In the Spring of 1962, then-president of the United States John F. Kennedy gave an historically important speech to Congress.
In that speech, President Kennedy outlined four basic rights that should be upheld for all consumers in the US—these rights were presented as inherent and without contention, and the speech itself would become a reference point for human rights activists for decades to come.
That initial list of four basic consumer rights was referred to as the ‘Consumer Bill of Rights’, and today, the list has been annexed to include yet another four rights (established by the UN in 1985). This brings the total of the established list of internationally recognized consumer rights to eight.
At Matthew R. Osborne, PC, we take on the challenges our clients face when they feel taken advantage of or otherwise done wrong by insurance companies, financial institutions, or retailers. So, it’s natural for our team to have a passion for consumer rights. In this week’s blog, we’re listing out these eight basic rights of consumers, and we encourage you to refer to these when you’re wondering if your own rights are being compromised.
Basic Consumer Right #1: The Right to Safety
The first consumer right in this list has to do with a consumer’s fundamental want to avoid personal harm when using or ingesting a product. This may seem like like it should just be assumed by anyone manufacturing something for sale. The reality, however, is that there are unscrupulous individuals in numerous industries—individuals who very well might choose profits over public welfare.
This first consumer right extends to all products and services except those with inherent dangers involved in their use (i.e., automobiles).
Basic Consumer Right #2: The Right to Be Informed
When a business goes about advertising and marketing their product or service, they should do so in a way that is understandable, comprehensive, and truthful. That is the ethos behind the second of these eight basic consumer rights.
Deception in advertising, making false product claims, or failing to disclose important ingredients or facts about a product are all considered infringements on this consumer right. Every consumer should have ready access to all of the information pertinent to the use or consumption of the products they purchase.
Basic Consumer Right #3: The Right to Choose
Federal antitrust laws are in place for just this reason: consumers should be given an honest, transparent choice among the products they wish to consume. Furthermore, US patent law works in a way that protects the inventors and developers of the products they bring to market, ensuring that we are all able to reap the benefits of having a multitude of buying options.
Basic Consumer Right #4: The Right to Be Heard
Consumers should feel empowered to voice their opinions—whether good or bad—about the products they use, to people who will listen to those opinions.
The right to be heard is as much about protecting consumers today as it is about making sure that the consumers of tomorrow will always have a voice in the discussion about the products and services they buy. When the consumer’s voice is stifled, innovation suffers and continuous improvement is derailed.
Basic Consumer Right #5: The Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs
The first of the UN-instituted consumer rights, this right provides for consumers to have access to the essentials they require to live a healthy and productive life.
These essentials include food, clothing, water, and shelter. In some countries, healthcare and education are a part of this list.
Basic Consumer Right #6: The Right to Redress
This right states that consumers should be able to hold manufacturers accountable in a court of law, in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. An example would be an insurance provider adding hidden charges to a policy premium and not disclosing this to the consumer.
Basic Consumer Right #7: The Right to Consumer Education
Similar to right #2 listed above, right #7 ensures that consumers are able to obtain education about the products or services they use. This education could come from the manufacturers themselves or some bureaucratic organization.
Basic Consumer Right #8: The Right to a Healthy Environment
The last of the eight basic rights of consumers states that all consumers should be able to live in a place that is safe and conducive to optimal health and wellness.
Perhaps someday, all manufacturers and service providers will ‘do the right thing’ by consumers, and this list won’t be necessary. Until that day, however, firms like Matthew R. Osborne, PC will be fighting for the rights of consumers.
Contact us today if we can help you defend your own consumer rights.