Consumer Rights and Responsibilities

The eight rights as defined and promoted by the international consumer organization - Consumers International, are as follows:

  • the right to satisfaction of basic needs; 
  • the right to safety; 
  • the right to be informed; 
  • the right to choose; 
  • the right to be heard; 
  • the right to redress; 
  • the right to consumer education; 
  • the right to a healthy environment. 

With the advent of "consumer rights" comes "consumer responsibilities", which are extensive and numerous. Consumers have the responsibilities to use their power in the market to drive out abuses, to encourage good practice and to support sustainable consumption and production. Other responsibilities include:

Know what to buy - make a shopping list and purchase only what is on the list. This would help to eliminate impulse buying or unnecessary consumption. 

Know when and where to buy - when making purchases, consumers should shop for items in season, or on discount. Consumers can also purchase from business places, which have good "after sale" service. Shopping around helps to obtain up-to-date and useful information, which would help with this responsibility. 

Compare prices - before making a purchase, shop around to identify best buys. Stores visited and the price of the various items offered for sale by each store should be listed. The newspaper or radio advertisements sometimes offer excellent sales tips. 

Distinguish needs from wants - consumers must be able to separate necessities (needs) from desires (wants). Needs are those requirements that can be considered essential to life, e.g. food, clothing and shelter. Wants are those things that are not a necessity but are desired, e.g. a car, jewelry, designer clothing. 

Ask questions - information on goods and services can be obtained by asking pertinent questions such as: 'How long will this item last?", "Is after sales service provided?", "How would the product be used?". It is important to gather as much information as necessary BEFORE making a purchase. 

Examine goods thoroughly - BEFORE buying examine the goods for quality, damage, fit, as in clothing an shoes. 

Read - instruction manuals, warranties, brochures, labels must be read to gather important information on:- a) how to use the product / item; b) whether additional accessories are needed; and c) whether the use of the product would be hazardous to health. 

Ensure the bill/receipt is received - all purchases must be accompanied by a bill or receipt. A bill/receipt is proof of purchase. It gives information on what was purchased, where, when, the date of purchase and the price paid. INSIST ON A RECEIPT. 

Communicate - complaints or dissatisfaction about a product or service MUST be communicated to the seller or manufacturer as well as to regulatory bodies and other protective agencies. Alternatively, satisfaction with goods/services should also be communicated. 

Carry out transactions in a business-like manner - consumers should make purchases in a business-like manner, knowing what is wanted, and what is affordable. Similarly, when making a complaint, the consumer should know exactly what is wrong with the item or service. Consumers should remember that complaints may enhance consumer business relations, if they are handled positively


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