Consumer Protection is the name given to a whole range of measures which are designed to make sure that individual consumers can make more informed choices about what they buy and get treated fairly by the companies they deal with. These include:
- giving consumers impartial and accurate information to help them make the right choice
- educating consumers about their rights and responsibilities
- making sure companies that sell products or services meet set standards, tell their customers certain key information and deal with customers honestly and fairly
- making sure products or services themselves meet set standards of quality and safety
- making sure advertising about products and services is not misleading or deceptive
- giving consumers easy access to quick and inexpensive systems for getting money back if things go wrong
- enforcing the law so as to identify, stop and deter misleading and fraudulent conduct.
Measures to protect consumers can be brought about as a result of legislation, or they can be voluntary initiatives or guidelines put in place by a particular industry, or even an individual company. If certain consumer protection measures are set out in legislation (or a company agrees to sign up to a voluntary but binding and enforceable initiative, such as a code of practice), they create consumer rights. A consumer right is something that the law says a consumer is entitled to and if the entitlement is denied then legal action can be taken. However, consumer rights can only be effective if consumers are aware of them and they are enforced.
All states and territories as well as the federal government have enacted laws and set up agencies to protect the consumer (the retail purchasers of goods and services) from inferior, adulterated, hazardous or deceptively advertised products, and deceptive or fraudulent sales practices.
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