In March 2012, the Consumers International (CI) regional conference for Asia, Pacific and the Middle East was held in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Christopher Zinn represented CHOICE at the conference and filed this report:
It's 50 years since US president John Kennedy sent a message to the US Congress about consumer rights. This statement, sometimes called the Consumers’ Bill of Rights, got the ball rolling and saw a number of nascent organisations, including CHOICE, become advocates for consumer rights.
Unique and common issues
Representatives from the Asia Pacific and the Middle East talked about the same kind of issues that occupy us in Australia, including unclear food labelling, spiralling energy costs and dodgy financial services. Additionally, they discussed other global hot issues such as health services, micro credit, food safety and the growth of e-commerce.
Massive countries like China and India attended the conference, alongside representatives from more modest, but no less formidable consumer groups, from Nepal and Fiji. The delegate from Afghanistan couldn't make it but Mongolia attended for the first time.
The spirit was refreshingly cooperative and energising. A delegate from one of India's many and muscular consumer groups struck a chord with her presentation on their smartphone app for complaints collection.
The bread and butter challenge for many of us there was how to better listen to consumers. Their primary reason for contacting us is to complain about something - be it to let off steam or to pass on essential information. Either way, this app can really help consumers and is generously offered to all groups to make their own.
Car safety and extending crash testing to more of the world was another talk with terrifying projections about the growth of car use and subsequent accidents in the emerging economies. But as the Vietnam delegate pointed out, most people in some countries are still riding around on motorbikes so why isn't there a star safety rating for them?
CHOICE, as well as being a founder member of Consumers International
, has helped fund the event to develop the capacity of our sister consumer organisations to have the kind of impact in their countries as we seek to in ours.