Consumer defense refers to the protection of consumers against deceptive or unfair business practices by companies, organizations, or governments. This is a broad field, but it includes the following basic principles:
The Right to Safety and Information
Consumers should be able to make informed purchases of goods or services that are safe for them and their families. They should also be protected from fraudulent or misleading advertising and labeling.
The Right to Choose
Consumer rights include the right to choose among different brands of a product or service, and to be able to compare prices without discrimination. They also have the right to be heard, which allows consumers to speak out about the quality of a product or service and to get their concerns addressed by government agencies.
The Right to Redress
Consumers have the right to redress for any consumer protection violation by using established legal mechanisms and by working with others who have experienced similar harm. This can be through the courts or by pursuing claims in administrative or arbitration proceedings.
The Right to Education
Consumer education is a critical component of consumer defense. This involves making sure that consumers are aware of laws and regulations, as well as providing them with the information they need to make smart marketplace decisions.
The Right to Assurance
Consumers are willing to spend their money on products and services that provide them with confidence in the product’s quality and safety. This is a form of trust that is essential for economic activity to thrive.
The Right to Reputation
A good reputation in the marketplace is a crucial element of business success and the basis for consumer trust. It helps companies know whether their products are acceptable to consumers and it incentivizes them to improve the quality of their products and services.
The Right to Representation
In order to protect the interests of consumers, it is vital that European lawmakers have the ability to bring forward collective actions to address specific consumer problems. This is often referred to as representative action or collective redress and was recently approved by the European Parliament (Directive 2020/1828).
The Right to Educate
In many countries, government agencies provide tips on consumer protection, financial management, identity theft, credit card scams, and other important topics. They also help to identify common scams and frauds, so that they can be stopped before they become a major problem.
The Right to Representation
Taking consumer rights seriously is part of the broader goal of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, which were first adopted in 1985. In addition to the international soft-law provisions, these guidelines also recommend that member states adopt domestic consumer protection laws that are consistent with them.
This is a challenge because the twenty-first century market is highly dynamic, qualified by globalization and digitalization. As a result, the law needs to be adapted to these changes. This is a major task for legislators, but it is essential for the wellbeing of society and the economy as a whole.