UNCTAD conference on Consumer Protection

The First International Conference on Consumer Protection of South, South East & East Asian Countries provided a platform to discuss and deliberate upon different aspects of consumer protection. In the backdrop of revised UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection, the Regional Conference with the theme of "Empowering consumers in new markets" provided the platform for shared learning and for exploring way forward for regional cooperation.

Shaping Tomorrow was recognized as a knowledge partner by DoCA during the conference.On behalf of DoCA, Shaping Tomorrow submitted a 22 page post-conference report on the International Conference on Consumer Protection "Empowering Consumers in New Markets" to DoCA.On the sidelines of the conference Shaping Tomorrow interacted with International experts from different countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, US, etc. and officials from International bodies such as UNCTAD and Consumer International and gathered their expert opinion on consumer related issues.The purpose was to create a partnership at international level for consumer protection.

The deliberations and exchange of experiences at the International Conference led to the following conclusions:

The comprehensive implementation of the newly adopted revised United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection is a priority for all Governments across the globe. This calls for concerted efforts by all stakeholders in ensuring more effective and better-coordinated action in all countries and across all areas of commerce.

Wide stakeholder participation and engagement of consumer associations, businesses, and the academia is necessary for a successful consumer policy-making and enforcement.

The protection of consumers' rights in the digital context is important for a sustainable and inclusive development of e-commerce, which also needs to address cross-border cooperation and enforcement. Consumer protection is essential for well-functioning financial markets, and efforts should be devoted to achieve financial consumer literacy and inclusion.

Consumer education is paramount to maximize consumer empowerment, needing new and innovative ways to reach and enhance consumers' knowledge of their rights and obligations in the marketplace. The needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers must be attended to, in all sectors of commerce and across all areas of consumer protection including legislation, enforcement action and redress systems in accordance with their particular needs and interests.

On the suggestions of the Prime Minister it was felt that due to increasing globalisation and the world changing into a single market, it is important to learn from each other's experiences and reach a common understanding. The possibility of building a Regional Coalition for consumer protection needs to be explored.

Creating a structured mechanism for communication, mutual sharing of best practices, creating new initiatives for capacity building and starting joint campaigns in this regard should be pursued in mutual interest. Keeping in view the future challenges a roadmap with a clear vision for moving forward and institutionalizing regional cooperation may be explored.

Towards meeting these objectives, it was decided that Regional Consumer Protection Conferences on biannual basis will be considered, in consultations with countries in the Region regarding the structure and organisational details.

26 October, 2017 [VENUE: Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, India ]

Registration of participants

09:30 A.M.

Opening Session

Venue: Plenary Hall

10:30 A.M.

Indian Government (Hon'ble Prime Minister, Hon'ble Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Hon'ble Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Secretary, Secretary, Consumer Affairs)s

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Tea/Coffee Break

11:30 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

Session I: Overview of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection and Implementation

Venue: Plenary Hall

12:00P.M. – 01P.M.

In its resolution 70/186 of 22 December 2015, the General Assembly reaffirmed the Guidelines as a valuable set of principles for setting out the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress systems and for assisting interested Member States in formulating and enforcing domestic and regional laws, rules and regulations that are suitable to their own economic and social and environmental circumstances, as well as promoting international enforcement cooperation among Member States and encouraging the sharing of experiences in consumer protection.

The General Assembly also acknowledged that, although significant progress has been achieved with respect to the protection of consumers at the normative level since the adoption of the guidelines in 1985, such progress has not been consistently translated into more effective and better-coordinated protection efforts in all countries and across all areas of commerce.

This session will give an opportunity for Governments and stakeholders to present and share the initiatives undertaken in connection with the implementation of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection since their last revision of 22 December 2015.

Moderator

Ms. Teresa Moreira, Head of Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD

Panelists

Mr. Avinash K.Srivastava, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Government of India

Mr. Allan Asher, Australian Academic

Ms. Derya GÜNGÖR ÖZÇELEBİ, Customs and Trade Expert, Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Customs and Trade, DG of Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance.

Dr. B.C.Gupta, Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

Sh. Shirish Deshpande, Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, India

Interactive debate

01:00P.M. – 01:30 P.M.

