All people are consumers in different degrees and therefore World Consumer Rights Day today is important for us to become more aware of our rights and responsibilities in bringing about a just and fair society.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest areas of exploitation is the private health sector where sick people are often plundered by way of highly expensive drug prices, the prescription of non-essential drugs or tests and other means through which the medical sector which was once a vocation then became a profession and has now become a big business both for private practitioners and private hospitals. Though the marvels of modern technology have been brought into medicine and digital methods are widely used the exploitation is apparently increasing.
Tragically, the victims are helpless and unable to exercise rights. Therefore the government needs to step in and take effective steps to save innocent people from this grave crisis.
The theme this year is “Making digital marketplaces fairer”. According to Consumer International, E-commerce has transformed the way that people shop, giving consumers more choices. But it has also raised global issues. In 2017 global e-commerce sales reached USD 2.29 trillion, but nearly 70% of consumers worry their digital payments are unsafe. Meanwhile, half the world’s population are still offline.
The international movement is calling for access to fair and secure internet for all, action against scams and fraud, and better consumer protection online.
On 15 March 1962, President John F Kennedy sent a special message to the US Congress in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks March 15 as World Consumer Rights Day every year.
The widely admired President Kennedy -- so much of a contrast to the current US President Donald Trump and his unpredictable or selfish ‘make America great again policy’ -- said in the 1962 message ‘consumers 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.’
Over the years the rights developed by CI include: Satisfaction of basic needs; 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 that are hazardous to health or life; to be informed - 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 implementing government policy and 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 and the right to a healthy environment.
Following successful campaigning by Consumers International, the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1985. These were brought up to date in 2015, when the General Assembly adopted the revised UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection. These guidelines are an important tool, giving added legitimacy to the principles of consumer rights and practical support and guidance for the development of consumer protection around the world. The guidelines contain a number of consumer needs that broadly reflect the consumer rights, the UN says.
Going by these guidelines we see how Sri Lanka falls far short in providing these vital rights, instead we see most political leaders engaging in petty party politics deceptively promoting their extremist if not anti-racial and anti-religious agendas and worse still indulging in bribery corruption or other political crimes. We hope World Consumer Day will make them aware of their responsibilities to the innocent unsuspecting people. If these politicians cannot do their duty towards the people they can do some other job or go wherever they want, even to hell.