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Guest Blog: It’s World Consumer Rights Day!

A message from Consumers International’s president, Jim Guest, on World Consumer Rights Day. Every year the global consumer rights movement celebrates World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on 15 March. Consumer rights groups across the world come together, often around a common campaign theme, to ensure that consumer rights are not ignored when decisions that affect us all are being made. This year, CI and many of its members will be campaigning for real consumer choice in financial services on what is a particularly special WCRD. This 15 March marks 50 years since US President John F. Kennedy became the first ever serving world leader to directly address the issue of consumer rights. In his statement to the US Congress in 1962, President Kennedy said: “Consumers by definition, include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.” Kennedy went on to outline a set of consumer rights which have, over time, developed into eight principles that inspire much of the work consumer rights groups do today: the right to safety… to be informed… to be heard… to redress… to consumer education… to a healthy environment… to the satisfaction of basic needs… and, the right to choose. All of these rights are just as important today as they were 50 years ago. Yet, it is this final right, the right to choose, that will stand out most on 15 March 2012. Consumer groups around the world are calling for consumers to have a real choice when it comes to financial services. Too often markets for financial services are dominated by a small number of providers meaning there isn’t any real competition. Even when consumers spot a better deal they find it, costly, confusing, or downright impossible to change accounts or services. As a result dissatisfied consumers are putting up with poor services and banks have no reason to improve. This is a problem for consumers across the world; whether it concerns changing current accounts, swapping insurance providers, trying to send money overseas, or getting access to basic financial services in the first place – the consumer right to meaningful choice must be at the heart of these services. When President Kennedy first set out the meaning of consumer rights the world was a very different place. And yet, consumers continue to affect and be affected by almost every economic decision. As consumers, we are at the heart of many of the challenges and opportunities faced by the modern world. But, while our money speaks, our voice is still often not heard. Spurred on by the words of JFK, the consumer rights movement is fighting to ensure that the rights of consumers are never ignored. Happy World Consumer Rights Day Jim Guest Consumers International President

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