Group Photo and Lunch break

01:20 P.M. – 02:30 P.M

Session II: Stakeholder Participation in consumer Protection

Venue: Hall No. 5

Stakeholder participation is key for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 17 on Partnerships for the Goals. The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection establish as a legitimate need "the freedom to form consumer and other relevant groups or organizations and the opportunity of such organizations to present their views in decision-making processes affecting them" and also state "businesses and their authorized agents should have due regard for the interests of consumers and responsibility of upholding consumer protection as an objective".

Stakeholder participation is no longer an exclusive responsibility of Governments; consumer associations as well as businesses, the academia and the media are increasingly sensitive to the need of grounding consumer protection in all spheres of market participation. New technologies, such as online social networks, maximize consumer education, information and empowerment efforts. Businesses now see customer care and consumer protection as a way to increase national and international competitiveness. The academia is all the more aware of the need to generate knowledge about consumer protection. It is in the interest of all stakeholders to participate in the making and enforcement of consumer protection policies. This session will address the degree of stakeholder participation in the definition and application of public policies for consumer protection, identifying trends and challenges that may inspire improvements in public policy.

02:30 P.M. – 03:30 P.M.

Moderator

Sh. G. Gurucharan, Director, Public Affairs Centre, Bengaluru, India

Panelists

Sh. Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International

Prof. (Ms.) Gail Pearson, University of Sydney, AustraliaI

Shri Nikhilesh Jha, Special Secretary and Financial Advisor, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Govt of India

Mr. Dody Edward, Expert for International Relations, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia

Interactive debate

03:30 P.M. – 04:00 P.M.

Tea/Coffee Break

04:00 P.M. onwards

Session III: The Protection of Online Consumers

Venue: Hall No. 5

Session III: The Protection of Online Consumers Developments in information and communications technology in the last decade have provided new opportunities for consumers and businesses. An increasing number of consumers have access to the Internet and engage in e-commerce, which provides easier and faster access to products and services. According to UNCTAD's Information Economy Report, business-to-consumer e-commerce is forecast to double from $1.2 trillion in 2013 to $2.4 trillion in 2018. The UNCTAD secretariat note on Consumer protection in electronic commerce of 2017 provides an overview of the international legal framework on issues related to e-commerce. It reviews consumer protection challenges related to information asymmetry, unfair commercial practices and contract terms, online payment security, data protection and privacy and it underlines the importance of dispute resolution mechanisms and redress. In particular, developing countries face pressing and specific challenges, including: access to the internet, reviewing and updating the legal and institutional frameworks to accommodate the specificities of e-commerce, building capacities of civil servants in the executive and judicial branches as well those of the private sector and consumer associations; tuning in international networks that share best practices in the protection of online consumers, providing education and awareness raising to consumers and businesses in the online context, encouraging the establishment of trust boosting mechanisms such as trust seals and dispute resolution and developing partnerships with all relevant stakeholders. This session will focus on recent developments in consumer protection in e-commerce at national, regional and international levels, and will discuss the policies that have been implemented to address the challenges in this area.

04:00 P.M. – 05:00 P.M.

Moderator

Mr. Arnau Izaguerri, Associate Legal Officer, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD

Panelists

Mr. JUNG, Dong-young, Head of Seoul Regional Office, Korea Consumer Agency, Republic of Korea

Shri Gopal Krishnan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology , Government of Indial

Mr Pawan Duggal, Supreme Court Lawyer

Mr. Sachin Taparia, Local Circles

From a participating country

Interactive debate

05:00 P.M. - 05:30 P.M.

Closing of First Day Session

05:30 P.M.

Conference Dinner

08:00 P.M.

27 October, 2017

Session IV: Fostering Consumer Inclusion in Financial Services

Venue: Hall No. 5

09:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M.

As recognized by the General Assembly "consumer confidence and trust in a well-functioning market for financial services promotes financial stability, growth, efficiency and innovation over the long term and that the recent financial crisis places a renewed focus on consumer protection." This follows the concerns addressed by the OECD/G20 High Level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection of 2011, which aimed at mitigating the consumer detriment caused by the global financial crisis.

