The Consumers Council of Canada congratulates all members of Parliament elected in the national vote on May 2. The voters of Canada have clarified significantly the accountability for the public’s business at the federal level for the next four years by electing a majority government.
One of the important responsibilities of government and of the opposition that holds it accountable is consumer confidence in both the private and public sectors of the economy.
Canada has fallen far behind major OECD nations in supporting formal consumer representation in the economy, at the expense of economic efficiency and sovereign consumer protection.
All levels of government in Canada must do more to support the important role of organized, fact-based consumer representation.
Having said this, the Government of Canada recently opened a door to greater consumer protection with passage of the Consumer Product Safety Act, due to come into force June 20, 2011. The effective implementation and enforcement of the new act will be one standard against which the new government’s performance in the area of consumer rights can be readily observed.
Also, the Council would draw elected officials’ attention to areas of federal jurisdiction mired in consumer dissatisfaction, such as mobile telecommunications services, where consumers seek fairer service contracts and improved access of vulnerable consumers deserves consideration.
Canada lacks robust consumer policy concerning the efficacy and safety of nanomaterials in food and consumer products. This will ultimately lead to anxiety among consumers, and potential harm to emerging intellectual property based businesses based on nanotechnology.
Canada’s cultural policy has become a consumer conundrum. Consumer choice in purchasing both globally derived and domestic cultural and entertainment products has become impaired. The Canadian-Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission recommended to the federal cabinet that consumer representatives be funded to intervene before it concerning broadcasting as well as telecommunications matters. This right should be extended to consumers in the interest of well-rounded policy development.
A growing number of Canadians want to make economic choices based on their views about sustainable consumption. This is a significant new marketplace development. Consumers deserve the support of government and business in exercising their rights and responsibilities with respect to the related range of choices they may wish to exercise.
The Consumers Council also notes rising consumer angst concerning essential commodities, from food to fuel, and affordable, safe access to them supportive of their life needs. As well, a crisis in transportation services of all kinds, especially within and among regionally proximate urban centres, has made Canada’s economy less efficient and sustainable, while robbing businesses and individuals of their most precious commodity – time.
The time has come to bring consumer policy based on consumer rights and responsibilities back into the mainstream of policy setting.
Elected officials would do well to ask themselves before they vote how their decisions will impact the following:
1. Basic Needs
The right to basic goods and services which guarantee survival.
The responsibility to use these goods and services appropriately. To take action to ensure that basic needs are available.
The right to be protected against goods or services that are hazardous to health and life.
The responsibility to read instructions and take precautions. To take action to choose safety equipment, use products as instructed and teach safety to children.
The right to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, to be protected against misleading advertising or labeling.
The responsibility to search out and use available information. To take action to read and follow labels and research before purchase.
The right to choose products and services at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
The responsibility to make informed and responsible choices. To take action to resist high-pressure sales and to comparison shop.
The right to express consumer interests in the making of decisions.
The responsibility to make opinions known. To take action to join an association such as the Consumers Council to make your voice heard and to encourage others to participate.
The right to be compensated for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
The responsibility to fight for the quality that should be provided. Take action by complaining effectively and refusing to accept shoddy workmanship.
7. Consumer Education
The right to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be an informed consumer.
The responsibility to take advantage of consumer opportunities. Take action by attending seminars and workshops, work to ensure consumer education takes place in schools.
8. Healthy Environment
The right to live and work in an environment that is neither threatening nor dangerous and which permits a life of dignity and well-being.
The responsibility to minimize environmental damage through careful choice and use of consumer goods and services. Take action to reduce waste, to reuse products whenever possible and to recycle whenever possible.
The right to privacy particularly as it applies to personal information.
The responsibility to know how information will be used and to divulge personal information only when appropriate.