Watchdog Presses for “Consumer Justice,” Pushes Review of the Consumer Protection Act

environmental health group campaigning for consumer information and protection
against hazardous chemicals, products and wastes asked the authorities to
uphold “consumer justice” as the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is observed on
Friday, March 15.

March 15 marks the day in 1962 when the late US President John F. Kennedy told Congress
that: “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.”
In a statement, the
EcoWaste Coalition supported the call led by Consumers International (CI) for “Consumer
Justice Now,” the theme for this year’s WCRD, with a specific plea for a
participatory process to review and strengthen Republic Act 7394, or the
Consumer Protection Act of the Philippines that was approved on April 13, 1992.

“We are one with the global consumer movement in seeking for consumer justice
and protection in all aspects of our lives from cradle to grave, from homes to
schools, playgrounds, hospitals and work places, from the bangketa and palengke to
the malls,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste
Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Whether it is the illegal sale of

mercury-tainted skin whitening products, leaded paints and toys,
plastics and toxins dumped in waterbodies, or stench and smoke from basura
in sidewalks and dumps, stronger consumer protection is always part of the
solution,” she said.

“Twenty-one years after its approval, we need to ask if the Consumer Protection
Act has effectively promoted our basic rights and responsibilities as consumers,
if it has empowered our consumers to use and defend these rights and if it has
delivered the consumer justice that we aspire for,” she emphasized.

Consumer justice, the
EcoWaste Coalition said, can be a rallying cry applicable to  consumers from all walks of life, but most
especially for those that are marginalized by virtue of their lack of
information to make sound choices, lack of access to redress, lack political power,
and poverty.

Citing Article 2 of R.A. 7394, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated that it is
the state policy “to protect
the interests of the consumer, promote his general welfare and to establish
standards of conduct for business and industry.”

furtherance of the said policy, R.A.7394 requires the state to enforce measures
to realize these objectives:

(a) protection against hazards to health and safety;
(b) protection against deceptive,
unfair and unconscionable sales acts and practices;
(c) provision of information and
education to facilitate sound choice and the proper exercise of rights by the
(d) provision of adequate rights and
means of redress; and
(e) involvement of consumer
representatives in the formulation of social and economic policies.

review of R.A. 7394 should be an inter-agency and multi-sectoral
process involving the concerned committees of the House of
Representatives and the Senate, Department of Trade and Industry,
Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration and other
implementing agencies, business associations, consumer protection
groups, environmental and health watch groups, the media and other
stakeholders, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Justice Now” was chosen as WCRD theme to coincide with the update of the UN
Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP), the revision process of which will
be completed in 2014.   

UNCGP, first agreed in 1985 and last updated in 1999, is an international
reference point for the consumer rights movement. The challenge is to bring the
Guidelines up to date and make it relevant for today’s consumers, the CI said.

CI will be supporting new provisions on issues such as financial services,
energy and consumer representation and provide proposals on how the UNGCP can
better address the concerns of today’s consumers.
“The decision to update the UN Guidelines gives us the first
opportunity in over a decade to raise the standards of consumer protection
around the world. I’m sure all CI members and supporters will want to join
together to make this one of the biggest WCRD we have ever had,” said CI
Director General Helen McCallum.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a
national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable
and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the
envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.