Many of the United States’ federal laws exist to protect human rights. These include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which defines and enforces Americans’ rights to discrimination-free workplaces and equal voting opportunities; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects disabled Americans’ right to equal access to public spaces; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which protects workers’ right to safe workplaces. These laws recognize and enforce the rights held by specific groups of Americans, such as workers and people with disabilities.
Consumers are another group whose rights have been legally recognized. In 1962, President Kennedy introduced four basic consumers’ rights during a speech to Congress. Later, more rights were added to this set of rights, which is now known as the Consumer Bill of Rights and was endorsed by the United Nations in 1985. These rights provided the basis for laws that would be introduced and passed in the following decades, such as the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972, which established the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
From a consumers’ rights perspective, the right to choose means the right to choose from a variety of competitively priced products, rather than being subjected to monopolies.
Customers’ right to choose means product and service providers cannot use unethical means to push each other out of markets. These unethical means include price-cutting, price gouging and collusion with the goal of creating a monopoly.
While consumers have the responsibility to use products according to their safety instructions, they also have the right to be given clear, accurate instructions for safe use. Product manufacturers have what is known as product liability, or liability for any damages consumers suffer from unchecked safety hazards their products pose.
The right to be heard means that consumers have the right to voice their grievances with faulty, defective and poorly marketed products without fear of recourse. For example, an individual who has a negative experience at an airport may write a review of the airport discussing her experience and post it online. If the customer’s claims are accurate, the airport’s management cannot take legal action against her.
The right to consumer education is the consumer’s right to learn about his other rights, such as the right to redress and the right to be heard.
When a consumer is injured by a faulty product and files a product liability claim against the product’s manufacturer, the consumer is entitled to recover compensation for his damages if the court proves his claim was made in good faith. This means that he was, in fact, injured by a defect the manufacturer knew or should have known about.
Among the identified consumer rights and responsibilities, the right to be informed underscores all the other rights. Consumers have the right to access information about the products and services marketed to her so she can make informed purchasing decisions. For example, an advertisement offering a promotional internet rate must include information about the length of the promotional period and the rate the customer will pay for the internet after the promotional period expires.