The United Nations Guidelines of 2015 contain for the first time a section on financial services, providing recommendations on fair treatment and proper disclosure, responsible lending, appropriate controls to fight abuses and fraud, and cost efficiency and transparency of remittances. This section also recommends that measures should be adopted to reinforce and integrate consumer policies concerning financial inclusion, financial education and the protection of consumers in accessing and using financial services.

This session will identify policies and initiatives that contribute to foster consumer inclusion in the financial services, exchanging best practices and the steps that need to be taken to empower consumers in this sector.

Moderator

Mrs. Uma Shankar, Principal Chief General Manager, reserve Bank of India

Panelists

Mrs. Indrani Thuraisingham, Consumer International

Dr. Sothi Rachagan, Vice-Chancellor Nilai University, Malaysia

Dr. G. Sundaram, Chairman, VOICE Society

Ms. Anjana Dubey, Deputy Director general, Department of Financial Services, Government of India

From a participating country

Interactive debate

10:30 A.M. – 11:00 A.M.

Tea/Coffee Break

11:00 A.M.

Session V: Consumer Education and Empowerment

Venue: Hall No. 5

11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

Consumers are empowered when they know their rights and obligations and are able to defend them. Perhaps the top priority for most consumer protection authorities is to educate consumers and balance the inherent information dissymmetry between businesses and consumer in the marketplace.

This is easier said than done. Consumer education needs the participation of many stakeholders, such as consumer protection and education authorities, businesses and consumer organizations, the academia and the media. The digital revolution has brought many new issues calling for consumer education from fintech to tourism. At the same time, vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers need specific education strategies. Empowering consumers is a complex task which requires a combination of governmental policies as well as good business practices and availability of redress. There are currently various initiatives that aim at measuring consumer empowerment in the marketplace to allow for more evidence-based policy making and to enhance the impact of consumer protection efforts.

This session will reflect on the different ways in which consumer education and empowerment are strengthened, the tools that policy makers have at hand to measure and enhance education and empowerment efforts and the best practices that can inform policy making.

Moderator

Mr. Arnau Izaguerri, Associate Legal Officer, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD

Panelists

Sh L. Mansingh, Co-Chair, FICCI Consumer Vertical

Dr Suresh Misra, Indian Institute of Public Administration

Ms. Betsy Broder, USFTC

Mrs Megawati Simanjuntak, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia

From a participating country

Interactive Debate

12:30 P.M. – 01:00 P.M.

Lunch Break

01:00 P.M. – 02:00 P.M.

Session-VI: Special Challenges in Protecting Vulnerable and Economically Disadvantaged Consumers

Venue: Hall No. 5

2:00 P.M. – 03:00 P.M.

In 2015, the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection recognized for the first time the protection of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers as one of the legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet. Their situation shows the essentially imbalanced relationship between consumers and businesses; which can be attributed to factors such as illiteracy, technical knowledge, age and economic status.

According to recent research, consumer vulnerability should be considered in light of various dimensions, such as socio-demographic, behavioral, personal (situation) and market environment.

Consumers, in particular the vulnerable, need to be informed about their rights and obligations in a way they can assimilate, which calls for group-specific campaigns. Education is a key instrument to promote the protection of children, young and elderly consumers, along with other vulnerable groups, and the prevention of unfair practices should be retained as a policy and enforcement objective. This session will present the different initiatives implemented by Governments to address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers; the strategies they may develop involving businesses and civil society, and the avenues for international cooperation to contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable environment for vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers.

Moderator

Mr. Hem Pande, former Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Government of India

Panelists

Ms. Teresa Moreira, Head of Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD

Ms. Ana Caterina Fonseca, DG, Consumer Protection, Portugal

Ms. Varsha Raut, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat

Shri Uday Mawani, Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Voluntary Consumer Organisation from India

From a participating country

Ms. Pushpa Garimaji, Columnist and Consumer Activist

Interactive debate and closing session

03:00 P.M. – 04:30 P.M.

Tea/coffee- closing

04:30 P.M.

