|This article relies on references to primary sources. (June 2009)|
|Type||Charity No. 1122155|
|Origins||Formerly the International Organisation of Consumers Unions|
|Focus(es)||Consumer protection watchdog|
Consumers International (CI) is the world federation of consumer groups that serves as the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers. It is based in London, England.
Founded on 1 April 1960, currently with over 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world, the organisation continues to build a powerful international movement to empower and protect consumers everywhere.
In campaigning for the rights of consumers across the world, CI seeks to hold corporations to account and acts as a global watchdog against any behaviour that threatens, ignores or abuses the principles of consumer protection.
The organisation was first established in 1960 as the International Organisation of Consumers Unions (IOCU) by national consumer organisations. The original members recognised that they could build upon their individual strengths by working across national borders. The organisation then rapidly grew and soon became established as the voice of the international consumer movement on issues such as: product and food standards, health and patients’ rights, the environment and sustainable consumption, and the regulation of international trade and public utilities.
The founding of IOCU was initially planned by Elizabeth Schadee, who would later chair the board of the Netherlands' Consumentenbond, and Caspar Brook, who was the first director of the United Kingdom's Consumers' Association. The two proposed an international conference to make plans that consumer product testing organizations worldwide should work more closely together. The United States organization Consumers Union provided US$10,000 at the direction of Colston Warne to help fund the event. In January 1960, these three organizations sponsored the First International Conference on Consumer Testing in The Hague. Thirty-four people representing seventeen consumer organizations in fourteen countries attended to discuss product testing and founding the International Organization of Consumers Unions as an international organization. Belgium's Association des Consommateurs and the Australian Consumers' Association joined the three conference sponsors as the five founding organizations who would provide representatives for the international organization's initial council.
Consumer Bill of Rights
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.
There are eight basic consumer rights which include the rights to:
- satisfaction of basic needs – to have 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 which are hazardous to health or life
- information – to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
- choice – to be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality
- be heard – to have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
- redress – to eive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
- 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.
- a healthy environment -to live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well being of present and future generations.
CI supports and represents over 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world.
These members include a wide range of different independent consumer organisations and government organisations. Some independent member organisations are long-established, with hundreds of staff and millions of their own members, whilst others are semi-voluntary associations providing information and advice about basic services in some of the world's poorest countries.
CI also works with and hosts the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) – a forum of US and EU consumer organisations that develops and agrees on joint consumer policy recommendations to the US government and European Union to promote the consumer interest in EU and US policy making – at its office in London.
World Consumer Rights Day
On March 15 1962 US President John F. Kennedy gave a speech on consumer rights which led to the creation of the Consumer Bill of Rights. Consumer rights activist Anwar Fazal later proposed the observance of a "World Consumer Rights Day" marking that date, and on 15 March 1983 consumer organizations began observing that date as an occasion to promote basic rights of consumers.
World Consumer Rights Day is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement. Participants observe the day by promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and protesting about the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
Campaigns, projects and key issues
CI campaigns seek to achieve real changes in government policy and corporate behaviour, whilst raising awareness of consumer rights and responsibilities.
At the end of 2012, CI launched Your rights, our mission, its strategic plan for 2013 to 2015.
The plan includes four key programme areas combining CI’s work on international advocacy and organisational empowerment around a small number of issues.
The four programme areas are:
- Consumers access to safe, fair and competitive financial services
- Structure and functions of national bodies
- Fair contracts, charges and practices
- Information design and disclosure
- Redress and dispute resolution
- Stability and safety
- G20 work on financial consumer protection
- Mobile payments
- Support development of financial advice centres and advocacy capacity in developing countries
- Consumers access to safe and nutritious food
- Choosing a healthy diet
- Food labelling on packaging and in restaurants
- A ban on trans fatty acids
- A ban on junk food marketing to kids
- Reformulation of processed food to reduce fat, sugar and salt.
- Food safety
- Facilitate member engagement in international standard setting
- Projects in developing countries to improve food safety systems
- Food security
- Monitor international processes
- Consumers in the digital age
- Holding online service providers to account
- Clear and accurate information from broadband service providers
- Address consumer concerns about tracking online activity and using this data in marketing
- Consumer representation in global governance relating to the information society.
- Ensuring the consumer voice is heard in international institutions that relate to the information society.
- Access to knowledge
- Consumers’ rights for the fair use of copyright materials to be expanded and better recognised through ranking IP laws and practices and negotiation with IP bodies.
- A concerted international effort to support the realisation of consumer rights
- Revision of UN guidelines
- Updating the UN guidelines on consumer protection.
- An increased international focus on the legal empowerment of the consumer
- Work with international organisations to develop new initiatives and make resources available for consumer protection
- Work with CI members to support their work at the national level
- Systematic assessment of members capacity
- Map ‘sustainable business models’ for consumer organisations.
CI has also campaigned on issues like junk food markting and unethical drug promotion, corporate social responsibility and unethical or unsustainable behaviour by corporations and governments.
CI has four offices:
- CI Global Office, London
- CI Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
- CI Office for Africa
- CI Office for Asia Pacific and the Middle East
- CI Middle East Hub Office
- Brobeck, Stephen (1997). Encyclopedia of the consumer movement. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-Clio. pp. 175–179. ISBN 0874369878.
- Kennedy, John F. (March 15, 1962). "John F. Kennedy: Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest.". presidency.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Brobeck, Stephen (1997). Encyclopedia of the consumer movement. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-Clio. p. 176. ISBN 0874369878.
- Sim, Foo Gaik (1991). IOCU on record : a documentary history of the International Organization of Consumers Unions, 1960-1990. Yonkers, N.Y.: Consumers Union. ISBN 0890435316.