generations, and their responsibility is to make choices that minimize their environmental impact on the people of today and tomorrow.

These eight rights make perfect sense for consumers to have. While they don’t really seem like modern inventions, at one point in the very recent past there was no protection from a company that provided a shoddy product or service, and it was the consumer’s responsibility to prove negligence on the part of the company. Luckily, we’ve expanded the concept of what it means to be a responsible and protected consumer of products and services. If you want to learn more about consumer behavior, this course on predicting consumer decisions might give you more insight into their though processes.

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