Speakers

Shri Narendra Modi

Prime Minister, India

Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi shared a new vision of consumer protection embracing myriad dimensions under the holistic umbrella of consumer interest promotion, much beyond the traditional ideas of consumer empowerment, regulation and grievance redressal. The Prime minister mentioned several important initiatives taken by his government across various sectors like Housing, Energy, Standards, Healthcare, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and procedures that have resulted in financial benefits to consumers.

Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India

Hon'ble Minister for Consumer Affairs, Mr. Paswan explained the various initiatives taken by Government of India for strengthening consumer protection. He made specific reference to the New Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 and the new BIS Act with specific emphasis on Hallmarking Scheme for ornaments. For protection of consumer interests and their hard earned money, he mentioned, several measures have been taken including Hall Marking of Gold.

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi

Secretary-General of UNCTAD

H.E Secretary-General, Dr. Kituyi ,said that this Conference is an ideal opportunity to learn from best practices and exchange information, and suggested some points for consideration by India in the implementation of UN Guidelines, such as Provision of high quality ICT infrastructure at affordable prices, Consumer safety from hazardous goods, complete disclosure of all information for guidance of consumers, redressal system that is rapid and affordable for consumers in shortest time possible and regulations against identity theft and provision for data privacy protection.

Ms. Teresa Moreira

Head of Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD

Ms. Moreira mentioned that in 2015, the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection recognized for the first time the protection of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers as one of the legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet. UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (2015) recognizes the special needs of vulnerable consumers under broadly three heads: Principles Good business practices, Dispute resolution and redress, and Education and information programs, and Public utilities

There were various other eminent and highly recognized speakers who delivered speeches, and presentations in the sessions of the conference:

Mr. Avinash K. Srivastava, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Government of India
Mr. Allan Asher, Australian Academic, Barrister and solicitor
Ms. Derya GÜNGÖR ÖZÇELEBİ, Customs and Trade Expert, Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Customs and Trade, DG of Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance
Dr. B.C. Gupta, Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Mr. Shirish Vasudev Deshpande, Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, India
Mr. G. Gurucharan, Director, Public Affairs Centre, Bengaluru, India
Mr. Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International
Prof. (Ms.) Gail Pearson, University of Sydney, Australia
Mr. Nikhilesh Jha, Special Secretary and Financial Advisor, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Govt. of India
Mr. Dody Edward, Expert for International Relations, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia
Mr. Syed Tayaruddin Rahman, Joint Secretary, Consumer Protection Department, Government of Bangladesh
Mr. Arnau Izaguerri, Associate Legal Officer, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD
Mr. Michael Donohue, OECD
Dr. Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Government of India
Mr. JUNG, Dong-young, Head of Seoul Regional Office, Korea Consumer Agency, Republic of Korea
Mr. Gopal Krishnan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India
Mr. Pawan Duggal, Supreme Court Lawyer
Mr. Sachin Kapadiya, Local Circles.
Ms. Uma Shankar, Principle Chief General Manager, State Bank of India
Ms. Indrani Thuraisingham, Consumer International
Dr. Sothi Rachagn, Vice- Chancellor Nilai University, Malaysia.
Dr. G.Sundaram, Chairman, VOICE Society
Ms. Anjana Dubey, Deputy Director General, Department of Financial Services, Government of India.
Mr. Arnau Izaguerri, Associate Legal Officer, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD
Mr. L. Mansingh, Co-Chair, FICCI Consumer Vertical,
Dr. Suresh Misra, Indian Institute of Public Administration
Ms. Betsy Broder, USFTC
Mrs. Megawati Simanjuntak, Bogor Agriculture University, Indonesia
Ms. Chandrika Thilakarathne, Director - Consumer Affairs & Information, Sri Lanka
Mr.Hem Pande, former Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Government of India
Ms. Teresa Moreira, Head of Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD
Ms. Ana Caterina Fonseca, DG, Consumer Protection, Portugal
Ms. Varsha Raut, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat
Mr. Uday Mawani, Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Voluntary Consumer Organization from India

 

 

Participants

The Conference was attended by Ministers and Senior officials of 24 countries. It had 1600 Participants, 300 Deligates, Multi-lateral agencies and 30 Keynote speakers.