A Charter for ASEAN Consumers

An address by Mr. Anwar Fazal, President, International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU), at the opening of a course on “Consumer Education Through Radio” held at the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 2-26 January 1978.

I have a very pleasant task to thank the Minster for honoring us today with his presence and for declaring open this course.

To us in IOCU today marks a very special occasion for four reasons:

  • Firstly, this course that the Minster has declared open is unique in that it is, as far as I know, the first course of its kind of be held any where in the world;

  • Secondly, this is our first partnership, our first joint venture, with the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (A.I.B.D.) whose work in the development of professional broadcasting is most highly regarded and with whom we are most pleased to be associated.

  • Thirdly, this is our first ASEAN wide regional meeting specifically on consumer issues ever to be held.

  • Fourthly, this occasion is also special in that it represents a cooperative venture between citizen groups, the non- government consumer organisations, and the governments through their broadcasting agencies.

All this would not have been possible if not for the support that we have had form several directions and I particularly would like to mention:

  • The New Zealand Government who have provided the grant for this pioneering activity

  • The AIBD and in particular Mr. Balakrishnan, the Director, and Mr. Fred Barnes, the Regional Training Adviser, who played a key role in shaping the programme

  • The Consumer Institute of New Zealand and in particular Mr. Dick Smithes, the Director, and Mr. Ray Heenan, the Education Officer, for the critical contribution they have played in making this programme a reality

  • The Consumer Association, United Kingdom and in particular Mrs. Alma Williams, their Consumer Education Consultant, who is with us for the course and who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Consumer Education

  • The University Sains Malaysia School of Mass Communication who are assisting with the evaluation of this project

  • Radio and TV Malaysia who have agreed to participate in a one year experiment in the development of actual radio programmes as a follow-up of this project.

Today is the beginning of a long journey, it is the investment in developing skills and knowledge so that all of you who are participating in this course can act as catalysts in your country for introducing practical and useful programmes for the consumers, the citizens of your country.

You will have the task and the opportunity to help consumers in your country to assert their rights and discharge their responsibilities.

What are these consumer rights? I suggest these seven:

  • Right to Safety – the right to be protected against the marketing of goods which are dangerous to health.

  • Right to be Informed – the right to be protected against dishonest, deceitful or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices and to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice.

  • Right to Basic Services and to Choice – the right to basic services and access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices, and in the case of government or private monopolies, to have an assurance of satisfactory quality and service at fair prices.

  • Right to be Heard – the right to be assured that consumer interests will receive full and sympathetic consideration in the making and execution of government policy.

  • Right to Compensation Against Damage – the right to compensate for misrepresentation or shoddy goods or services. Free legal aid, where needed, should be available, or an accepted form of arbitration for small claims.

  • Right to Consumer Education – the right to consumer education to enable you to act as an informed consumer throughout your life.

  • Right to a Clean Environment – the right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment that permits a life of dignity and well being. You bear a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

What about responsibilities? May I suggest a pancasila (five principles) for consumers which could act as a Charter for ASEAN Consumers:

  • Critical Awareness – our citizens must be awakened to be more questioning about the provision of the quality of goods and services.

  • Involvement or Action – our citizens must assert themselves and act to ensure that they get a fair deal.

  • Social Responsibility – our citizens must act with social responsibility, with concern and sensitivity to the impact of their actions on other citizens, in particular, in relation to disadvantaged groups in the community and in relation to the economic and social realities prevailing.

  • Ecological Responsibility – there must be a heightened sensitivity to the impact of consumer decisions on the physical environment, which must be developed in a harmonious way, promoting conservation, and we must fight against the degradation of this most critical factor of improving the real quality of life for the present and the future.

  • Solidarity – the best and most effective action is through cooperative efforts through the formation of citizen groups who together can have the strength and influence to ensure that adequate attention is given to consumer interest.

Your task will be to translate these concepts of rights and responsibilities into meaningful and interesting programmes. The best vote of thanks we can give the Minister is making a good job of that task, and develop as a result more informed consumers, informed both of their rights and responsibilities. You have an exiting challenge ahead of you and I am confident that you will also do it well.

Mr. Minister, Sir, we thank you for your inspiring remarks and for the support that you are giving this programme.

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