March 15 is World Consumer Rights Day. The
day, devoted to promoting the rights of the world's consumers, is
widely observed in China.
In fact, ever since 1997, the China Consumers
Association (CCA) has named a theme on this day each year to
highlight a specific area in which efforts should be made to
further safeguard consumers' interests. Invariably, on this day,
various consumer rights activities, often featuring market
regulators, companies and ordinary citizens, are organized across
the country to remind consumers of their rights and the measures
they can take to protect their interests. The CCA has picked
Consumers' Safety as the theme for 2012.
Working together with the government, the CCA
and its local counterparts have played a vital part in consumer
rights protection. According to the CCA's statistics, in 2011 they
handled a total of 607,263 complaints and retrieved 800.42 million
yuan ($126.71 million) worth of economic losses for consumers. In
addition, China has since 1993 adopted a full package of
legislative and regulatory measures, both at national and local
levels, to protect consumers' rights and interests. As a result of
strong legislative support and the proactive endeavors of the CCA
network, progress has been made in advancing consumer rights
protection in China.
Despite the positive scenario, cases of
consumer rights violations continue to be widely reported in the
An increasingly wide range of industries, from
food and cosmetic producers to banking institutions, real estate
developers and automobile manufacturers, have been found guilty of
violating consumer rights.
Even big-name multinational companies like
Wal-Mart, Carrefour and McDonald's, which all enjoy strong
international reputations, have been found to be engaged in
fraudulent practices. These malpractices not only hurt the
interests of consumers, but also badly tarnish the images of the
While businesses, as the creators and vendors
of products and services, rightly bear the brunt of criticism for
infringing consumers' rights, the relevant government agencies,
industrial and commercial administrators and product quality
supervisors, for instance, should also share the blame, as their
negligence and loose supervision often leave consumers vulnerable
to fraud and exploitation by unscrupulous businesses.
To strengthen consumer protection, government
departments should introduce specific policies and more effective
administrative regimes such as penalty codes and a system for
product recalls and refunds, in order to further protect consumers'
rights and interests.
The media, the CCA network, and consumers
themselves, too, have their respective roles to play in combating
dishonesty, promoting responsible commercial practices and
upholding social justice. Only when all the parties—the
legislature, the government supervisors, companies, the media, as
well as consumers and their rights groups—get involved and make
concerted efforts will the rights of consumers be truly