13 MARCH 2002
Joseph Schembri - Director of Information and Client Affairs at the Consumer and Competition Division speaks of the consumers right to representation and other related issues, to mark World Consumer Rights Day next Friday
Voices for Change is the theme chosen by Consumers International for this year's World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) and it focuses on the consumer right to representation. Its main message is simple: people should have influence in the making of decisions that affect their access to basic needs and their quality of life.
Representation of consumers interests is essential to creating effective consumer policy, alongside appropriate regulations and empowerment of individuals through consumer education and information. Representation is a critical component of good governance, ensuring that consumers are involved in policy-making at national, regional and international levels.
Among the consumer rights enunciated in 1962 by US President John F. Kennedy and subsequently expanded upon by Consumers International is the right to representation or the right to be heard. "Consumers, by definition, include us all", said Kennedy. "they are the largest economic group affecting, and affected by, almost every public and private economic decision. But they are the only important group whose views are often not heard."
The right to representation
Who is a Consumer Representative?
Consumer representatives speak with a collective voice as members of a consumer organisation, community or public interest group. The key issue is knowing one's constituency and understanding what it means to be a representative. It is essential to know which consumers you serve, including any groups or minorities within those consumers who may have different needs or views from the majority.
The year 2002 marks the 20th commemoration of World Consumer rights Day. It was observed on March 15, 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action. Consumer organisations around the world use materials produced by Consumers international, such as Voices for Change, to generate local initiatives and media coverage often forming the basis for work over the coming year. Recent themes promoted by Consumers International for WCRD include: genetically modified foods (2000), assessment of consumer rights (1999), poverty alleviation (1998) and sustainable consumption (1997).
The eight basic rights celebrated by World Consumer Rights Day are:
As done in previous years, Malta joins other countries worldwide to
celebrate this event. The slogan adopted by the Consumer and Competition
Division related to the one chosen by Consumers International is "Le]nek
Iwassal!" which signifies consumer's right to be heard. An activity
which became synonymous with this event is the one organised at the
Ballroom of the Hotel Phoenicia, Le Meridien. During this activity students
who participated in consumer competitions through the monthly school
magazine Saghtar and the newsletter Taghna it-Tfal will be presented
with prizes by the Hon. Dr George Hyzler, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry
for Economic Services responsible for consumer affairs.