International consumer rights

The worldview on international consumer rights

The right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose and the right to be heard.

These are the basic rights outlined in a United Nations agreement that Australia is a party to.

The United Nations guidelines for consumer protection

  1. The right to safety - To be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life.
  2. The right to be informed - To be given facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising or labelling.
  3. 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.
  4. The right to be heard - To have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
  5. The right to satisfaction of basic needs - To have access to basic essential goods and services, adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation.
  6. The right to redress - To receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
  7. 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.
  8. The right to a healthy environment - To live and work in an environment which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.

How a charter of basic rights began

In 1962, then US President John F Kennedy declared four basic consumer rights – the right to safety; the right to be informed; the right to choose and the right to be heard. His declaration created a charter for the world's consumer groups which have since expanded to reflect the comprehensive needs of consumers in the marketplace.

The guidelines were formulated to:

  • assist countries to achieve and maintain adequate protection for consumers
  • encourage ethical conduct in the marketplace
  • encourage the development of market conditions which provide consumers with greater choice at lower prices.

After extensive international consultation, the guidelines were adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 1985, and updated in 1999.

The eight rights listed above are the work of consumer groups and many government consumer affairs agencies around the world.

Related information

United Nations guidelines for consumer protection in PDF format (size: 262kb)

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