The origins of the guidelines can be traced to the late 1970s, when the Economic and Social Council recognized that consumer protection had an important bearing on economic and social development. In 1977, the Council asked the Secretary-General to prepare a survey of national institutions and legislation in the area of consumer protection. In 1979, the Council requested a comprehensive report containing proposals for measures on consumer protection for consideration by Government. In 1981, the Council, aware of the need for an international policy framework within which further efforts for consumer protection could be pursued, requested the Secretary-General to continue consultations with the aim of developing a set of general guidelines for consumer protection, taking particularly into account the needs of the developing countries.
Accordingly, the Secretary-General carried out consultations with Governments and international organizations and submitted draft guidelines for consumer protection to the Economic and Social Council in 1983. During the next two years there were extensive discussions and negotiations among Governments on the scope and content of the guidelines, culminating in their adoption in 1985.
3. The legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet are the following:
5. All enterprises should obey the relevant laws and regulations of the countries in which they do business. They should also conform to the appropriate provisions of international standards for consumer protection to which the competent authorities of the country in question have agreed. (Hereinafter references to international standards in the guidelines should be viewed in the context of this paragraph.)
6. The potential positive role of universities and public and private enterprises in research should be considered when developing consumer protection policies.
8. In applying any procedures or regulations for consumer protection, due regard should be given to ensuring that they do not become barriers to international trade and that they are consistent with international trade obligations.
10. Appropriate policies should ensure that goods produced by manufactures are safe for either intended or normally foreseeable use. Those responsible for bringing goods to the market, in particular suppliers, exporters, importers, retailers and the like (hereinafter referred to as "distributors"), should ensure that while in their care these goods are not rendered through improper handling or storage and that while in their care they do not become hazardous through improper handling or storage. Consumers should be instructed in the proper use of goods and should be informed of the risks involved in intended or normally foreseeable use. Vital safety information should be conveyed to consumers by internationally understandable symbols wherever possible.
11. Appropriate policies should ensure that if manufactures or distributors become aware of unforeseen hazards after products are placed on the market, they should notify the relevant authorities and, as appropriate, the public without delay. Government should also consider ways of ensuring that consumers are properly informed of such hazards.
12. Government should, where appropriate, adopt policies under which, if a product is found to be seriously defective and/or to constitute a substantial and severe hazard even when properly used, manufacturers and/or distributors should recall it and replace or modify it, or substitute another product for it; if it is not possible to do this within a reasonable period of time, the consumer should be adequately compensated.
14. Government should intensify their efforts to prevent practices which are damaging to the economic interests of consumers through ensuring that manufacturers, distributors and others involved in the provision of goods and services adhere to established laws and mandatory standards. Consumer organizations should be encouraged to monitor adverse practices, such as the adulteration of foods, false or misleading claims in marketing and service frauds.
15. Government should develop, strengthen or maintain, as the case may be, measures relating to the control of restrictive and other abusive business practices which may be harmful to consumers, including means for the enforcement of such measures. In this condition, Governments should be guided by their commitment to the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 35/63 of 5 December 1980.
16. Government should adopt or maintain policies that make clear the responsibility of the producer and to ensure that goods meet reasonable demands of durability, utility and reliability, and are suited to the purpose for which they are intended, and that seller should see that these requirements are met. Similar policies should apply to the provision of services.
17. Governments should encourage fair and effective competition in order to provide consumers with the greater range of choice among products and services at the lowest cost.
18. Governments should, where appropriate, see to it that manufacturers and/or retailers ensure adequate availability of reliable after-sales service and spare parts.
19. Consumers should be protected from such contractual abuses as one-side standard contracts, exclusion of essential rights in contracts, and unconscionable conditions of credit by sellers.
20. Promotional marking and sales practices should be guided by the principle of fair treatment of consumers and should meet legal requirements. This requires the provision of the information necessary to enable consumers to take informed and independent decisions, as well as measures to ensure that the information provided is accurate.
21. Government should encourage all concerned to participate in the free flow of accurate information on all aspects of consumer products.
22. Governments should, within their own national context, encourage the formulation and implementation by business, in co-operation with consumer organization, of codes of marketing and other business practices to ensure adequate consumer protection. Voluntary agreements may also be established jointly by business, consumer organizations and other interested parties. These codes should receive adequate publicity.
23. Governments should regularly review legislation pertaining to weights and measures and assess the adequacy of the machinery for its enforcement.
25. Where a standard lower than the generally accepted international standard is being applied because of local economic conditions, every effort should be made to raise that standard as soon as possible.
26. Governments should encourage and ensure the availability of facilities to test and certify the safety, quality and performance of essential consumer goods and services.
29. Government should encourage all enterprise to resolve consumer disputes in a fair, expeditious and informal manner, and to establish voluntary mechanisms, including advisory services and informal complaints procedures, which can provide assistance to consumers.
30. Information on available redress and other dispute-resolving procedures should be made available to consumers.
32. Consumer education should, where appropriate, become an integral part of the basic curriculum of the educational system, preferably as a component of existing subjects.
33. Consumer education and information programmes should cover such important aspects of consumer protection as the following:
35. Business should, where appropriate, undertake or participate in factual and relevant consumer education and information programmes.
36. Bearing in mind the need to reach rural consumers and illiterate consumers, Governments should, as appropriate, develop or encourage the development of consumer information programmes in the mass media.
37. Governments should organize or encourage training programmes for educators, mass media professionals and consumer advisers, to enable them to participate in carrying out consumer information and education programmes.
39. Food. When formulating national policies and plans with regard to food, Governments should take into account the need of all consumers for food security and should support and, as far as possible, adopt standards from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius or, in their absence, other generally accepted international food standards. Governments should maintain, develop or improve food safety measures, including, inter alia, safety criteria, food standards and dietary requirements and effective monitoring, inspection and evaluation mechanisms.
40. Water. Governments should, within the goals and targets set for the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, formulate, maintain or strengthen national policies to improve the supply, distribution and quality of water for drinking. Due regard should be paid to the choice of appropriate levels of service, quality and technology, the need for education programmes and the importance of community participation.
41. Pharmaceuticals. Governments should develop or maintain adequate standards, provisions and appropriate regulatory systems for ensuring the quality and appropriate use of pharmaceuticals through integrated national drug policies which could address, inter alia procurement, distribution, production, licensing arrangements, registration systems and the availability of reliable information on pharmaceuticals. In so doing, Government should take special account of the work and recommendations of the World Health Organization on pharmaceuticals. For relevant products, the use of that organization's Certification Scheme on the Quality of Pharmaceutical Products Moving in International Commerce and other aged. Measures should also be taken, as appropriate, to promote the use of international non-proprietary names (INNs) for drugs, drawing on the work done by the World Health Organization.
42. In addition to the priority areas indicated above, Governments should adopt appropriate measures in other areas, such as pesticides and chemicals, in regard, where relevant, to their use, production and storage, taking into account such relevant health and environmental information s Governments may require producers to provide and include in the labelling of products.
45. Governments should work to ensure that the quality of products, and information relating to such products, does not vary from country to country in a way that would have detrimental effects on consumers.
46. Governments should work ensure that policies and measures for consumer protection are implemented with due regard to their not becoming barriers to international trade, and that they are consistent with international trade obligations.
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