THERE are certain basic and inalienable rights to which every consumer is entitled; but unless you know what these rights are, you could be cheated out of them. These rights are as follows:
THE RIGHT TO SAFETY
You have a right to safety, and therefore, the right to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to life or health.
THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION To be given truthful and honest information on a product or service in order to make informed choices and decisions. The right to be informed goes beyond avoiding deception and protection of misleading advertisement to include information about warranties, guarantees, labelling, care instructions and the store’s policy on refunds, exchanges, servicing, credit notes, delivery and other service costs.
THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE
To be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices, with an assurance of satisfactory quality. In the case of monopolies, to have an assurance of satisfactory quality and service.
THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD
You have the right to be represented so that your interests receive full sympathetic consideration in the formulation and execution of social and economic policies and systems of governance. It also encompasses the right to complain to a retailer if you are dissatisfied about a product or service.
THE RIGHT TO SATISFACTION AND BASIC NEEDS
To have access to basic goods and services that facilitates survival: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation.
THE RIGHT TO REDRESS
To receive a fair settlement of just claims; this includes the right to compensation for misrepresentation of shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
THE RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION
To acquire the knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of the basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
To live and work in an environment that will enhance your quality of life. This right involves protection against environmental problems over which an individual has no control. It acknowledges the need to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.
Although you as a consumer have rights in virtually every situation, these rights come with responsibilities. The following are some of your responsibilities:
KNOW WHAT TO BUY
Make a shopping list and stick to it. This would help to eliminate impulse buying or conspicuous consumption.
KNOW WHEN AND WHERE TO BUY
When making purchases, consumers can benefit by shopping for items in season, or on discount, or by purchasing from business places which have good ‘after sales’ service. Shopping around and obtaining up to date, pertinent information would help with this responsibility.
Before buying consumers should shop around to identify the best buys; it helps to list the stores visited and the price of the various items offered by each store. It also helps to check the newspapers or radio advertisements with reference to sales.
DISTINGUISH NEEDS FROM WANTS
Consumers must be able to separate necessities from desires.
Information on goods and services can be obtained by asking questions such as “How long would this item last?” “Do you provide after sales service?” Should this fabric be washed or dry-cleaned?” Get as much information as necessary BEFORE making a purchase.
EXAMINE GOODS THOROUGHLY
Consumers BEFORE buying must examine goods for quality, damage, fit as in clothing and shoes.
Instructions and manuals, warranties, brochures, labels, must read to gather information on:
• how to use the product
• whether additional accessories are needed
• whether the use of the product would be dangerous to health.
ENSURE THE BILL/RECEIPT IS RECEIVED
All purchases must be accompanied by a bill/receipt. A bill/receipt is proof of purchase. It gives information on what was purchased, where and when the product was purchased, the date of purchase and the price paid. Consumers must insist on a proper receipt.
Complaints or dissatisfaction about a product or service MUST be communicated to the seller or manufacturer as well as to a regulatory body such as the Consumer Affairs Department.
CARRY OUT TRANSACTIONS IN A BUSINESS-LIKE MANNER
Consumers should make purchases in a business-like or professional manner, knowing what is needed and what is affordable.
This has been a publication of the Information Unit of the Consumer Affairs Department of the Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs.
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